Meditation for Life: Is It True? Is It Really True? by Sally Kempton

by Sally Kempton

Twenty-five years ago, inspired by Gandhi's autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, I decided to practice absolute truthfulness for one week. I lasted less than two days. On the third day, a man I was trying to impress asked me if I'd read Thoreau, and I heard myself saying, “Yes,” despite the fact that I hadn't. A few minutes later, I forced myself to confess the lie. Truth is, that wasn't so hard. What turned out to be harder was looking at why I'd lied. It was deeply humiliating to my ego to recognize that I had such an attachment to looking smart that I couldn't admit not having read the book. And once I'd started looking into the motive for that lie,  it started a whole process of inquiry that actually hasn't stopped since.

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New World Conditions Catalyze the Evolution of a New World Spirituality – Part 2

The Evolutionary Context of World Spirituality

Why? Because the Perennialists made one huge mistake. They intentionally ignored the evolutionary context. Schoun and Smith not only ignore it, they identified and rejected evolution as being the enemy of eternity. In their understandable desire to locate modern man in the ground of eternity, they intuitively viewed the dynamic emergence of evolution as a threat.  This is a huge mistake. Evolution and Eternity are not enemies. Rather, Evolution is the nature of Eternity. Or at least evolution, or what Alfred North Whitehead called Becoming, is One taste of Eternity. Evolution is a mechanism of eternity's emergent properties as eternity chooses to manifest in the world of time. Evolution is no less than the chosen mechanism of the mystery.

We now realize that everything is evolving, including consciousness itself.

In the language of Kuk, heavily influenced by the old evolutionary teachings of Luria and the Zohar:

The theory of evolution, which is presently conquering the world, is aligned with the most profound secrets of Spirit, more than with any other philosophical theories.

Evolution, which proceeds on an ascending trajectory, provides an optimistic base for the world, for how is it possible to despair when one sees that everything is evolving and ascending?

And when we penetrate the very center of the principle of ascending evolution, we discover that it is the divine principle, which is enlightened with absolute clarity. For it is Infinity in realization which realized itself through bringing infinity from infinite potentiality to infinite actuality.

Evolution enlightens all dimensions of reality, all of God's manifestations.

All of reality evolves and ascends, as is evident in its parts, and this ascension is general as well as particular.

It rises to the highest peaks of absolute good.

What we now realize, as Kuk, Bergson, Aurobindo, De-Chardin, Gebser and so many others have shown, is that “all dimensions of reality” are evolving. We realize that consciousness itself is developing. Evolution is not the enemy of the mystery. Evolution is the mechanism of the mystery. This is the great paradox and lived koan of evolution and eternity.

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New World Conditions Catalyze the Evolution of a New World Spirituality – Part 1

Dearest Friends,

Wow, what a time it is! The world is in turmoil on virtually every level of reality even as it is pregnant with possibility and promise. The nature of the challenges that we face is, for the first time in the history of the cosmos, global in magnitude. The threat is a global threat to our very survival. The promise is the emergence of a global civilization, one rooted in an evolution of love beyond anything the world has ever seen. We need now, more then ever, a World Spirituality based on Integral principles.

New World Conditions Catalyze the Evolution of a New World Spirituality

The world faces world problems. Gone is the era where local kings, seers, and shamans dealt with their local issues. There are no more exclusively local issues. Everything affects everything else. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.

Of course, from a spiritual perspective, viewed through the eye of the heart and the eye of the spirit, this was always the case. However, the essential interconnectedness of all of reality was not apparent. The King of Burma had no felt sense or evidence that his actions and decision would affect the ancient Indians who populated the Americas.

Now, however, the underlying wholeness of all of reality, the inextricable interpenetration of all of its parts, is becoming visible to the naked eye. One needs to look only at environmental and ecological issues to realize the essential interconnectivity and indivisibility of it all.

New world conditions are always precisely what catalyze the next evolutionary leap. As we realize that the challenges that confront us are world challenges, we realize that we must evolve a World Spirituality to meet those challenges. But not only to meet those challenges.

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Simplicity Beyond Complexity: The Question Is the Answer (A Reponse to Suffering) by Marc Gafni

By Marc Gafni

Part I: The Question

One of the great teachings of the Integral Consciousness, which informs the emergent World Spirituality, is that frameworks matter.

The old world of the great traditions understood this very well. The framework is the meta-narrative, the big picture or worldview, the Great Story through which we interpret our experience.

To date in history, there have been three primary Great Stories. The pre-modern story was the story of simplicity, what I would call first simplicity. In terms of depth and interior enlightenment, this story was anything but simple in the simple-minded sense of things. It was the greatest interior view of the depths of kosmos, ever disclosed by the great human faculty of perception””the eye of the spirit. It was nonetheless, simplicity, because in large part[1], it claimed to have clear-cut answers to many of the great questions of Who we are, Why we are here, and Where we are going. Particularly, it claimed to offer clear and simple explanations of why human beings suffer or, said slightly differently, why bad things happen to good people. The Story was painful but simple. Suffering was a direct and clear part of the divine plan which human beings””if they looked deeply enough””were capable of understanding.

The Great Story of the old traditions was rejected by modernity and post-modernity. The profound simplicities were undermined and human kind found itself living in vast complexity. First Simplicity was replaced by a new complexity.

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Which Instrument are You in the World Spirituality Symphony?

by Marc Gafni & Mariana Caplan

Below are a few thoughts we would like to share in simple and clear terms in regard to why evolving a World Spirituality is the urgent need and great adventure of our time. We have jotted these thoughts down, also catalyzed by in-depth conversations with Ken Wilber and Tami Simon, who we are working closely with in catalyzing, articulating, and serving the emergence of the an authentic World Spirituality that has the potential to provide a context of meaning for hundreds of millions of people. This is a work in progress, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

Let us begin with a bold and audacious statement””not on our personal behalf, but on behalf of an incredible group of committed individuals from around the world who are coming together to catalyze and incarnate a new movement of spirit: World Spirituality. We believe that we are being called to articulate a vision of World Spirituality that speaks compellingly to the hundreds of millions of people who have moved beyond the religions or beyond exclusive identification with any one tradition. We believe that this may be one of the vital next moves in the evolution of consciousness.

We believe that World Spirituality is a desperately needed unifying principle which remembers and reminds us that what unites us is so much greater then what divides us.

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What’s Wrong With Martyrdom? – Lessons from Mohamed Bouazizi, Socrates, and Obi-Wan Kenobi

by Trevor Malkinson

A Spark Can Set a Field on Fire

On December 17, 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Bouazizi had been the main provider for his family since the age of 10, selling vegetables everyday in the market (1). For years he'd been bullied, harassed and humiliated by police; it was almost a daily occurrence. They would take away his scales or his produce, or fine him for not having a permit, which was basically a bribe because no permit was officially needed. The country of Tunisia had been under an authoritarian regime for twenty-five years, and corruption and nepotism were rampant. A vast majority of the country's wealth was in the hands of a small elite group, most of whom were blood relatives of President Ben Ali. On December 17 Bouazzi was harassed again, this time physically. And this time he'd had enough. After his request to speak to a local official was denied (as usual), Bouazzi bought some paint fuel, sat down outside the government building of the same unavailable state official, doused himself in the flammable liquid, and lit a match heard round the world.

As we all know now, this act by Bouazzi sparked an immediate uprising in Tunisia, one that spread to many other countries in the region and, at the time of writing, continues to spread. The conditions for this revolutionary outpouring have been in place for some time. The people of Tunisia, and Egypt, have long been disgruntled, and opposition groups had been quietly forming on sites like Facebook and elsewhere for several years (2). But it was Bouazzi's desperate act of self-immolation that broke the dam open into virtual release. It's hard for us to fully grasp the severity and totality of this kind of deed; it seems so radical and so awful. In one single snap of the fingers, this action negates all the core fears of our self-interested separate self- fear of pain, fear of suffering, and ultimately, fear of death. This horrific display of burning oneself alive in protest throws into stark relief the total commitment of the person doing it, and the total rejection of the injustice he and others had endured. Something sonic radiated outward on the day of December 17, 2010; in this act of self-negation, in this horrendous self-sacrifice, Mohamed Bouazzi managed to ignite a brush fire throughout the wider whole.

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The Teal Shadow – Integral Expert, First-Tier Allergy (By Kelly Sosan Bearer)

by Kelly Sosan Bearer

The Integral Expert

We all  have shadows, or disowned, repressed, dissociated parts of ourselves, and as we grow and develop from one stage to the next, and even as we grow into higher stages of development, a simple fact remains ”” the shadow does not go away, but rather follows us as we ascend into the higher reaches of self. Is it possible that certain types of shadow qualities are more probable to arise at certain levels of development? When we apply this question to the integral or teal level of development, what types of shadow material will we generally encounter in both ourselves and others? When we have the courage to take an honest view of ourselves, and as we learn more about and live an integral life, what shadow tendencies do we see? Let's explore, with a light heart and hand, the general flavors of shadow material that we may be grappling with specifically once we acquire an Integral awareness. Two specific shadow manifestations that can potentially arise with Integral awareness, at the teal level of development, can be called the “integral expert” and the “1st tier allergy.”

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Ten Spiritually Transmitted Diseases by Mariana Caplan

It is a jungle out there, and it is no less true about spiritual life than any other aspect of life. Do we really think that just because someone has been meditating for five years, or doing 10 years of yoga practice, that they will be any less neurotic than the next person? At best, perhaps they will be a little bit more aware of it. A little bit. It is for this reason that I spent the last 15 years of my life researching and writing books on cultivating discernment on the spiritual path in all the gritty areas””power, sex, enlightenment, gurus, scandals, psychology, neurosis””as well as earnest, but just plain confused and unconscious, motivations on the path. Along with my partner, author and teacher Marc Gafni, we are developing a new series of books, courses and practices to bring further clarification to these issues.

Several years ago, I spent a summer living and working in South Africa. Upon my arrival I was instantly confronted by the visceral reality that I was in the country with the highest murder rate in the world, where rape was common and more than half the population was HIV-positive””men and women, gays and straights alike. As I have come to know hundreds of spiritual teachers and thousands of spiritual practitioners through my work and travels, I have been struck by the way in which our spiritual views, perspectives, and experiences become similarly “infected” by “conceptual contaminants”””comprising a confused and immature relationship to complex spiritual principles””that are as invisible, yet as insidious, as sexually transmitted disease.

The following 10 categorizations are not intended to be definitive but are offered as a tool for becoming aware of some of the most common spiritually transmitted diseases.

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Meditation for Life: Awareness and Transformation by Sally Kempton

Meditation will show you where you need to work on yourself, but your very awareness of an unconstructive mood or behavior is actually the first step to changing it.

By Sally Kempton [cross-posted from Patheos.com]

Meditation makes you more self-aware. That’s one of its biggest gifts, even though we don’t always like what we see. When meditation is really working, it has a way of showing you unknown parts of yourself””pockets of your psyche that are beautiful and sublime, but also parts of yourself that are not so tasty. In fact, there will be periods when your life seems to bristle with situations that seem designed to reveal your most embarrassing reactive patterns and unskillful ways of coping. And I’m not even talking about big crises, just about the normal irritations of life.

Maybe you get the flu, or your back goes out, and you realize how cranky you feel when you’re physically uncomfortable. Maybe you notice the impatience in your voice when you talk to your teenager. Or, as happens regularly to a friend of mine, the moment of truth can come from a co-worker asking you pointedly if you would be acting so prickly if you’d meditated today.

The gift of meditation in these situations is that you have resources that can let you shift out of these patterns””sometimes right away.

That’s why an experienced meditator knows that the moment when you see your own stuff is valuable, especially if you can resist the impulse to kick yourself across the room for not having it more together. Not only does it show you where you need to work on yourself, but your very awareness of an unconstructive mood or behavior is actually the first step to changing it. In other words, the awareness that allows you to recognize your state is also the source of the energy that can transform it.

Most of our more disturbing emotions or behaviors come from areas of the psyche where we have chosen to remain unconscious. In Hindi, the word for these unconscious, immature qualities is kacha, meaning “raw” or “unbaked.” (In one of Rumi’s poems, he compares the unripe soul to a chickpea that needs to be softened by cooking so that it will become a tasty morsel!) All of us are partly kacha, and it’s our practice that cooks us, or if you prefer, ripens us.

But the kind of practice that transforms us is not a mechanical accumulation of rituals and focus exercises. It is practice with awareness and practice of awareness that actually changes the texture of our consciousness. Awareness itself, with its clarity, its impersonality, its spaciousness, and its capacity to hold everything within itself, is the fire that will cook or ripen our immature feelings and behaviors. Just holding these feelings non-judgmentally in Awareness””being their witness without either acting on them, trying to suppress them, or getting lost in our stories or beliefs about what is happening””is often enough to change their quality from raw to baked.

This principle holds true for any situation we face, whether internally or externally generated. Because our awareness is a small-scale version of the great Awareness that underlies all that is, when we direct attention non-judgmentally toward something that causes suffering either to ourselves or to others, we are actually bringing that state or mood or behavior into the light of the great Awareness itself.

Awareness not only illumines the dark corners of our psyches but can also transmute the strange energies and raw feelings that dwell there. Then the energy that has been tied up in them is freed to become available for more creative endeavors. We are spiritually ripe, baked, when all our knotted energies and feelings have been freed and re-channeled to manifest as wisdom, power, and love. How this happens is one of the mysteries of Consciousness. What we do know is that the act of turning Awareness toward our inner moods, states, and feelings is the great tactic for setting that alchemy in motion.

Inquire Within

The sages of Vedanta gave the name atma vichara, or self-inquiry, to this act of becoming aware of ourselves.

Vichara is not just thinking about something, nor is it the same as psychological self-analysis. It is a yogic practice or self-reflection in which we hold our attention on inner phenomena in a steady, focused fashion without going into meditation. There are two basic types of vichara. One is the contemplation we do to get in touch with our deeper wisdom, to open the space of revelation, to understand a spiritual teaching, or to touch our Self. The classical inner question “Who am I?” (taught by Ramana Maharshi and others) is an example of this type of vichara.

The other type of self-inquiry is contemplation of what blocks our experience of the Self. When we feel out of sorts, instead of giving way to the feelings or getting lost in the story we are telling ourselves about them, we focus our attention on the feelings themselves. We let ourselves fully experience the feelings. We notice the thoughts that accompany them. We observe the state of our energy, the sensations in our body. At times it can be helpful to trace a feeling back to its source, perhaps to discover the frustrated desire or fear or expectation that may have triggered it. But the most important thing is to keep noticing our inner feelings and the state of our energy until it becomes second nature to notice the symptoms of being off-center.

Only when we can recognize and identify the actual inner sensations of being out of alignment with ourselves can we get back in touch. Without that recognition, we only know that we are uncomfortable, and we have little chance of adjusting our state.

Self-Inquiry in Action

Imagine the following scenario. It is early morning, and you have been up late working on a project that is approaching its deadline. You need to get to the office early to meet with your team to finalize some important loose ends. As you are putting the coffee on the stove, your 10-year-old daughter announces that she feels sick. She has a high fever and a bad cough. She needs a day in bed and a trip to the doctor. You realize that there isn’t anyone you can get to stay with her at such short notice. You will have to stay home and take care of her. Yet if you don’t keep your appointment at the office, your project hasn’t a chance of being completed in time. The thought of what this will mean sends you into a rapid spiral of panic. “Why do things like this always happen to me?” you hear yourself thinking. “My life is so impossible.” Fear, frustration, anger, and despair.

At this moment, you make a crucial yogic choice. Instead of letting yourself careen into acting out of your panic and anger, you consciously pause. You make up your mind to pay attention to your own state and to deal with it before you try to take action.

You take a couple of deep breaths, and then you check in with yourself. You scan your body and notice the rhythm of your breath. You discover that your breathing is choppy””in fact, you are actually holding your breath. You notice a clenched sensation in your diaphragm and stomach muscles and a tightness in your chest. You realize that your heart is also feeling tight and closed and that there are threads of fear shooting through it. Your energy is alternately fluttering and sinking, sometimes rushing through you in waves of panic, sometimes flattening out as depression and a feeling of helplessness. Your thoughts are all about victimization: “It’s so unfair. Why can’t someone besides me take care of things for a change? Why is this always happening?”

This moment of stopping, turning inside, checking yourself out, noticing how you feel, and observing your thoughts without buying into them is a profoundly significant moment of yoga. It will give you the power to act from a more resourceful, skillful place, rather than simply reacting to the difficulties in the situation. Now instead of blocking your discomfort or trying to distract yourself, instead of overriding your emotions and plunging ahead regardless of how your inner energy feels, instead of letting your strong reactions overwhelm you so that you blow up at your daughter or paralyze yourself with resentment or paranoia, you use these feelings as a signal to stop and return to yourself.

Realigning

Once you have recognized your own state, you can begin to work with it. For this you have a number of different options.

The first step, always, is to bring your attention to the breath. The breath automatically connects the ordinary mind to the deeper Self. When you grab hold of the breath and just follow its rhythm for a moment or two, or take a couple of full breaths, it will eventually center you.

For me, the second step in realigning with my deep center is to bring my attention into the heart. Once I have recovered my wits through a few rounds of steady, deliberate breathing, I drop a sort of inner plumb line inside to the area of the middle chest, beneath the breastbone, and I let my attention rest there until I feel the inner heart space relax and expand. When energy is stuck in the head, your thoughts tend to go in circles and you come up with rote, uncreative solutions to your issues. Once your attention moves into the heart, you are automatically in touch with your intuition. You are in one of the essential centers of spiritual wisdom and awareness. Resting in that seat in the heart, you can do whatever other practice is needed. You can ask your inner intuition what is the best thing to do.

But these are just two of your available options. You have others. You might decide that you need to spend some time soothing yourself, perhaps by replacing your agitated thoughts with a more positive thought. You could practice a few moments of mindfulness, ‘sitting’ in the heart and noticing the thoughts, feelings, and inner sensations as they arise. You could ask yourself a question like “Can you let this thought go?” and then breathe it out, or simply wait for a natural recognition that the thoughts and feelings are simply arising and passing through””and that you can let them go.

Another thing you can do is give yourself a teaching. My teacher used to say that the reason we study spiritual texts is so that they’ll come up when we need them and help us coach ourselves into a more resourceful state.

A friend once told me about a practice she used during a particularly difficult season at her university department. She had a hostile colleague who would interrupt her, question her agendas, and generally harass her. She got through it by reminding herself, “You are in the peaceful mind of God.”

A man with a tendency to lose his temper during moments of frustration works with a famous yogic technique called “Practicing the Opposite” from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. When he notices rage surging up inside him, he takes time to become aware of the thoughts associated with the feelings, and then fills his mind with counter-thoughts like “I have great tolerance and respect for these people.” Even though it isn’t always true, holding the positive thought calms his mind enough to make him less reactive.

For me, a line from the Bhagavad Gita, “You have a right to the work alone, but not to its fruits,” often comes up when I’m caught in desire for a particular outcome. Contemplating this resonant, mysterious teaching helps me detach myself from my fears, my wants, and my expectations so that I can act more objectively.

So once you have paused, checked yourself out, and recognized the way it feels to be out of your center, you have many options for beginning to come back to yourself. As you keep working with this threefold process of recognition, self-inquiry, and practice, you learn to navigate your own rough waters and to find the harbors that are always there.

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This moment of stopping, turning inside, checking yourself out, noticing how you feel, and observing your thoughts without buying into them is a profoundly significant moment of yoga. It will give you the power to act from a more resourceful, skillful place, rather than simply reacting to the difficulties in the situation. Now instead of blocking your discomfort or trying to distract yourself, instead of overriding your emotions and plunging ahead regardless of how your inner energy feels, instead of letting your strong reactions overwhelm you so that you blow up at your daughter or paralyze yourself with resentment or paranoia, you use these feelings as a signal to stop and return to yourself.

Sally KemptonSally Kempton An internationally known teacher of meditation and spiritual wisdom, Sally Kempton is the author of Meditation for the Love of It and writes a monthly column for Yoga Journal. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at www.sallykempton.com.

What is Integral? (By Kelly Sosan Bearer)

by Kelly Sosan Bearer

The Integral map is a comprehensive approach to human growth and development, developed by philosopher Ken Wilber, that lays out all that the various world cultures have to tell us about human potential- spiritual growth, psychological growth, social and cultural growth. The Integral map uses all the known systems and models of human growth and distills their major components into five simple factors that are essential elements or keys to unlocking and facilitating human evolution.

So, why learn this map? By learning the Integral map, we are not merely learning a set of theoretical concepts, but rather aspects available in our very own awareness right now. And by exercising these elements, we can accelerate our growth and development to higher, wider, and deeper ways of being and serving in the world.

The Integral map can be applied to everything in our lives, from our professional careers, to our relationships, to our health and well being, as well as to any and all disciplines, such as, business, technology, psychology, education, politics, art, spirituality, sexuality, and the environment.

The Integral approach is the unification of contrasts. It helps us to see with our minds and hearts, deeply feeling interiors while steadily observing exteriors. The Integral approach provides us with the opportunity for fullness and freedom with greater capacities to express compassion and love. Integral is the practice of living fully, in a seamless and passionate integration of mind, body and spirit. From this embodied integration, we are able to transform our lives.

But more than just a map, the Integral approach is an invitation to directly experience our own reality, right here, right now. The call is to integrate, to take a panoramic view of self, culture and nature, and to embrace the insights and tools that serve the highest potential of All.

In short, the Integral Approach helps us to better understand ourselves, others, and the world by providing a framework that embraces seemingly opposing worldviews and perspectives in a way that mends wounds, includes the marginalized, heals the personal and rejoins the systemic in an integrated embrace of greater care, wisdom, and discernment.

Kelly Sosan Bearer is the Executive Producer, Host, and Co-Founder of Integral Chicks Podcast. Kelly is the Curator for Integral Spiritual Experience. She also serves as the Chief Executive Officer for iEvolve: Global Practice Community. Follow her on Twitter @KellyBearer.

For more Integral Chicks, check out www.integralchicks.com today! Join Integral Chicks on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @IntegralChicks.