Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In your face

Here's a big clue on how the universe works. It is a no-brainer, really. You may have seen this happen to you millions of times, and when I point it out it should seem obvious.

If you have a lesson to learn, and you ignore it, you might get away with it for a while. However, if you keep ignoring it, eventually it will get in your face so much that it becomes impossible to ignore. That's really just the way it works. Duh.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Evolutionary units

It has been a while since I have had anything to write. Life has been going at break-neck speeds, and I have just sort of surrendered to it, along with all the things that go with that. They say that learning goes in waves, and for a while I have sort of been at the bottom of a wave, stagnant, just using what I know and doing what I do. It's no big deal.

One thing that occurred to me upon reflection recently is that evolution is not just about the individual. People "work on their development" and "strive", or they do the other thing and "be"... It does not matter how you view it or where you are at in that regard. The point is that those are all individual terms. The ultimate Oneness is being viewed through the colored-glasses of the individual. Of course that is fine, and many people do this with great results. That is all "1st Quadrant" stuff, or "I" stuff.

However, there is an other aspect... looking at it from the 2nd Quadrant, the quadrant of "We". If you have a group of people, let's say a family, the group has a collective state of consciousness or level of awareness as well. The level of awareness is essentially the average level of awareness of all the members of the group. If you are a member of the family, you could raise that either by working on your own awareness, or helping other members with theirs.

If I have a wife and children, there is a collective awareness there equal to the average of our individual awarenesses. If mine goes up, the collective goes up. If the children's awareness is brought up through child-rearing, the collective goes up. I'm told the opposite is also true, where the collective awareness can bring up the awareness of an individual, if the group's level is at a higher state than the individual in question.

That makes sense, in light of some previous posts, where I talk about teachers and the concept of Bracha and how it rubs off on the student.

The whole 2nd Quadrant is about expanding the area of concern from individual, to family, to race, to nation, to world. So everything here applies to those larger groups as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dan Millman on Saving the Earth

On Dan Millman's blog there is a great post on his take for "saving the earth".

Wow! He put into words what I have been trying to say, but have been too angry at the environmentalist-tree-hugger types to express.

In a nutshell, the notion that we should all go back to living like cavemen or natives in teepees is bunk. That's not to say that we humans do not put strain on the environment, sometimes more than we have to, and sometimes we humans have little regard for the big picture. That's all true.

However, fixing that is not about going back to the "good old days." In the "good old days", no one seems to remember that the average life expectancy was 40-something.... even as little as a century ago. No one also seems to remember that people who were not related to each other that met randomly in the wilderness would try to kill each other, simply to control resources and take slaves or new breeding stock. Many environmentalists romanticize these eras, and forget the brutality that we have actually left behind in those years.

Things are better today than they were. People live longer, if nothing else, yet even if we humans never redeem ourselves and wind up destroying our own race, from the Earth's perspective.... Who cares?

The "Big Picture" is bigger than us. The Earth will go on whether we are here or not. Environmental damage can conceivably repair itself, certainly over millions after our extinction. From the Earth's perspective, it really does not matter what we do. Longer-lived species than us have died off before.

Nevertheless, there is still something to be learned from environmentalism.... if it can be done with awareness. The pollution and over zealous negativity that we humans put out into the world is a reflection of our mental disease. The more chatter we have in our brains.... the more we get sucked into our own emotional dramas.... the more we lose ourselves in the pursuit of excess.... the more the Earth becomes clouded with our garbage.

Environmentalism is not about cleaning up garbage. It is about curing our disease by becoming aware and learning to observe our mental chatter and emotional outbursts. You will never manually put a stop to the chatter or the emotions. You are not supposed to. However, you CAN learn to observe them without judgment and just allow them to be.

When that happens, the environment will improve on its own because human behavior will automatically change.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Sometimes there's these awkward pauses in a conversation with someone, especially someone you don't know well. Ever have those? People are uncomfortable with silence. They think they have to fill it. Or, more correctly, their egos think it must be filled.

In actuality, the silence contains Reality, and egos are scared shitless of Reality. By becoming aware of the silent presence that lingers over and throughout everything, you can become aware of the Present Moment, the Now, You..... and it's scary at first! The awkwardness covers up the fear.

So too it is with writing. Recently, I have found myself a little guilty about not having any compunction to write more on this blog. But you know what? There's nothing to write sometimes! That's just how it is. I want to make sure that this blog only gets things written that need to be written, rather than filling it up with my own chatter. That probably means sometimes I will not have much to say!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I've been scooped!!

I mentioned in a post a long time ago that I would love to write a book about my experiences with Draja Mickaharic as a kid and teenager. Well! I haven't! The honor instead goes to my close friend, Luke Cullen, who hung out with Draja and learned with me for quite some time. Good one, Luke! I would've done it myself, but.... excuses abound.

Luke, you are the Deepak Chopra to my Love Guru. Best of luck.

To check out Luke's book and purchase a copy, Click Here.

The cover art is pretty sweet too:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nitty Gritty Everyday-ness

There seems to be an underlying belief or feeling that once someone achieves some degree of spiritual accomplishment or awareness that his or her life will suddenly become perfect and free of "problems". Once in a while, I even catch myself believing this. However, it's really not true... It never happens.

When it comes down to it, evolving spiritually is ALL ABOUT problems, albeit not the problems themselves, but rather how you deal with them. Life continually tests us. What does it test us on? It tests our ability to maintain some level of attention on our True Selves while going through all the pain of life.

The pain and the problems are the teachers. You may be able to sit down and meditate in a quiet room and connect with the Oneness of all things, because you've spent years practicing, and that certainly is a pursuit that will increase your access to States, particularly the meditative State. But can you maintain any awareness of Oneness while you are in the middle of a fight with your partner or spouse about your impending financial ruin and the inevitable death of a close family member, all the while tending a sick child or three? Or does all your awareness go out the window while you revert back to believing your True Self is a big ball of emotional wreckage?

Being able to sit quietly and touch the quiet space within and around you is essential, but it is only a first step. After that, it gets harder because you need to be able to do it while living your life normally. The world was not made to function with all of us sitting on cushions meditating in forests. It was meant for us to be mindful beings aware of our divinity who go out and do what they gotta do despite that fact.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ah, to be a hypocrite

Over the last couple months, I have been dealing with a family move and one or two family emergencies. That stuff is still ongoing. Luckily today, I have some time to write, and I want a short interlude from the Integral stuff for now.

Life is really your greatest teacher. You may or may not have a person guiding you spiritually in life, but you always have Life to teach you, for as long as, well, you're alive.

Self-examination is one way of gleaning lessons from Life. Idries Shah and other famous sufis often talk about self-examination of behavior, or even simply being able to examine yourself. Most people are not capable of stepping back and looking at their own behavior on deep levels. Consequently, there are a lot of "hypocrites" out there. Idries Shah often used that word in his writings to describe people who are out of touch with their own behavior and wind up doing the very things that they preach against. Pretty much everyone falls into that category at some point or another, more often than not.

Hell, I've done it.

If you look around and do some digging on the Internet, you can find all kinds of people who believe in "manifestation" or "magic", or "magick", however you like to spell it. There are many other terms to cover the same thing, even the term "prayer" is used often. The underlying basis of all these things is changing your life to be something other than what it is right now. At a deep level, they are all exactly the same things with exactly the same arrays of mechanisms.

Of course, change is not always such a bad thing. You have a right to try to change your situation if you do not like the way it is going. However, sometimes it is easy to forget that there is an overarching Reality that does not change. This Reality filters down through the levels of existence and has a way of communicating things to us. Sometimes, the communication is, "Tough crap, buddy. You ain't changing this."

My attitude has generally been to trust in Reality and let it do whatever it does. Many years ago, I gave up all esoteric attempts to fiddle with Reality. I saw no point to it. Play the cards you are dealt and shut up. If you work hard and be smart, you increase your odds of having an "easy" life, but the ease of life is more your perception than anything else, so work on that perception instead, if you feel like working on something.

That right there, folks, is some hypocrisy. Good example.

Years ago I gave up trying to change the world through esoteric means, but I never gave up trying to change it through conventional means, which is even worse! Trying to change Reality even when it says, "No way, buddy" is a useless exercise. That's true whether you do it by magic, prayer, or good ole fashioned hard labor. At times when Reality will not allow you to change it, the point is to accept what IS.

When the time comes to get up off your accepting ass and move, Reality will let you know. Have no fear in that, but until that time, the best thing to do is to hang out in the Present and chill, or not chill, as the case may be in a hard situation. Sometimes, the best solution to a problem is to do nothing but wait. Other times, waiting will get you killed. The trick to telling the difference is to have some insight into what the universe is trying to tell you.

It all boils down to self-observation. Lots of lessons to be learned in that exercise.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lurking shadows

When the Shadow is ignored, it becomes insistent about popping up in your life. If you do not acknowledge that you do indeed think and feel some "awful" things sometimes, those thoughts will show themselves in subtle ways. You might lose your temper when someone does something to you that seems petty or inconsequential. You might sabotage your own business deals for seemingly no reason. Every person has a hundred things that he or she does to mess things up sometimes, and later these people kick themselves for it. Ever have that experience?

For a while, I have been trying to figure out an answer to one of my questions I posted a while back. The question was: Which is correct? Should we actively do Inner Self work and try to clear out our emotional baggage, like my former teacher, Draja Mickaharic, says? Or should we not worry about that at all and simply become aware of our baggage and give it the space to exist in the light of Consciousness, like Eckhart Tolle says?

After exploring some of this material on Integral Philosophy, I think the answer is both.

If we only take Eckhart's approach, we will certainly become more aware, but our baggage will still be there. In the grand scheme of things, it certainly does not matter whether it is there or not, however, Ken Wilber's teachings stress that we are not just Consciousness, we are all things on all levels. That means we are our baggage too. So from that perspective, by doing Shadow work or Inner Self work or whatever you want to call it, we are in a way lubricating our path towards becoming more aware.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mucking things up with your Shadow

In Psychology research there is a lot of study on the concept of the "Shadow Personality" or Shadow.

A quick glance at the Internet reveals Jung's definition: "According to Carl Jung, the shadow is that part of the personality one chooses not to see. Usually of a vulgar, shameful, or corrupt nature, the shadow is comprised of whatever one cannot uphold in one’s idea of oneself. Not being integrated or even acknowledged by conscious mind, the shadow sits and waits in the unconscious."

Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy borrows heavily from this concept.

Explaining this in my own words, I would say that the Shadow is a subset of your Inner Self, a piece of it. It is a part of your emotional makeup that you generally do not want to deal with, but it is there nonetheless.

Ever have an "evil thought" about someone? Ever wish someone ill? Ever say to yourself, "If I wasn't such a nice person, I would...."?

Those are pieces of your Shadow breaking through. Ken Wilber's work says that in addition to doing all of these exercises to increase your access to States, and to move up the Stages, you also have to work on integrating your Shadow. That is to say, you have to learn to contact and accept your Shadow as a part of yourself.

Keep in mind, that is not to say that you have to conquer or kill the Shadow, or even solve its problems. All you have to do is face it. Integrate it. Make it a known part of yourself. Become aware of it.

Interestingly, if you do that, the Shadow's influence and tendencies to pop up at inopportune times diminishes.

Not working on your Shadow can present problems. There are huge numbers of "spiritual" people that meditate for hours per day, practice compassion for human beings, give to charity, and then go home and beat their kids. These people have great access to all kinds of States, and they can even operate at high Stages, but they are assholes nonetheless. Why? Their Shadows still have not been integrated.

More on this later....

Friday, January 30, 2009

Raising kids and training doctors

When you raise a child, the subject of religion comes up pretty early usually. For most people steeped in a nice Mythic tradition, this is not a hard discussion. They tell the kid how things are, and the kid believes. Hopefully, later in life, the kid figures out more stuff on its own too.

How would you raise a child to adopt an Integral approach to spirituality though?

Can you imagine talking to a three-year old about Oneness and ego and living in the Now? Not gonna happen...

The interesting thing about the spiritual line of development is that EVERY human being must pass through each stage. We are all born at Stage 1, an infant that does not know the difference between itself and its surroundings. From there, we ALL go through a period where the world is magical to us. Many of us then get into the doctrine and mythology of it afterwards, as we proceed to the Mythic stage. Hopefully, people then go on from there to Rational, Pluralistic, Integral, etc.

When raising a child, each approach and each stage must be taught at the appropriate time. Even into adulthood you proceed through stages, if you do not get stuck at one of them. It is a lot like the regular development of a human from infancy, to childhood, to adolescence, to young adulthood, to adulthood, to middle age, to old age.

On the other hand, training people to be doctors is not like that.

Can you imagine going in on your first day of medical school and learning about bloodletting, leaches, and the Four Humors? Then as you proceed through your four years you eventually get to complex clinical diagnosis and treatment? Not gonna happen...

In this line of development you do not need to start out learning what doctors learned 1000 years ago. In fact, doing that can make for a really crappy doctor!

Most lines of development that deal with information seem to be like this. It helps to get information that is useful to your population during your current time period. Religious and spiritual information is not like this for some reason.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Putting some of this together

Hopefully, I have simplified some of this complicated material to the point where someone can see that it is extremely useful. Believe me, when I read all of this for myself, which I still am in the process of doing, it is not so simple to comprehend. It takes a bit of time to digest.

I have talked about States and Stages according to the Integral take on them. Now I want to convey how States and Stages go together according to this scheme.

All States are accessible in each Stage. In English, that means if you are a bible beater stuck at the Mythic stage, you can still be awake, dreaming, having a dreamless sleep, or even a non-dual experience of Oneness. Those things correspond to the gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual States. You could also have other states as a bible beater, such as meditation, drunkenness, and an LSD trip.

It really does not matter what Stage you are at. You can always access these States, though some are easier than others. A tribal commoner in the back jungles of Africa that worships the Earth can have an experience of peace and Oneness every bit as much as the Zen Buddhist monk sitting in a monastery in sunny California. The differences between these two are how they would [i]interpret[/i] the experience, based on their cultural and religious upbringings, as well as the perspective they would take on the experience. The tribesman would talk about how he merged with his deity and walked together with him everywhere, whereas the monk would talk about a complete cessation of experience dissolving into an inexplicable nothingness.

So, if there are at least seven Stages and there are at least 4 States at every stage, that means you could have at least 28 different kinds of spiritual experiences. Youch!

This layout is called the "Wilber-Combs Matrix", which shows how at each Stage you can have four States.

A hat tip goes to Kelly Sosan Bearer at her blog for the image.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On a political note...

I thought I would say something briefly now that President Obama has been sworn in.

As Robb Smith over at Integral Life has said, I sincerely hope that Obama is something of an enigma in politics: an evolved person. So far in his transition, there are signs that he is. He seems to have an ability to connect with all sides of the spectrum, not by surrendering, or by completely accepting their garbage, but by including. He is able to disagree wholeheartedly with portions of the beliefs espoused by various political and social entities, yet he does not hate them, or even disdain them strongly. Instead, he stresses the commonalities and areas where the real truth seems to lie, and tries to bring those relationships forward in a spirit of "mutual interest and respect."

That's a pretty important characteristic of an Integral person, and an Integral network of societies. Every race, religion, tribe, family, individual has issues. Every one of them has portions of their belief systems and practices that are not conducive to development. However, every one of them ALSO has unique and important pieces of information that ARE essential for development. The trick is to sort out the useful from the useless.

In the world today, there are a lot of Stage 3 (Mythic) societies and people that conflict with Stage 4 (Rational) people. What we are seeing here is a world where Religion is stuck at Mythic and Science is stuck at Rational. It's a nightmare situation, because Science holds back Religion and keeps it down, preventing it from evolving to the point where tolerance develops. Conversely, Religion holds Science back by constantly keeping it on the defensive, sapping all the energy it would normally take to move itself forward.

Islamic extremism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish nationalism... all of these are examples of Mythic societies that are stuck. Multiculturalism, relativism, extreme "scientism"... these are examples of entities stuck in the Rational. The point is to move forward to Pluralistic, Integral, and stages beyond.

I hope Obama can contribute to that by helping to thread everyone together. He won't change billions of people and suddenly make them Integral-level beings. His task is hard: creating harmony between a huge spread of Stages, but I pray that he succeeds somehow, whatever success is in this case.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anyway... now for the last quadrant

Hello, folks. Sorry about the long delay between posts. Since the New Year hit, I've been busy with a new baby and starting proceedings for moving into a new place. That leaves little time to write.

I'd like to pick up again on the discussion on quadrants. Remember, the Upper Left quadrant is the "I" quadrant,dealing with personal internal development, and it represents all viewpoints of the world that stem from that perspective. The Upper Right quadrant is the "It" quadrant, dealing with the forms that "I" takes. It is the realm of hard core physics and science. Then we had the Lower Left quadrant which is the "We" quadrant. It represents the internal part of the collective. Whenever you are taking the perspective of "I, you and them" or "all of us", you are looking at things from this quadrant.

The last quadrant, the Lower Right, is the form that the "We" takes. In other words, this quadrant represents all societal constructions: houses, villages, towns, cities, national infrastructures, space stations, etc. It also encompasses whatever forms institutions take.

If you are the kind of person that believes that all reality can be represented by societal constructions, and that everything we experience is nothing but man-made institutions and objects, then you are looking at the world from this standpoint.

Now that we understand all four quadrants, it is important to reiterate some things. ALL of these quadrants make up reality. ALL philosophies, both personal and formal, fall into one or more of these areas, and some concentrate wholly on certain quadrants more than others. The point of Integral thinking is to realize that not focusing on all 4 quadrants makes for an incomplete accounting of Reality.

The other great thing about this is that it means that EVERY viewpoint is valid from a certain point of view, i.e. from a certain quadrant. Viewpoints are not often "wrong". They are however very often limited, primitive, and incomplete.

How enlightened are you? A test!

This comes from Dan Millman's latest news letter... a classic.

"How Enlightened Are You? A Test:

Well. . .

If you can live without caffeine or nicotine;

If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains;

If you can resist complaining;

If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you any time;

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment;

If you can ignore friends' limited educations and never correct them;

If you can treat the rich and poor alike;

If you can face the world without lies or deceit;

If you can conquer tension without medical help;

If you can relax without liquor;

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs;

If you can have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, gender, sexual preference, or politics —

— then you have almost reached the same level of spiritual development as your dog."

hahahah!!! I love it.