Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Integral Life Practice Simplified: Cultivating Spirit

Excellent post from an integral-minded strength coach, C.S. Sloan (C.S. Sloan's Integral Strength blog). Not too many of us around.

Integral Life Practice Simplified: Cultivating Spirit

I have been a little late this week in getting any posts out. This is because I have been at work on an article for a bodybuilding magazine, and because I have been at work on the following essay. The following essay is dear and near to me. I hope that you find solace and support in whatever ways it might offer.

Integral Life Practice Simplified

Part One: Cultivating Spirit

Ultimately, religion and spirituality should be about practice, not about belief. One reason that many people in the West turned toward Eastern religions—and then toward Integral philosophy/spirituality—is because they were upset with the way Christianity was/is practiced in our country. Christianity was/is too often practiced as a way of believing as opposed to a way of being. (And, of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Contemplative Christianity is still one of the best ways in existence.) However, it seems to me that too many Integral practitioners—because of their interest in the more philosophical aspects of Integral—have taken it up as a new set of beliefs. What we need are Integral practitioners who are also mystics. Integralists who—even though they understand the more nuanced philosophical aspects of Integral—have experienced One Taste, who know how to rest in the Divine Presence, and who are capable of residing in Nondual Awareness. We need practitioners who really know their Original Face before their parents were born, before the current universe exploded into existence via the Big Bang.

And the best way to approach Integral Life Practice, I believe, is to simplify it. Here, I would like to offer several simple ways—practices—for the body, mind, and Spirit (Spirit will only be covered in this first essay). (I must admit right here that I have not done enough shadow work to feel good in writing about it. The other aspects here I practiced and/or have practiced for extended periods of time.) As you read the following practices, keep in mind that it’s still important to study the more philosophical aspects of Integral—just as it’s important to study the theological aspects of your particular Wisdom Tradition—but when putting it into practice, simplicity (yet a very serious simplicity) might be best.

Cultivating Spirit

A contemplative Integral Life should begin and end with Spirit. And Spirit—the Godhead that houses the Trinity, that gives birth to the Buddha Mind, that pushes forth the Cosmic Christ in an evolutionary impulse—should infuse everything in between.

For Spirit to truly infuse an Integral Life I believe that three distinct—yet overlapping—aspects need to be practiced on a daily basis. The three aspects are devotion, meditation, and nondual inquiry. These three aspects, although distinct, aid one another in a holistic way. Practiced consistently, they really have the power to change one’s inner life, no matter what “core” Wisdom Tradition that one belongs.

Before we go any further, I want to say this: Even though these three aspects can, and should, be practiced by those of different faiths, it is important to have one religion (one Wisdom Tradition) in which you are “rooted.” Mixing and matching as you please just doesn’t cut it.

As for myself, I am “rooted” in the Christian tradition. I find guidance in the great mystics of my tradition: Jesus, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart. I also find guidance in recent Christian contemplatives with an understanding of inter-religious (and intra-religious) Christianity: Bede Griffiths, Wayne Teasdale, and Thomas Keating, for instance.

Although Christianity is my root, I find great solace—and a tremendous amount of guidance—from the Buddha Dharma, as well. The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path and meditation guidelines direct my life in ways not capable before I started practicing them.

On top of this, I also enjoy reading from the great mystics of the Vedantic traditions in India, both modern and contemporary. I find their theological and philosophical thought to be a bridge between my Christian and Buddhist practices.

At this point, it could be that some of you reading this are not that familiar with Integral philosophy and how in the world Buddhism and Christianity (or any combination of other Wisdom Traditions) could be compatible. For this—and without going into too much detail—I would like to offer a passage from the book “Integral Life Practice” by Wilber, et al. In the book, these 6 “common points” between all Wisdom Traditions are offered:

1. “Spirit, by whatever name, exists, and it is good, true, beautiful, and loving.
2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is also found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.
3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within because we are living in separation, sin, or duality—that is, we are living in an illusory, fallen, or fragmented state.
4. There is a way out of this separated state (of illusion, separation, sin, or disharmony); there is a path to our liberation.
5. If we follow this path to its conclusion, the result is an awakening, a rebirth, salvation, or enlightenment, a direct experience of union with Spirit both within and without (and neither), a supreme liberation.
6. The supreme liberation marks the dissolution or transcendence of illusion, sin, and/or suffering, and manifests in care and courage, service, social action, mercy, and compassion on behalf of the whole sentient Kosmos.”

What follows is how I practice the 3 aspects of an Integral spiritual life. Spirituality is a personal thing, thus I feel it best to speak of it in personal terms.
Read the whole article.

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