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A new view of Integral Spirituality 2010-Sep-29 at 03:22 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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I think there’s a problem with spirituality as it’s seen and practiced in the Integral movement today.

It’s going to take a bit to explain what I mean… so this is going to be a long one.  I post it as a work-in-progress.

Evolution and Involution

Let’s start with the idea of evolution and involution.  Although the definitions of these terms change in different systems, I’ll define them this way: evolution is the process through which matter returns to Spirit, and involution is the process through which Spirit returns to matter.  In evolution, the sequence that is put forth (by Ken Wilber, among others) is, roughly speaking: matter to life to mind to soul to Spirit.  In involution, the sequence is reversed: Spirit to soul to mind to life to matter.

Both evolution and involution are taking place, in every moment.  And this is crucial to Integral Philosophy; without both evolution (the Ascending path, the Path of Wisdom) and involution (the Descending path, the Path of Compassion), held in balance, we cut ourselves off from one of the two crucial flows contained in our Universe.  So far, so good.

Let’s take a deeper look at involution, and at what we might call the levels of complexity that arise as involution unfolds.

Nondual

At first, before taking the first step into manifestation, I exist as Spirit itself.  You exist as Spirit itself.  Nothing other than Spirit exists, in fact.  The worldview that arises from this point-of-view is what we typically call nondual.  If I hold myself as Spirit-prior-to-manifestation, then a nondual view is precisely the worldview that must arise.  When I inhabit a nondual worldview, I see everything – my house, my body, the computer I’m typing on – as undifferentiated Spirit, arising within a consciousness beyond all labels or description, a consciousness where, as Ramana Maharshi said, "That which is not present in deep dreamless sleep is not real."  In this worldview, there is no Witness because nothing real has ever arisen to be Witnessed, and nothing has arisen that is not, itself, Spirit.

This worldview has the least amount of complexity in it.  The forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview reflect it and teach it, such as Advaita Vedanta and the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism.

Witness and Form, or Self and Other

The first step into manifestation is to create a split between Self and Other.  At this level of awareness, I exist as Witness, seeing all that arises as undifferentiated Manifestation.  In this worldview, I exist as a pure Witness, never entangled in the vast field of arising, aware that all that arises is not Me, aware that all arises with no boundaries, able to sit apart from it with no attachment, and in complete Wisdom.  I can also arise as Manifestation being Witnessed, allowing myself to be unbroken Compassion for all that manifests without boundary.  Either way… there is at least the split between Self and Other.  This worldview is no longer nondual, but is the simplest form of duality… only Two exist.  No suffering exists in this worldview, because there are no separate entities in Manifestation… only Form with No Boundary.  (Someone ought to write a book with that title….)

This worldview is just that slight bit more complex than a nondual worldview,.  Again, the forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview reflect it and teach it.  The Hinayana forms of Buddhism, such as Theravadan, hold this view.  Really, any religion that holds that there are Two comes from this worldview: Witness and Form, Emptiness and Fullness, Atman and Brahman, Yesh and Ayin, Peanut Butter and Chocolate… if your spirituality has Two, your worldview is of this level of complexity.

The Few Things

The next step in involution is to create a Universe that has some small number of fundamental things at play.  At this level of awareness, I begin to see things arise as manifestations of combinations of a small number of different energies or elements.  From here, I believe, we see some of the great traditional systems, like the Five Great Elements of Ayurveda, the Chinese Five Movements, and the Sefirot in Kabbalah, among many others (most of which, no doubt, I’m not even familiar with).

From this worldview, we clearly see the beginning of separation, and therefore suffering.  But all entities that appear separate are made up of, and therefore closely linked to, the fundamental elements or energies.  Healing and wholeness are always available through balancing these fundamental elements.  Although separation between objects seems to exist now, each object retains a connection back to the fundamental energies, and so can be seen as an emanation of those energies, leaving an enchantment within the manifest world.

[A note: this doesn’t mean that all healing modalities that arose in these times are therefore better than the ones we have today… it just means that they dealt with things from a different worldview, one that indicated that it was important to view the world through those fundamental energies.  The good news is that those worldviews are native to all of us.  Of course, our Western societies have been locked in a predominantly modern and postmodern view of science, medicine, and the body (in other words, a purely UR view), and so we’re only now starting to see the effectiveness of these modalities, as we re-access the intelligence existent through this worldview.]

The Many Things

Eventually, through involution, we arrive at a level of complexity in manifestation where it appears to us that multiple things exist.  We come to believe, for instance, that there’s such a thing as a separate self, and that you are a separate thing from me, and that we are separate from other things that are arising, and that those separate things have an intrinsic existence.  In this worldview, suffering arises because separation arises.  We look at other people and see them as suffering.  We look at the planet and see that parts of it are suffering.  We look at ourselves and see that we are suffering.  And everywhere we look in what is now a world of gross manifestation, we see separate entities arising.

This worldview has still more complexity in it.  The forms of spirituality that arise from this worldview also include separation and separate entities.  Here, we start to see things like angels, faeries, elementals, guides, ghosts, spirits, advisors; in other words… an uncountable number of independent entities of varying degrees of awareness and helpfulness.  We see some of the mainstream religions.

We also see separate souls arising.  We see those souls arising both incarnated in gross bodies in this universe (bodies like yours and mine), and we see those souls not incarnated in this universe, in some sort of subtle or causal world.

It’s all about worldview

What I’m arguing for is that if worldview determines the relationship we hold to gross manifestation, then that worldview also must determine the relationship we have to subtle and causal manifestation.  Do I believe that there are separate objects arising in manifestation at the moment?  Well then, the world looks one way.  Do I view it all as undifferentiated sensation, with no boundary arising between those objects?  You can, and if you do, the world looks another way.  Do I view it as lacking an intrinsic existence apart from the arising of Consciousness?  I hope you do from time to time… and as if there could be such a thing as time in the first place.

And don’t lie to yourself about it… we walk around in one of these modes at all times.  We spend different amounts of time acting like one worldview or another is real.  Some spend all of their lives believing in complete separation, and never taste a nondual worldview, for instance.  Some spend years cultivating a Witness / Form worldview, and eventually walk around with this view the vast majority of the time.

No matter what your path, you’re in one of the worldviews that corresponds to one of the levels of complexity we might perceive in manifestation.

What’s right about Integral Spirituality

The greatest contribution of Integral Spirituality to the world is that it allows us to put all of the different expressions of spirituality on one map, and view how they complement each other, and how much territory they overlap on.  It helps us see that the mystic forms of each path, while having different vibrations because they wear different cultural clothing, all lead to the same awareness.  We can give space for each of us to follow the path that feels and works best, while deeply enjoying the one that we walk.

And it also identifies a hierarchy of awareness that these expressions of spirituality sit within.  Noticing this natural hierarchy does help us to remain oriented towards paths that feature the most pure expression of nondual awareness, and those that include some subtle or even gross duality in them.

The Confusion

Noticing that there must be some sort of natural hierarchy running from nondual, to slightly dualistic, to more dualistic, to very dualistic is a crucial piece of Integral Spirituality.  This noticing is required if we’re to get the most benefit from taking an Integral perspective on spirituality… without it, we’re running a Flatland version of spirituality where every path is equal to every other path.  We know that’s simply not true… we’ve seen that different paths arise in, and therefore run through, different worldviews.

What I believe we’ve done, though, is that we’ve misused that hierarchy.

We’ve heard the message that the hierarchy exists, and that certain paths create state experiences from various degrees of duality (and nonduality, which has no degrees).  In fact, many of us have identified our favorite versions of those, and we’ve invested some time and money into exploring what life would look like in accordance with those teachings.

But then we turn around and spend most of our lives living from a worldview that most certainly includes many things.  Most of the time, we imagine ourselves as separate entities.  Most of the time, we believe that others exist.  We believe in separation, and therefore we believe in ideas like: the planet is suffering.  Or populations are suffering.  Or animals are suffering.

Or <insert-your-favorite-cause-here> is suffering, and we must help!

We seem to believe in that worldview, don’t we?  I assume we do, because we sure do believe in the suffering.  But then many of us turn our eyes to what seems like a distant high mountain, towards a form of spirituality that arises from a different worldview, and from a simpler level of complexity.  We turn our attention to Buddhism, or Kabbalah, or Sufism, or whatever seems to work for us.  When we do this, we commit ourselves to spending some of our time in a worldview that reflects that (simpler) level of complexity, which is good for us on many levels.  But we should notice that these kinds of paths have not been revealed from the more complex worldview we normally walk around with, and instead they take a perspective on it, so they can’t really help us when we’re living from inside the more complex story (which, I observe, most of us spend most of our time in).  They function only when we’re not locked into the more complex story… this is exactly what "being present" means.

We create a mismatch for ourselves… we spend most of our time believing in more complexity, we seek solace in less complexity, and therefore we cut ourselves off from the two sources that would give us a much smoother flow through this life.  We cut ourselves off from actually acting like the less complex world is possible, by being locked in a world with time and doubt.  And while we’re locked in that world, we don’t allow ourselves to believe in the arising of a spiritual world that’s appropriate to that worldview, and to that level of complexity.

It stands to reason that while we’re locked in the worldview of the many, we should also imagine a subtle realm occupied by the uncountable many spirits, souls, guides, elementals, and angels (call them whatever you want) who also arise within this worldview.

The people I know who have some facility for communicating with these entities —souls who may or may not be incarnated in gross bodies at this moment – all report that these entities carry a very high vibrational frequency, that they’re rooted in connection with each other and with all things, and that they reside in and reflect to us only love.  Only love.  (And that any scary encounters are our projections on that experience.  Duh, right?)

And I think it’s crucially important to remain intellectually honest about the worldviews we’re holding, and to act as if they’re true when we’re in them.  When I’m in a state from a nondual practice or path, and I’m not acting as if that state were true, then I’m not quite all-in, am I?  And that works both ways… in one direction, our spiritual view brings along a valid worldview, and in the other direction, our worldview brings along a valid spirituality.

I see no contradiction in believing that I have spirit guides, or advisors (because I do), at the same time I believe that Mirror Mind is an important vehicle for seeing the truth of Witness and Form, at the same time I know, because I have experienced it, the absolute truth of the nondual perspective.

If, however, I’m acting as if the gross world contains separation, and I’m not including a spirituality in that worldview that’s also made up of separation, them I’m engaged in some self-deception.  There’s room to add some new forms of spirituality into the mix.

The Promise

The sad, crushing part of that self-deception is that we cut ourselves off from the very source of all of our hope and love within this worldview.  We don’t believe that there are any others who arise to help us through the suffering, but how could the suffering exist if there weren’t others to begin with?  We therefore try to become Big Mind and Big Heart ourselves and alone, hoping that that move will magically make things better in this world.  The very fact that we see the suffering, though, is our indication that we must also have an uncountable many souls aligned with us, supporting us, helping us, as we navigate the gross, manifest world.  It is the indication of the arising of a particular worldview, and that worldview includes separation and suffering… and it also includes multiple souls both in and out of incarnation at this time.

I invite each of you to feel into the rightness of this for yourselves. Does it feel more accurate to imagine these kinds of plentiful subtle and causal realms, or does it feel more accurate to imagine that they don’t exist?

For me, I know they exist, and I know that they’re full of souls.

They’re full of souls who have been around the wheel of existence enough times to carry a higher vibrational frequency than we’ve ever seen in a large group on this planet before.

They’re full of souls who carry such a high vibrational frequency that they only choose to incarnate at times when they’re needed to make a significant shift in consciousness on the planet.

They’re full of souls who are choosing difficult circumstances of birth all around the planet so that this consciousness arises in all places as it’s needed.

And they’ve already been coming.  We’ve heard about the Indigo Children.  Or the Crystal Children.  Or the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces.  Or a thousand other labels indicating that something interesting and new is happening with some of the children these days.  I’m guessing they’re all different ways of saying the same thing:  souls that have been around the block more times than some others are starting to show up in large numbers, and they’re showing some incredible ability to be present through whatever is arising.

They’ve been coming for some time, and now they’re coming in growing numbers – and if my prediction that we can get 10%-20% of the world’s population operating from an Integral center-of-gravity is right – then they’ll be coming in much larger numbers very soon now.  They’ll have to be adults as some of the amazing new technology comes online, so that they can partner with it from a very present place.  They’ll also carry the kind of vibrational frequency that allows what seem like intractable issues on the planet to be solved with quite a bit more grace than we’ve seen, because they’ll natively see a global – dare I say Integral – perspective.

They’re arising as the Integral movement is arising, because all timing is perfect, and because they must in order to help us navigate the incredible new worlds of technology that are coming.  Things are just getting good around here.

A final plea

If you believe nothing else that I’ve said about how our world is going to be fine, if you think that technology and artificial intelligence will harm us, if you think that nanotechnology-based manufacturing will never happen, and solar power is too far off to prevent permanent damage, and even if you think that spiritual development won’t come soon enough:  I tell you, those souls are coming, and they’re coming in large numbers, large enough to make a difference.  You probably already know a few.

Nice to meet you, too.

So hold all of the perspectives of spirituality with me, as we all remain aware of the level of complexity we’re seeing at any given moment, and act as if they’re all true, without disowning any of them.  This ride through manifestation can go far more smoothly for all beings than it has thus far, and it’s in our ability to see that it happens at all levels.  We can’t get there if we have a large hole in our lives where the spirituality of the many should be.

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Karma and Grace 2010-Jul-26 at 23:08 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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2 comments

Terry Patten visited Seattle in January, 2009, and during his Friday evening lecture he talked about his view of the Three Faces of Spirit, and, in particular, his view of the Second-Person Face of Spirit.  (If you’re not familiar with this idea, please check out the link… it’s only a few minutes of reading to get an important view on Spirit.)

Typically, when we think about the second-person relationship to Spirit – the I-Thou relationship – we view it as:

  • me, whatever “me” is… my body, my thoughts, my heart;
  • some distance, either spatially or psychically;
  • God… somewhere “over there”

If we take this view, which is the traditional, mythic view of how we relate to God or Jesus or Allah, then we create an unsolvable metaphysical problem: how do I bridge the distance between me and God? In a sense, the whole history of mythic Western Judeo-Christian religion can be looked at as the ongoing attempt to solve this problem.  I’m over here, God’s over there… how do I get closer?

Terry blew that idea up for us in his lecture, when he redefined the second-person face of Spirit as an I-Thou relationship where we still start with “me” – whether that “me” is my body, my mind, my heart, my soul, whatever – and then everything that is not “me” is God.  That means that God, or Spirit, is the chair I’m sitting on, the room I’m in, the other people I see, the trees outside my window, the air that I breathe… everything.  And that field of matter/energy, that actually is Spirit, or God, constantly, effortlessly shifts to contain us and hold us, no matter what we do, no matter what we think, no matter what energies we expend.  The loving all-embrace of Spirit is without effort, without struggle, there’s no way to escape it, there’s nowhere you can be to avoid it, there’s no question of you deserving it or not… because it’s just there, always.  There’s no time and no place – ever – when you’re not literally surrounded by God’s love, from the second-person perspective.

That redefinition of the second-person face of Spirit was, for me and many others here in Seattle, a seminal moment, and one that has not been forgotten.  Terry’s visit was powerful and I know that so many of us remain grateful for it.

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With that said, let’s talk about karma.  Karma typically arises in traditions that feature the first-person face of Spirit, the I AM-ness of Buddhism or Vedanta Hinduism.  We don’t often talk about karma, for instance, in Judaism or Christianity… we talk about God’s justice, righteousness, and forgiveness.  And, honestly, I never really could fit karma together with I AM-ness.  Maybe I just didn’t study the texts enough, but it just never clicked for me.  What need is there for karma in a universe in which I identify as and with the Emptiness that is the source of all being… and which I then further let go of in an expression of the nondual nature of reality?

I thought about Terry’s lecture a lot over the following few weeks, and eventually came to see karma not so much related to the first-person or third-person perspective on Spirit, but rather deeply related to the second-person face of God.  If we view God as “everything that is not me”, then we can look at that all-enveloping field as having two interesting properties.

The first property is that of karma.  Karma can be defined as a property of that all-enveloping field which says that every energy that’s sent into it returns to its source.  From that point of view, it’s simple, right?  If I take a positive action, the energy of that is received by the field – without judgment – and eventually is returned to me.  If I take a negative action, the energy of that is received by the field – without judgment – and eventually is returned to me.  Same goes for my thoughts, my intentions, my shadow, my trust… they all have an energetic signature that is received and returned by the all-encompassing field of energy that is God, seen as the Great Thou.

The second property of that field is grace.  I hesitate to limit grace by defining it, but I’ll borrow my friend Alia’s definition for it, to say that grace is the free-flowing force of emergence within that field.  It constantly, effortlessly creates and manifests all that arises.  Some of those creations seem ordinary to us, some seem miraculous, but grace is behind all of them… including, sometimes, a manifestation that seems to alter the cause-and-effect relationship of karma, in ways we can’t understand.

So… the second-person face of God, with karma and grace.  That’s the basis of my view from that perspective.

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And then, as I sat with this view of karma and grace for a couple of months, I had another shift.

I found myself uncomfortable looking at energies and actions as negative and positive.  By this I don’t mean to suggest a Green perspective that doesn’t contain discernment between helpful and harmful actions.  Rather, I just came to view all such actions simply as energies that are put out into the world.

From this point of view, with karma as that property of an all-enveloping field which receives and returns all energies, I came to see karma not as that which returns positive or negative actions/energies to their source, but rather as the force that ensures that we will have the opportunity to make wiser and more loving choices, until we figure out what those loving choices are.  If karma does nothing else, it returns you to situations over and over if you choose less wise and less loving actions, until you figure out which choices might be better.

By removing the judgment energy that might define actions as positive or negative, we can see karma as a simple property of manifestation (when seen as the Second-Person Face of Spirit) that ensures that each of us has the opportunity to grow, to learn, to open more, to embrace more, to love more fully, more deeply, more selflessly, more gracefully in every moment.

Karma is not a limitation, it’s not justice, it’s not judgment; it’s a liberation from our unwise minds and contracted hearts.  And that’s the definition of karma that I resonate with… the one that invites us to more love and more joy in our lives.

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From this place, where I kneel in gratefulness to the Second-Person Face of Spirit, let me say:

Thank you, God, for karma.  Thank you for never giving up on me.  Thank you for being present at all moments to all of my most unloving and unwise choices.  Thank you for embracing me.  Thank you for allowing me the chance to change, to grow, to refine my soul until I could open up and receive the endless grace that flows abundantly through the energy of the Universe.  Thank you for all of the people who love me and respond to me as a result of the refinement I’ve been blessed to experience, and thank you for the opportunity I have to serve them with and through my love.  May I never doubt your love and the abundance of your blessings.

Comment upgrades on Integral Spirituality 2010-Jul-04 at 15:00 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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1 comment so far

My friend Lauren (yogapoetics on the right-hand side of your monitor) shared yesterday’s blog post on her Facebook feed, and I got the following comment over there from Daniel Schulman:

This is getting into very subtle territory, requiring nuanced examination. On the one hand, a facile ‘my guru is better than your guru’ scenario is of course, potentially suspect. It could just be nothing more than camouflaged tribal/team conditioning expressing itself. On the other hand, it is the very deep implicit nature of post-modernism (which we are all very very steeped in) to recoil from the challenge of vertical discernment. The flatland of non-judgmentalism and the avoidance of doing the hard work involved in teasing such things apart. So it may be a game for some and for others it may not be a game. Candid and thoughtful examination usually makes it pretty clear what motivations are involved in one’s position on such matters.

Ted had some similar distinctions in his comments on my blog yesterday, and I think they’re worth addressing.

Another point I want to make is we should be careful about becoming relativists in regards to teachers and paths. They are not all the same, and some may be pointing to something higher than others. Again, I have no problem with anyone choosing their ice cream flavor, but even at an integral level of consciousness there will distinctions that will need to be made from time to time in a developmental context. Again, I think people should choose what works for them as long as we don’t fall back on a postmodern aperspectival way of seeing these things. Many thanks Scott!

I started writing my own comment, but then it got long, so I figured I’d upgrade the comments into another post instead. :-)

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I appreciate your responses, and the care with which you made them.  And I completely agree that we have to avoid a flatland, post-modern, non-hierarchical perspective on spiritual paths, or confusion will set in quickly.  What I’m suggesting is simply that I notice that, energetically, some people are attracted to certain types of spiritual teachings, and some are repelled by the very same ones.  It seems to me to make sense that one should use that facility — simply noticing whether something makes you feel more coherent, or less coherent — as a guide to deciding which spiritual paths to choose, even if those paths might be ranked by some as perhaps less effective or less authentic than some others.

Really, in terms of Integral theory, what I’m suggesting is that it’s interesting to look at this phenomena not just from a hierarchical, levels-of-development perspective (and it IS interesting AND useful to look at it from that point-of-view), but that it’s also possible to look at it from a typological point-of-view, with at least some validity.  This assumes that we’re staying in the general area of a second-tier spirituality, or one that includes the irreducible reality of a non-dual awareness, and so I’m trying to limit the scope of this idea so that levels don’t have to play out.  It would be interesting to attempt, at least, a typological study of who is attracted to which spiritual teaching, one that would look far beyond something like MBTI, and would reflect the intricacy of the Integral perspective.  I hope that I’m not holding a flatland perspective when imagining that.

Or I could be totally wrong.  But I’m going with it for now.

There will be those who find it important and interesting to dive into the Comparative Dharma/Techniques debate, and I’ll look in on them from time to time.  Ultimately, though, there’s another perspective that says: Just get everyone going on some sort of path.  And, this time, let’s not make it painful to get on that path.  Let’s allow people to be attracted to the teachings that they are attracted to, and let them nest there.

Both perspectives are valid.  Both contexts are important.  And I’m going to choose among those contexts… and simply ask people to go where they’re called to go, and to trust that.

I’ll take tens of millions of people doing that in the next twenty years, and others can have picking which path makes the best Satori Sauce.  I’ll take my side of that any day of the week, because I believe that mainstream forms of Integral Spirituality are the only thing that gets the Integral movement scaled up fast enough to make the impact on the world that we need to make.

And we already know that some of the forms that a mainstream Integral Spirituality will take will be scoffed at by some as not being rigorous or authentic enough, or not breaking down the ego structure thoroughly enough, or whatever.  That debate is inevitable in the Integral wave of development.  And I won’t let it stop me from supporting the greatest depth for the greatest span of people, rather than the greatest depth for a smaller span.

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And – seriously – thank you to everyone holding up the other side of it, too.  So many will seek your guidance, and need your kind of careful sifting, during their own search for a path, as I did, and many souls will find their way through your efforts.

Blessings on all views of the truth.

Integral Spirituality and ice cream 2010-Jul-02 at 23:42 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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11 comments

Let’s start with the obvious: the current forms of Integral Spirituality are skewed towards paths that involve formal teacher/student relationships.  Let’s run down the list:

  • Ken Wilber
  • Genpo Roshi
  • Andrew Cohen
  • Adyashanti
  • Diane Musho Hamilton
  • Terry Patten
  • Sally Kempton
  • Father Thomas Keating
  • Vidyuddeva
  • Lama Surya Das
  • Patrick Sweeney
  • Dan Brown

All of these (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few) have played important parts in defining Integral Spirituality.  And all of them are teachers and/or students within some kind of formal, spiritual relationship.

And… let me hasten to add, just so we’re clear: I celebrate that fact.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong – at all – with pursuing enlightenment through the establishment of a formal teacher/student relationship.  It has been, and remains, an honored and challenging path, and one that, if the teacher is chosen carefully, leads to incredible experiences of liberation.

The problem with this skewed sample comes in when we’re trying to think about a topic as broad and deep as Integral Spirituality.  When we realize that, traditionally, far less than 1% of people on Earth have ever participated in this kind of spiritual practice, one wonders how applicable some of the thinking from people who invest in these kinds of relationships will be to the population at large.  And there’s no reason whatsoever to think that that less-than-1% number is going to change with the growth of the Integral wave of development.

All I’m saying is that we don’t yet know what Integral Spirituality looks like, despite the number of people trying to lead the way into it.  We won’t know what it looks like until we have lots more people applying Integral to mainstream religion, and then seeing what shakes out of that.

I’m privileged to know Olivier BenHaim from the Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, and to have met Tom Thresher from the Suquamish United Church of Christ, who has written a book about his experiences leading an Integral Church.  Both of them are trying to figure out what it means to do Integral Spirituality in the context of something that looks like a traditional Western congregation.  They are two of only a handful of leaders who are walking that path right now, and I believe that the results of their work will ultimately form the patterns and morphogenic fields around which a mainstream Integral Spirituality – one that can handle an influx of hundreds of millions of people over the coming decades – will arise to provide that incredibly important cultural function for us.

Again, I bow humbly and gratefully to all of the leaders of Integral Spirituality, and my heart opens in love to all those who have found their paths through their work.

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With that said, I’m done.

I’m done trying to rate and rank the various forms of Integral Spirituality.  It’s a little game I see so many of us playing (and I used to do it, too).  Who’s more authentic?  Who’s done more shadow work so their teachings are cleaner and clearer?  Who’s got the latest KW Stamp Of Approval?  Who understands their own lineage the best?

Here’s my answer to those questions: I don’t care anymore.

To say that someone has “found her path” is to say, at a fundamental energetic level, that she feels her own energy get more coherent around those teachers and those teachings.  That’s all it means.

I have dozens of friends who are students of Andrew Cohen, for instance.  For them, when they first came into contact with Andrew, either in person or through his teachings, they felt that surge of energy, that straightening of the spine, that sharp in-breath that makes you feel “Yes! This is it!”  In other words, they became more energetically coherent around Andrew.  Typically, these people have incredibly positive and motivational stories to tell about their experiences.

Others come into contact with Andrew or his teachings and have a different energetic reaction: their spines curve back down, the breath becomes shallow, they back away, they get uncomfortable around it.  In other words, they become less energetically coherent around Andrew.  Typically, these people have less-than-flattering things to say about what they’ve experienced.

Others don’t even have a reaction one way or another.

Who’s right?  Are the ones who become more coherent or less coherent right?  What about the ones who become more or less coherent around Adi Da? Or Mahamudra?  Or Sufism?  Or Genpo Roshi?

My answer is: They’re all correct.  If they’re genuinely sensing into their own mind/body wisdom, and noticing the emotional and energetic reactions they’re having to the various teachers and teachings… then we’re good.

There are as many paths to enlightenment as there are beings who wish to be enlightened.  It’s not my job anymore to rate and rank them.  It is my self-appointed job to encourage you to find your path or paths and then remain with those paths.  Bask in the ones that make you feel more coherent.  Live in them and through them.  Radiate their wisdom in your everyday life.  And don’t waste a second of your time criticizing a path that makes you feel less coherent… your criticism is projection, and nothing more.  Instead, celebrate and rejoice that others have found their paths through means that you didn’t.

If you’re not into Big Mind, it doesn’t mean that Genpo Roshi is an idiot.  It just means that you’re not feeling it.  If you don’t like EnlightenNext, hey, no big deal.  Just go find what works for you.

There is still room in this view for discernment, and for legitimate dharma battles, and for debate about what it means to hold a spiritual perspective on the events of the world.  But it’s not about denouncing a path just because it doesn’t feel right for you.

The way I’ve taken to describing this concept is around ice cream.  Everyone likes ice cream, right?  Well… we all have our own favorite flavors.  If you like Mint Chocolate Chip, you’re not wrong (well, I think you’re wrong, but that’s my problem, not yours… see?).  If you like Vanilla, you’re not wrong.  Dulce de Leche… not wrong.  You just have a favorite flavor.  I have my favorite flavors: Cake Batter, followed closely by Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie (And, by the way, go to a B&J Store and order a Chocolate Fudge Brownie shake.  You’re welcome.).

Whatever your favorite flavor is… you’re not wrong.

But the most important part of Integral – the very heart and center of the philosophy – is that we all need to recover our connection with and as Spirit.  That’s the ice cream.

Whatever your favorite flavor is, my most important advice is: make sure you have some ice cream, make sure you have some authentic spirituality.  If you don’t, you’re missing out on the best part of Integral.  Really, don’t miss this part.  It’s what it’s all pointing to.