Consciousness, Spirituality

Integral Spirituality

Integral spirituality is the experience of a Sacred, embodied,
evolutionary “now”, speaking through us in multiple voices. It
incarnates all facets of our lives, inviting past and future into one
moment. Integral spiritual practice, then, seems to be a consummate,
persistent inquiry of many shades and shadows extending throughout life.
Though our assumptions about reality restrict and bind us, they also
protect us from tumbling permanently into those amazing states into
which we “peak”, but do not yet have the energetic capacity to live in
consistently. As the formless universe awakens to itself through form,
like a sleeping child, our incarnated being begins to know the Sacred as
the Sacred simultaneously knows us.

The beauty of this day awakens within me. The ocean tides in
my eyes wash over my cheeks with the surprise glimpse of the elegance of
the blue from which the sun arises, spilling its kisses onto the
shimmering moss-filled branches in my back yard. I arise into the
practice of the day, which calls me through its contours, finally, into
the night. 

I spend little time sleeping even though the night of sleep
and dream is the other favorite part of my day. There is that small
window of time between the night and the day that is so liminally
inviting; the practice of the night calling me into the day and the
practice of the day calling me into the night. 
 

Lying in impending slumber I am aware of the gradual
decreasing of my bodily rhythms. I witness a lightness of mind and a
deepening of the heaviness of my body; the room lights up through closed
eyelids and feelings of love course through every cell in my body. In
time the body fades away. A dream eventually arises in my field of
sight. As I watch it, fully alert, I feel no need to alter it in any
way. This incarnated fleshy soul relaxes more deeply as the lucidity
drifts away and on this night, for a while outside of time, there is
nothing but Awareness.
 

A wispy dream begins to formulate as this borrowed body begins
to arise into the consciousness of the morning practice. This lucid
dream becomes so enlivening that even though Awareness knows it’s a
dream, it is as real as a boulder in a stream. I have to ask myself, “Am
I really dreaming, or am I actually awake”?

This is a prophetic dream. I just watch with ease and delight.
I feel my body senses awakening as my dreamy state becomes diffused and
wispy. Awareness of my soul infused body arises in full bloom. I sit up
on the bed, and feet touch the floor like every other morning, but
Awareness has something else in mind this morning. Awareness remains
watching Itself dream as I stand shaking the sleepiness out of my eyes. I
shudder with disorientation. Am I awake, or am I asleep and still
dreaming?

Living fully into our earthly personhood as we “peak” into the
transcendent, two prominent, implicit questions seem to be “Who am I?”
and, “Who am I not?” Our embodied, immanent experience is with us in
awareness from the day we are born. How can we wake up in consciousness
to the everyday sacredness we hold within our flesh, skin, heart and
bones, and unite it with the transcendent within which we are coming
into being? 

A question that arises in more comfortable times is “Who am
I?” Steeped in the confidence of our own incarnate measure of knowing,
there seems to be no other truth. “This is who I am!” In this full
exploration of our knowing, we envision everyone else as having, or
needing to have, these same beliefs. “Yes! This is the way the world
works”!

But inevitably, a disorienting dilemma arrives; we tremble,
wondering how we can survive this torturous and ghastly occurrence. We
have no way to make sense of this experience. We flail, squirm and wish
we could do something to get out of this agonizing space. Our
assumptions and beliefs do not make sense any more. There is a
discomfort in every cell in our bodies, for our beliefs are not large
enough to make sense of the anguish we feel so deeply. Mind numbing
fuzziness creeps into our ordinarily cogent mind; the simple task of
making a “to do” list seems impossible; let alone the capacity to carry
out a plan. We find ourselves living suspended in this liminal space
where the being we once were no longer makes sense, and the being we are
yet to be, has yet to emerge.

It may take a day, a week, months or even years; be it abrupt
or gradual; the perturbation triggers the necessary neural connections
to grow throughout the body, to meet, and to shake hands with one
another. At that juncture, the entire world of belief and assumption
expands to make sense of our suffering and to relieve the disorientation
of the dilemma. With a gasp, we suddenly see who we are not… and, it is
the person we used to be before the disorienting dilemma! The next
investigation comes into view; “If I am no longer that person, then who
is this new self that I seem to be?”

As one part of the self expires, a corollary part of the new
human self expands to encompass that which we couldn’t understand
before. We transcend the self that we were, and include the essential
structures that are required now. The rest of who we were falls away.

This messy course, through these developmental surges, occurs
again and again, sometimes slowly and other times rapidly. Each leap
changes the way we see the world and how we experience the Sacred in our
everyday life. It affects everything we know and do. Our integral
spiritual practice takes a new form appropriate to the views we now
hold. Our behavior transforms. Relationships reconfigure.  Interactions
with our community are altered. Our connection to the material world
takes on a new arrangement.

Knowing who we are, and what we see humankind to be, we feel
compelled to invite everyone else into this new knowing. We assume that
the old way of being needs to be rejected and annihilated. After all,
wasn’t it those beliefs that caused so much suffering?

And yet, time after a time, new transformations continue to
arise.  Meaning leaps forward through each conversion. First, “I am a
child of the Sacred which gives us righteous rules to follow and we are
saved”. Then, “No I am not that! I am one who makes meaning through
reason and science”. Later, “No I am not that! I am the brother or
sister of a charismatic Sacredness”.  And eventually, “No, I am not a
sibling of the Sacred! I am one that holds the Sacred within me”. Each
transformation has brought us a new relationship with the Sacred, with
our community, with our behavior and with the structures in this
manifest world we live within. 

In time, a slow dawning creeps into our consciousness and
crawls under our skin; how many times have we gone through these
transformations, each time thinking we have the truth for ourselves and
ultimately for all humankind? We realize that through transformation
after transformation we have deceived ourselves into believing we had
the permanence of a final answer when time after time, new “final”
answers come into being. 

Now, like the tides sweeping onto a new beach, a meta-insight
arises. We apprehend the pattern! We become aware that these cycles of
surprise, each one building on the former, will likely come forever! All
of the impermanent worldviews that we have inhabited are part of this
great journey of transformation. Everyone is merely in their own
particular stage, and while there, each one of us believes that we have
the final answer for everyone.

 A swelling compassion is born for all of humanity, for we
recognize the undertaking everyone on this planet faces as they grow
through this inescapable, blossoming, developmental process. We
recognize these worldviews in ourselves, born of our own history, so
fear of other worldviews slides away as we find ourselves accepting and
holding all of these belief systems simultaneously. Everything we
experience is a part of the past stages we have lived; from this
perspective, there are no accidents but a steady trajectory of
development on the meta level.  On the micro level we experience the
learning of the lessons set in motion from our own past actions.

We begin to experience existence coming into this world
through language and we recognize the emptiness of language to fully
describe anything. The language labels we have lived in for so long are
like chameleons on shaky ground. Looking into the constructed nature of
all existence, experience is seen as natural phenomena arising and
falling, of which we make meaning with our fallible language, born out
of the evolutionary stage we are presently inhabiting.

The inquiries, “Who am I?” and “Who am I not?” once in
opposition, begin to hold hands. Both are true. The bringing together of
these two apparently opposing questions opens the door to the world of
living paradox.

When “Who I am” and “Who I am not”, are seen as part and
parcel of each other, other paradoxes can be examined in a new light. Is
this Sacred equation also true for good and bad, right and wrong,
feminine and masculine, ugliness and beauty, individual and collective,
scarcity and abundance? Is it true for courage and cowardice arrogance
and humility, for violence and peace?

The coming together of paradoxical opposites thrusts one into
a deeper sense of “being”.  The ends of these polar contradictions now
define each other and bring each other into manifest existence. We
apprehend how we live violence in our peace, abundance in our scarcity,
ugliness in our beauty, humility in our arrogance.  All of this arises
within the vast space of our witnessing awareness.

What once was known as individual earth-shaking
transformation is seen as the trajectory of our manifest everyday
“being” finding its Self. We gaze into the eyes of the Divine and see
ourselves. We gaze into the eyes of another, and see Eternity. There are
no conflicts to be resolved, only opportunities to be realized; nothing
to be denied or accepted, only allowing what is, and no other place to
be but here.

Throughout time we have always been on the evolutionary cusp
whether we have recognized it or not. This eternal emptiness of the
witness, beyond time and space, opens its arms to the developmental
existence of changing form arising within it. Because emptiness embraces
and becomes form, this evolutionary ride means that each day of
existence will be evolved beyond the last, and the realizations of last
decade’s sage will be different from the ones of today. Each day, each
instant, is new, waiting for the ever-changing precious human being we
are, to co-create with the eternal Sacred. Integral spirituality calls
us to a fully engaged, embodied life in the moment of arising existence.

Specifically, then, what is it to live integral spirituality
in this time? We go through our life, developing, changing, and growing
through these stages. We engage with the seesaw experience of supporting
various spiritual, moral, psychological, intellectual, emotional,
behavioral, interpersonal and material parts of ourselves in catching up
with the elements of ourselves that are more developed. We deepen into
the I/thou communion in relationships and community. We live and
practice an inner, soulful life through meditation, prayer and other
practices, accessing various states of awareness. We care for our body
by eating nutritious food, and by engaging in exercise that supports
strength, aerobics and flexibility. We create and support healthy
systems, personally, locally and globally.

Living spirituality in an integral way highlights the
particularity of my incarnate personhood and how I live each day.
Yawning into the tender feeling of exquisite ordinariness, this day
arises within me beginning with the practice of the morning. Breakfast
begins with healthy food and a handful of organic supplements; a daily
walk takes me several miles up into the mountains behind my home. I call
my mom, hundreds of miles away, on my cell phone. “Do you hear the
rushing water in the stream Mom? Did you have a good time dancing on
Saturday?”  I love taking her on my walk.  This technological trek into
nature is a metaphor for the blending of history and the future; the
ancientness of the mountains and today’s technology meet to offer an
integral practice of related communicating unavailable only a few years
ago.

I tumble into the beauty of the day, constructing a
structured curriculum that will reach across the planet for the Integral
Africa program, designed to support integral leadership across that
continent. I try to imagine how this tiny seed will bloom 200 years in
the future. Eventually there will be such a leadership wave across every
continent. 

Occasionally I gaze at my balcony garden and watch the birds
graze from the feeder. In the afternoon I break for a weightlifting
session and meet with friends for dinner. My evening is spent working
with several online learning communities that connect people all over
the world. Tonight we are doing an online meditation together,
sanctifying ourselves, our community, the planet, and the internet
itself, that global web that brings together people from Ethiopia,
Israel, India, Ireland, America, Canada, and others from different
countries, cultures and worldviews.  The Self we are stretches beyond
our skin to touch a common, palpable, integral field that until now we
have experienced locally rather than globally. A midnight friend calls
and we engage in a contemplative dialogue. About 3 AM I put on my
headphones and listen to binaural beats for an hour before I begin my
practice of the night.

This is merely one way, in one day, in which one person
attempts to wear a contemporary integral life that embraces everything;
local and global; past through future; self, nature and science; the
good, the beautiful and the true.

Life is not “practice” for what comes later. It is the real
moment-by-moment living in whatever consciousness we have realized as we
step into this heart-filled, loving instant. We arise in the morning,
and we go to bed at night, over and over, experiencing Eternity’s eye-
blinks.  What a quiet and ordinary delight! We step simply into each
beatified day in our en-fleshed essence, doing our being, and being our
doing. Suffering and nirvana are but the same thing as we arise to each
day doing what there is to do, holding the sweet pain of this planet,
touching into the heavens.  The night cycles around again.

Mind and body approaching slumber I am aware of the slow
decline of my bodily rhythms. I feel a lightness of mind and a deepening
of the heaviness of my body. A smile arrives unbidden, mantling my face
as exquisite feelings of love blanket my body. In time, as the body
fades away, a splash of continuous light reveals the room through closed
eyelids, and I witness the dream that eventually arises.  I have come
to know that these dreams often bring Sacred messages and open a portal
into other worlds.  This embodied Spirit relaxes more deeply as the
lucidity drifts away and for a measureless while, there is nothing but
Awareness witnessing vast emptiness.

A wispy dream emerges as this borrowed body begins to arise
into the consciousness of the morning practice. This lucid dream becomes
so animated that even though Awareness knows it’s a dream, it is as
real as if I am walking the mountain path. I have to ask myself…am I
really dreaming, or am I actually awake? The prophetic dream arises in
this space and I just watch and learn with ease and awareness. I feel my
body senses gradually awakening as my dreamy state becomes diffused and
wispy Awareness of my body in full bloom arises.

 I sit up on the bed and feet touch the floor like every other
morning, but Awareness remains watching “Myself” dream “Me”, moment by
moment into this heart and soul infused body. Blood and bones, flesh and
skin dreaming the room into existence; dreaming the bed into existence;
dreaming Sacred fields into existence; energy into existence; parallel
worlds into existence; emptiness and form dreaming together. The witness
holds the incarnate reflections of our hearts and souls which require a
dance floor on which to play, and the dance floor requires the capacity
to illuminate the salsa of manifest existence
.

I stand shaking the sleepiness out of my eyes. I shudder with disorientation. Am I awake? Or am I asleep and still dreaming?

New questions arise in the space of consciousness; what is a
dream and who is the dreamer? What is sleep and what is waking? Paradox
turns on its head beyond finding the dreamer within the dream, and the
dream within the dreamer; beyond noticing the sleep within waking, and
the waking within sleep.  Subject and object, witness and body dissolve
in their separateness as the dream and the dreamer become a particular
“One”, dreaming, tangible, touchable heart and body, with all its
Goosebumps and Luminosities; they dissolve into existence. This
incarnated Soul recognizes the Dreamer and the Dream to be none other
than Itself.

The world is in my Skirt

Holding the birthing Universe in my lap

I bless this planet while

Standing in

The arrogance and the humility

Of my particular Presence

There is nothing to do but to Wake Up as

Awareness that co-creates with us

This day, this night, this incarnate Self

MP3s and NGOs

AIDS and Lasers

Satellites and Sunsets

Terrorists and Presidents

The ever-ensuing nativity of enlightenment

The perpetual waking up of

Transcendence within immanence,

Form within emptiness

Of cookies within ovens

And frogs within ponds

Plop?