Letter from CWS Board Member and Unique Self Teacher Chahat Corten.

chahat-corten-100x100Dearest friends and partners,

How can I even start to describe to you the shower of Grace and Love, Deep Dharma transmission from Spirit via Marc that has happened here last week in the eight days of the second gathering of the CWS / Venwoude Mystery School of Love at Venwoude in Holland.

Some 150 people gathered, indeed from all over the world, to create together a field of Outrageous Love, visioned, held, loved open, and sustained in the most profound and wondrous way by Marc.

There was an unwavering stream of teaching, that was deepened and embodied in many afternoon workshops and musical & dance happenings in the evenings. The level of synchronicity that I experienced between the core morning teachings of Marc, the afternoon workshops, and all the other offerings was so magical that it sometimes took my breath away.

Many of us who have been studying with Marc now for more than three years experienced an enormous deepening in the transmitting of the teaching on the 12 principles of Eros.[Read more…]

Marc Gafni teaching at Venwoude

Marc Gafni teaching at Venwoude

The second annual Mystery School of Love has begun and is already in full swing. More than 150 people have come to celebrate with us this year’s theme: “Reclaiming Eros.” Many participants were here with us last year and are excited to be here again!

The festival revolves at its core around Dr. Marc’s several hours of Dharma transmission each morning. In the beginning of the day, spiritual teacher Chahat Corten, a leading luminary at Venwoude and a direct dharma student of Dr. Marc, begins the morning with a day-opening ceremony. Dr. Marc then meets with the twenty or so teachers gathered on the faculty of the Mystery School. Included are leading teachers who are each in their own right bright stars and key leaders of the Venwoude community where Dr. Marc serves as the World Spirituality Teacher in Residence. We will post a bit later a special piece about all the the wonderful teachers, each worthy of note and great appreciation.

The center of the emergence is the field of radical dharma and outrageous love that is woven and rewoven by Dr. Marc. The attendance at the festival has doubled in the last year and we expect that to keep doubling every year. Dr. Marc weaves a field of precise and powerful—truly “source-code-changing”—teaching, which transforms minds and explodes hearts. Dr. Marc’s mind and heart seem to merge as one and he lives for everyone as an overflowing and brilliant weaver of meaning, meta theory and grand narrative—even as he opens up spaces of genuine enlightenment that seem to shift the earth beneath people’s feet. It is an enlightenment teaching pure and simple, and the process is, as Dr. Marc calls it, Loving Your Way to Enlightenment!

To give you a little taste of it, we want to share with you just the first few minutes of Marc Gafni’s opening dharma talk, where he sets the frame by giving us 6 principles and commitments for the upcoming week. This is before any of the real dharma got started—this was the first hello:

[Read more…]

Naked Female On Rocks Facing Lightening by Victor Habbick

©Victor Habbick, www.freedigitalphotos.net

 “Any part of your story that you do not live,
lives in darkness”¦
part of your story is in shadow.
To come home you must recover and
embrace the memory of your fullest self.
Until the story of your life is lived
you will go on yearning for it.”
Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self


It is so exciting to be on this journey together with all of you, our readers and participants in courses and retreats, my wonderful colleagues and friends, and my beloved teacher and friend Dr. Marc Gafni, who has invited me to team up with him in this sacred endeavor of writing this series of articles, which will ultimately become a book, as well as in this holy adventure of Integral Wisdom, World Spirituality, and Unique Self.

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(c) 2012 photo courtesy of photoexplorer.

(c) 2012 photo courtesy of photoexplorer

In a recent dialogue over Unique Self, thought-leaders Marc Gafni and Rob McNamara discussed the overlapping topic areas in their recent books, Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment and Strength to Awaken/The Elegant Self.

They discussed”¦

  • Whole-hearted engagement.
  • The full richness and depth of every moment as the way in to Unique Self.
  • The interrelationship of their books.
  • The ego's basic habit.
  • The three traits of the Enlightenment of Fullness: Embodiment, Uniqueness, and Creativity.

You can register for the full dialogue on this page.>>>

Below is a partial transcript from their dialogue in which Marc Gafni elaborates on his definition of the Enlightenment of Fullness.

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Excerpt of the Essay by Dr. Marc Gafni:

In their 2013 ITC conference presentation, Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton will explore “Integral God: Sacred Activism and Falling in Love with the Divine.” To explore this, they will consider two models of self in evolutionary mysticism and why these models matter. Both models emerge at the time of important updates to the source code of enlightenment. The first update is the understanding that all of reality, including spirit, is evolving, and this is a shared understanding of both Unique and Authentic Self teachings. The second update to the source code of the enlightenment teachings can be understood as the emergence of the awakened personal function, and this is a key area of divergence between the Unique and Authentic Self teachings. Read more in this excerpt from the introduction of the essay :


Unique Self and Authentic Self in Context:

Marc GafniWithin the Integral context, two ways of thinking about self have emerged which are distinctive both in their shared contours and significant distinctions. One framework or model has been called Authentic Self, and the other, Unique Self.[i] Their implicit assumptions suggest both a shared worldview and subtle but important distinctions in their vision of the ideal homo religiousus. These distinctions are foundational with vast implications in virtually every dimension of life, and therefore, need to be laid out with clarity and precision. Each suggests a different understanding of what it means to wake up from the narrow identity as a separate self or ego self into a more enlightened and correct identity as, respectively, Authentic or Unique Self.[ii]  Both the Unique Self and Authentic Self models locate themselves within the context of classical mystical enlightenment teaching. Neither emerges from a western flatland paradigm which views the self as an isolated and discrete unit, or what has been called a skin-encapsulated ego. For both Unique Self and Authentic Self, the first major step towards enlightenment is the realization that the person is not merely an ego or separate self, but rather that the person’s true identity is their absolute, essential, or true self.[Read more…]

From Your Unique Self by Dr. Marc Gafni.

(c) 2013 photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong

©2013 photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong

The isolated ego is the root cause of murder, war, and virtually all human suffering. The ego feels its own fragility, its limits, and its ultimate powerlessness. As a result, the ego grasps for ways to assert power and experience aliveness. This causes the acting out of all forms of shadow. When you deconstruct your mistaken identity with the separate-self ego, and instead identify with your distinct path in the seamless quilt of the Uni-verse, the fear dissipates and the love returns. When the contraction of ego uncoils, your Unique Self experiences all of the good—personal love, responsibility, compassion, ethical action, activism, and all the rest—that you previously thought was accessible only through your assertion of a separate self.

The choice between personal love and immersion in True Self is a false choice. There is no contradiction between them whatsoever: The West—motivated by love and the desire to end suffering—affirmed the separate self because it thought this was the only way a person could gain the goods of the encounter, namely personal love, responsibility, contact, intimacy, accountability, compassion, and care. This was a mistake; all of those goods may be realized through the encounter between two Unique Selves who are not separate from each other, but consciously part of the same seamless coat of the Uni-verse. Personal love does not require two separate selves.

Further Discussion:

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Marc Gafni’s writing on the relationship between personal or relative love and absolute love.  As he says above in this distinction, “The choice between personal love and immersion in True Self is a false choice.” Elaborating on this further, Dr. Marc says:

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Below, you will find a link to a chart created by CWS Web Scholar Kerstin Tuschik, elaborating on the Stations of Self in Dr. Marc Gafni's Your Unique Self (p. 54) by adding first-, second-, third-person perspectives. She says: “I have found these Stations in myself and given voice to what these aspects of consciousness have to say about how they see me, you, us, and the world.” Kerstin's chart was developed for the  annual "Integrales Forum" conference this year, held June 14-16. The conference was themed "Wir gestalten Zukunft" = "We are Shaping the Future." Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and Barrett Brown were connected for the event via skype. Steve McIntosh and Elizabeth Debold were there in person, and more than 20 presenters from Germany were also in attendance. Bence Ganti was also present, and he discussed Integral Europe and the Integral scene in the US. He also lead a workshop on the Integral Flow Experience

Kerstin's chart below was presented for a project market at the conference, and copies were also given to participants. Kerstin co-lead a workshop together with Cordula (Mears-)Frei, entitled "Voice of the Future: Evolution of Love" and facilitated an Open Space workshop.

Click the pictures below for a .pdf copy of the "I-You-We.pdf chart" created by Kerstin or Dr. Marc Gafni's original "Stations of the Self" (p. 54) chart.

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Corporate Social Responsibility In Word Collage by David Castillo Dominici

©David Castillo Dominici, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Listen to Richard Barrett, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and author of many books””e.g. What My Soul Told Me, The New Leadership Paradigm, and Building a Values Driven Organization””and Marc Gafni as they talk about an exciting new role that nations and our democratic systems can play in the evolution of consciousness, when they awaken to their Unique Selves, and what that might mean.

You can also listen to the first two parts of the dialogue and read a summary or partial transcript here:

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From Your Unique Self by Dr. Marc Gafni.

(c) 2012 Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

©2012 Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

The ego lives in the past, thinking it is the present. Therefore, the ego unconsciously confuses past with present. The ego is unable to create intimacy, which means meeting each other in the fullness of the present moment. To make real contact, you must be personal and present. Only the Unique Self can make contact. For the Unique Self, the present moment consciously includes the past and anticipates the future.

The ego confuses the past and the present. When you are confused””thinking you are present in the present while you are actually lost in a past trance””you are unable to act effectively, lovingly, or powerfully in the situation that you are in. And the past remains always unhealed. Several years ago a friend and board member of my organization called me, angry at not being included in a particular email loop. Her anger was full of intensity and flaming aggression, which was vastly disproportionate to the ostensible exclusion from the email loop. I considered asking her to resign from the board, as this was not the first time such an overreaction had occurred. Of course, what was coming up was not her present exclusion, but a very old sense of being excluded. She held this sense of being left out from her early childhood as a girl with four brothers who were better loved by their father.

This inability to discern the past from the present has made her unable to effectively navigate her professional or personal world, because she is always prone to dramatic overreactions that undermine many key relationships. The Unique Self does not confuse the past with the present. When the past comes up in the present, the Unique Self recognizes it for what it is: the past coming up in the present.

The Unique Self then uses the present moment to heal the past. The Unique Self recognizes that the patterns of the past have no true foothold or power in the present.

Further Discussion:

As Dr. Marc says above, the ego confuses the past with the present, and the Unique Self recognizes the difference, escapes the past's dominion, and uses the present moment to heal the past. So, what, then, is the relationship between Unique Self or ego and the future?  Dr. Marc teaches, quoting Gabriel Marcel, that hope is a memory of the future.  He says:

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Sunrise Over The Sea With Pier On The Foreground by tratong, www.freedigitalphotos.net

©tratong, www.freedigitalphotos.net

by Dr. Marc Gafni from Your Unique Self

The ego is always splitting. It always sees dualities, and it cannot hold paradox or complexity. For the ego, others are either enemies or friends. Actions are either good or bad. The separate-self ego has a very hard time stably holding perspectives other than its own for extended periods of time. The Unique Self can naturally hold paradox. Contact with the transcendent within the large field of divine reality allows for the holding of opposites. Sacred outrage and equanimity live in paradoxical harmony within the Unique Self.


Further discussion:

Here we meet with one of the paradoxes of the Unique Self teachings, which is that we can wake up to realize Unique Self (as a state experience), since it is our very essence, which is always already present, yet, to really live it in a sustainable way, we need to also grow up to higher levels of consciousness and complexity.

How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. (Niels Bohr)

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(c) 2011 Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

©2011 Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

by Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self.

The ego is angry at what is done to it. It very rarely feels the same outrage at what is done to someone else. The Unique Self is not merely outraged against injustice done to its own person; it is hurt and outraged by any and all injustice. The ego often fights large causes of injustice as a way to bolster its grandiosity. Unique Self fights the battles of injustice in its own backyard, even when there is potential collateral damage to its own power and status.


Further Discussion:


One of the things this distinction reminds us of is the importance of responding to real hurt in the world.  In one call from the Living Beyond Complexity telecourse Dr. Marc Gafni co-taught with Clint Fuhs, Nicole Fegley, and Zak Stein, Marc spent one entire phone call expounding upon the “problem of evil” in the world, also referred to as a “theodicy.”  In the course of the call, he explained that the level-three response to enormous suffering in the world is to cry out “Why?” in pain, to feel the pain, and to question the injustice behind it, which is part of the tikkun, or fixing, of the injustice.  In one of his earlier manuscripts entitled Uncertainty, (a book that will be rereleased along with his manuscript for Certainty), Marc explores the Talmudic teaching on this.  An excerpt of that discussion is reprinted below from the chapter entitled “The Path of Wrestling”:

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Fallen Leader by podpad, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Fallen Leader by podpad, www.freedigitalphotos.net

by Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self.

Ego is the servant pretending to be a king. You are avoiding stepping into your Unique Self for fear of being a king. Your ego thinks it is God but does not really believe it, so your ego insanely tries to make itself the God it knows it is not. Your Unique Self knows it is God, so it acts in the world with majesty, audacity, and grace.



Further discussion:

We can take a lot of different perspectives on today's issue. Let's try on a couple of them.

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thumb_COLOURBOX3022407By Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self

Your separate self is driven by greed. Greed is not the want of anything specific. Rather, it is insatiable want that creates perpetual anxiety. Insatiable want is a structure of the egoic mind, which seeks more and more identity enhancers to confirm its existence. Satisfaction and ego are opposites.

Give the ego everything, and it will not be satisfied. Give the Unique Self anything, and it will be grateful and satisfied. Satisfied, not resigned. Satisfaction emerges from the fullness of whatever the moment brings.

Satisfaction comes from contact with Being and from doing your radical, intense best in the world of Becoming without attachment to outcome. Being is all one, so any moment of Authentic Being gives infinite satisfaction. Becoming is an expression of the evolutionary impulse and not merely of the egoic drive to achieve. So for Unique Self, your very best is always good enough. For your ego, your very best is never good enough. This is why the ego is the source of all your suffering. It always wants more to fill its greed.

Greed, however, is not a root evil. At its core, greed is your ego's distortion of a quality of essence, the quality of pure infinite desire. Infinite desire is the natural expression of the endless creativity of essence.  It is this quality that creates constant yearning, especially the yearning to grow, to create. This yearning, however, lives in paradoxical harmony with satisfaction.

For more on distinctions between ego and Unique Self, check out the upcoming Unique Self telecourse starting April 24.  This is a not-to-be missed course on the new spiritual book and teaching that everyone is talking about!

Further discussion:


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The following video gives you a small taste of the Center for World Spirituality Mystery School of Love (aka Summer Festival of Love) run in partnership with Venwoude International retreat center.

The Mystery School is an annual eight day event which takes place at the end of July and the first week of August. The morning dharma teaching is by Dr. Marc Gafni with an all star team of teachers leading breakout sessions in the afternoon.

The Mystery School is a profound enlightenment teaching intensive where the practices revolve around awakening to what Dr. Marc calls Your Unique Self. This awakening to your true nature and to the sacred activism that is the invitation of your life is rooted in a powerful realization of the unique love beauty and love intelligence of all that is, that lives in you, as you and through you.

Many students report profound enlightenment experiences during mystery schools. Those experiences however are but pointers towards a stable and integrated awakening to your unique self that has the potential to literally change everything even as you deepen and transform from where you are. This is the path of what Dr. Marc calls the evolutionary lover or the outrageous lover. At the core of the dharma is Dr. Marc’s core mantra: We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.

Next Venwoude Festival / Mystery School:  July 27th – August 3rd, 2013
Info here: http://www.venwoude.nl/summerfestival.htm


Russ Volckmann

Dr. Russ Volkmann and Dr. Marc Gafni will discuss “Unique Self and Leadership” on Monday, April 1, at 6:00PM PDT (9:00PM EDT). Free.

Register here: http://uniqueself.com/welcome-friends-of-russ-volckmann/

The term “integral leadership” was first used (in the 1980s) by Ken Wilber, who has written 30 books on integral theory. A comprehensive way to consider Integral Leadership is to view it as a perspective (or understanding) of the entire arena of leadership studies and the myriad practices of leadership (in all their forms). This perspective or understanding is accomplished through an integral frame of reference that draws on the two interrelated fields of integral studies and practice.

Thousands of persons interested in integral theory and/or leadership theory have been exposed to the notion of integral leadership, and hundreds have attended conferences, trainings, and certification programs to learn about it. Russ Volckmann is the Editor of the flagship peer-reviewed journal, Integral Leadership Review, bringing his depth of knowledge and Wisdom to the evolution of Integral Leadership literature.

Russ writes:

“In my work and teaching, I have worked with clients and students to examine the clarity of their thinking, and how to work toward being more impactful, proficient and aligned with what matters most in their work. As an organization development consultant and executive coach for over 30 years, I hope to discuss with Marc how his approach in Your Unique Self can contribute to our ongoing conversation about leadership, individually and collectively.”

Russ has scheduled a Special Publication of Integral Leadership Review to consider Leadership in the context of Unique Self. Marc is thrilled to be invited to this participation with Russ in both the Dialogue and the Special ILR Publication.

global_12950747The Houston Integral Consciousness Meet-up Group is meeting on Thursday, March 7, for a discussion of Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment. According to their Meetup.com page:

We had such a lively discussion amongst group members, we decided to continue discussing Marc Gafni’s book, Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment again…

All are welcome…

Cheryl Norris, an organizer of the group, says this meeting is the second on the topic of Unique Self following an “awesome” initial meeting this week in which “fun was had by all (big grin).”

The Houston group had studied different evolutionary teaching on the nature of self including the teaching of Evolutionary Self which are based on the original teaching of Authentic Self. For a number of reasons the learning felt incomplete, she said. One of the group members read Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self and felt that it addressed some of the key concerns. A lively conversation ensued.

Marc looks forward to talking more deeply with the study group to understand the important distinctions between Unique Self and Authentic Self. Some of these issues were discussed in part in a dialogue between Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni published in an article in the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice (6:1).

There have been a number of discussions of Unique Self and Authentic Self, and here references to a  a few of them. There is the aforementioned dialogue between Marc Gafni And Andrew Cohen, a related article by Zach Stein, a blog post by Chris Dierkes, and information about a dialogue between Mike Wombacher and Dustin DiPerna on Evolutionary Spirituality and Unique Self. Another important recent conversation is a dialogue between Tom Steininger (representing Authentic Self) and Sonja Student (representing Unique Self), published in the German magazine EnlightenNext Impulse and in a version published in English translation on Spirit’s Next Move, the CWS blog.

WakingUp-225Note: The following article is an English translation by Kerstin Tuschik of an article by Tom Steininger and Sonja Student regarding perspectives of a new spirituality for our times. It was first published in the German magazine EnlightenNext Impulse

TOM STEININGER: Of late we have spoken a lot about the Authentic Self and the Unique Self. [The Authentic Self teaching is widely associated with spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen among others and the Unique Self teaching with Marc Gafni and his book Your Unique Self.] This discussion is about how we can find a new understanding of spirituality in the 21 century. Is there also a new self-perception emerging through this new spirituality, a new spiritual self-concept?

SONJA STUDENT: Yes, at first we realize that in a new spirituality the evolutionary perspective plays a very important role. In the spirituality of today it is not only about realizing the timelessness or the primordial ground of being. In our inside we have to attend to other dimensions as well. This exceeds the classical terms of enlightenment. In these matters we cannot rely exclusively on the mystical traditions or the great world religions any longer. This is why the Integral Theory says that it is not only about waking up, but simultaneously about the process of growing up. We have to take care of becoming adult and developed personalities as well.

TS: Yes, we need both. The mystical teachings are about waking up, enlightenment. Many integral or evolutionary interested people forgot how important the dimension of the Absolute is, how important transcendence is. This dimension however takes center stage in all the traditional, mystical paths. In the East one speaks about the experience of Being, in Buddhism about the emptiness, the Christian mystics called it the direct experience of God.

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urlBy Marc Gafni

King David, the biblical author of Psalms, perhaps the greatest spiritual poetry every written, is walking by the river lost in ecstasy. In this state, he cries out, “God, tell me – is there anyone that has ever praised you as much as I?”

At that moment, a frog fantastically exclaims to him, “Be not so proud, David, for I have done more than you. You sing to God on occasion – I sing to God with every croak.”[Read more…]

infinity-225From Ken Wilber’s “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

Let [an awakening] start right here, right now, with us–with you and with me–and with our commitment to breathe into infinity until infinity alone is the only statement that the world will recognize. Let a radical realization shine from our faces, and roar from our hearts, and thunder from our brains–this simple fact, this obvious fact: that you, in the very immediateness of your present awareness, are in fact the entire world, in all its frost and fever, in all its glories and its grace, in all its triumphs and its tears. You do not see the sun, you are the sun; you do not hear the rain, you are the rain; you do not feel the earth, you are the earth. And in that simple, clear, unmistakable regard, translation has ceased in all domains, and you have transformed into the very Heart of the Kosmos itself–and there, right there, very simply, very quietly, it is all undone.[Read more…]

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKen Wilber writes in “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

The vulgar world is already shouting, and with such a raucous rancor that truer voices can scarcely be heard at all. The materialistic world is already full of advertisements and allure, screams of enticement and cries of commerce, wails of welcome and whoops of come hither. I don’t mean to be harsh here, and we must honor all lesser engagements. Nonetheless, you must have noticed that the word “soul” is now the hottest item in the title of book sales–but all “soul” really means, in most of these books, is simply the ego in drag. “Soul” has come to denote, in this feeding frenzy of translative grasping, not that which is timeless in you but that which most loudly thrashes around in time, and thus “care of the soul” incomprehensibly means nothing much more than focusing intensely on your ardently separate self. Likewise, “Spiritual” is on everybody’s lips, but usually all it really means is any intense egoic feeling, just as “Heart” has come to mean any sincere sentiment of the self-contraction.[Read more…]