Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Integral?

Why Integral? 
If you consider yourself spiritual, like I do, do you ever wonder what that means to you?  Some say: “I am spirit in a human journey”; what does that mean? And would you sacrifice your humanness to be more spiritual or your spirituality in order to live more fully?

These are questions I started asking myself a few years ago, when I grew increasingly annoyed with voices, within my lightworker circles, who yelled at me: “Don’t think! Feel!” I had been equally annoyed, confused and resentful back in my youth, in communist Romania, where I was force-fed a flatland materialistic philosophy that I couldn’t quite digest.

It seems that at each point of my life there would be voices demanding me to be less than I was, voicing an either-or approach to life that kept me fragmented, frustrated, and praying for some kind of framework or teacher who’d support me in my fullness through both-and approaches. When I adopted a “Love yourself if you want to be loved” philosophy, it worked for a while, but then spending all the time, money and energy in loving myself deeply and thoroughly became one boring thing, and it didn’t address my distressful marriage, or the conflicts in some of my relationships. Taking another massage therapy session, listening to Enya by fragrant candlelight in the bathtub and swallowing a fistful of nutraceuticals didn’t make me a caring, empathetic listener, didn’t transform my relationship with my father or my husband into everlasting bliss, and didn’t even make me immune to the pain arising with these and other daily realities.

I have attended lightwork seminars with teachers from out of town and outer space, and I had visions and experiences beyond your wildest imagination;  I listened to crystal bowls concerts and vibrated to their sound; I sat in the most challenging meditation retreats that are there, and learned to connect and witness my body-felt sensations and breath, with equanimity, and without reacting. But when it came to health, relationships, sex, money, family and work, all these visions and vibrations seemed useless. Being spiritual didn’t stop me a bit from being physical, emotional, intellectual, artistic, sexual, sensual, musical, social, and so on, and I wondered how on earth I could bring all these aspects of who I am together, and make everything work.

Finding the AQAL (pronounced aw-qu-al) integral model for consciousness development was the answer to my prayers; it turned out to be a mapping for consciousness that covers all the bases. It looks at both evolution and involution, ascension and descension, being and becoming, waking up and growing up, and it maps the evolution of body, mind and spirit not only in self, but in the ‘we’ spaces of relationships, or culture, as well as in the perspectives of objective realities: environment and society.

If an individual is following an integral practice as proposed by the theory, she or he has all the bases covered, with no aspect of one’s existence falling through the cracks; she or he is integrating all of their Being, their I Am-ness in a harmonious and synergistic way, that actually propels them forward and upward to greater depths and experience than doing half the job.

Genuine Spirituality -  Freedom

Lighting incense, wearing Indian scarves and kurtas and banging on singing bowls doesn’t  mean you live a spiritual life – but just a pleasantly exotic one. Beauty is a need of the soul, and anything which pleases you aesthetically - exotic, regional or local-, is nourishing your soul indeed – but it still doesn’t equal genuine spirituality. Genuine spirituality means transcendence; it consists of awakening to something greater than ego, of relinquishing identification with a self, and getting a taste of no-self, of non-dual realities. Getting there is only possible through sustained spiritual practice, while wearing kurtas or jeans or power suits, or nothing at all – as you please. Spiritual practice includes meditation, contemplative prayer, self-inquiry and more; the ultimate result is pure freedom.

Genuine Humanness - Fullness

How free a human being is who has renounced material possessions, pleasures of the flesh, or community living? Their freedom is arguable, and argued upon by the sages; but what is obvious is that they are not living fully as human beings.
You are spirit, but you haven’t ceased being body as well; in your awakening from the biological self to the energy self to the spirit self, you transcend and include all of who you are. You are fully human when you are expressing all the traits, qualities, emotions, urges, impulses and aspects of your authentic self in an integrated way. The business of being human follows its own duality rules, where good and bad, and right and wrong matter; where you are called to discern and critique, chose and prefer, to follow your values with your actions and to follow your inner life with outer expressions. Being human is as real as anything alive, and from a human’s perspective, I don’t just see reality as a mere illusion, or Maya, because if I did, I’d refuse to accept it as such, and instead of stopping at the red light, I’d close my eyes and pray and say my affirmations to make it go away. Being human requires acquiring of skills: you can pray for a parking spot, but you need to take classes to learn how to parallel park; and being human requires the development of various intelligences: cognitive, emotional, inter-personal, sexual, aesthetic, artistic, moral, spiritual, narrative, and more. You can pray to the angels to bless your business, but you still must learn business management, marketing and sales; you can blame it on Mercury in retrograde for your communication exchange bloopers, but how come skilled and trained communicators coincidentally seem to escape the wrath of planetary alignment on their relationships?

To be fully human means to cultivate your strengths and be aware of your limitations; to take on a regular practice that cares for your gross body – such as exercise and nutrition; a practice that cares for your subtle body, such as Qi Gong, Pranayama, or Tai Chi; a practice that cares for your spirit, such as contemplation and self-inquiry; to be fully human means to care of your relationships; proclaiming that we are all One is not it, because the One, or the Not-Two, has become the Many for a good reason and with a purpose; and the purpose is for Spirit’s Wisdom and Love to know itself as itself through relationships. Your humanness calls for acquiring skills to nurture and care for your relationships, such as verbal and non-verbal communication skills and developing empathy, which is an evolutionary trait that humans display, which allows one individual to take on more than one perspective, making it possible for someone to see reality from the perspective of another.

Being fully human means to take care of your mind just as you take care of your body, which is especially important in relationships for the simple reason that anything that ever goes wrong with the mind is a result of something gone wrong within relationships, and can only be resolved within relationships, often starting with a therapeutic kind of relationship with another human being. No-one has ever been traumatized because the electric train ran out of battery; any kind of trauma or other psychological hurt always involves another; and when you try to solve that by yourself, trying to love yourself even harder, it does not work, because to solve something that went wrong within a ‘we space’ requires a ‘we space’ as well.
Being fully human has an objective reality aspect, the objective environment, and even the most spiritual beings in the world know that; otherwise, temples, churches, synagogues and mosques wouldn’t be kept clean, beautifully lit, painted and decorated, or surrounded by blooming gardens; rundown barracks would do just as well. We thrive in some environments and fall ill in others, and this objective truth calls for a humanity that cares for its environment as one aspect of caring for oneself.

Societies and systems, in general, are the collective aspect of a human’s objective reality; societies evolve, just as consciousness evolves; and being fully human involves taking your place within the systems that you are part of, contributing your piece to them, your activism of sorts, your passion, talents, or simply your work.
The mapping of humanness is complex indeed, and must be accurate, like any good map, if you are to safely navigate around; the map can be as detailed as you want it to be, but it has to be comprehensive, hence the word ‘integral’, and not leave out any ground hole, volcano or booby trap you need to be aware of on your path.

This is exactly what the AQAL map is: an integral map that helps you navigate your experience as Spirit and as Human, both to your Freedom and to your Fullness and integrity with proposed practices arranged by modules, so when you pick and choose what to do, from physical activity and nutrition, to energy work to prayer to communication to activism, your practices work integrally and synergistically in an Integral Life Practice which advances you much faster as both Spirit and Human, than if you’d only cover only one or two areas of your complex existence.

AQAL stands for All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All Types, All States, suggesting to the elements that compose the integral map as conceived by Ken Wilber.

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