Thursday, March 19, 2009

Integral Living

I was asked to speak about integral Christianity. The group was a combination of those who have studied integral for years and some who have never heard of it. I know from experience that an initial introduction to integral can easily turn into information overload.

So it seemed best to keep it simple and practical. I don’t generally use integral language. I use integral theory all the time (at least my understanding of it). In my teaching, I try to model integral living. But I’m not yet convinced that it’s helpful to teach integral language.

Was Jesus an integral teacher? Here is my favorite integral Jesus saying- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength and all your soul. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is how I translate that saying- Love all that is, with all that you have, by being one with all things. It’s a wonderfully inclusive statement; peace beginning with your self and expanding out to include all things known and not yet known.

So here goes. My top ten uses of integral theory in my own words. Each one could be a full post on its own, but it’s a start.

1. Partial truth. We ALL have partial truth, not more and not less. We all touch part of the elephant.
2. Map is not terrain, menu not the meal. Life is to be experienced. Theories like integral, and religions, offer maps that describe life. But they are not themselves the experience.
3. Transcend and include- As I grow, I move beyond former beliefs and perspectives, but they remain part of me, like lower levels of a building foundation.
4. Translate and transform- I aim to integrate as fully as possible my current perspectives (translate), and also seek more expansive perspectives. (transform)
5. Crisis opens or closes- My perspective changes at the time when it no longer adequately explains my experience.For example a hardship makes me doubt the goodness of God. In the face of these crises, I either open up to new wisdom, or else I close down and get stuck in bitterness.
6. Glimpses- I have moments of insight into deeper states of peace and awareness.
7. Practice- I practice peace and awareness so that I experience it more fully and more often. This practice includes meditation, yoga, mindfulness and fitness.
8. Comprehensive- I seek to live a comprehensive (wholistic) life; where I develop all aspects or intelligences; spiritual, emotional, physical, analytical etc. I try to consider all situations from my own perspective, from the group’s perspective and from the highest perspective I can find.
9. Balance- I seek a balance between my own needs and others needs, equanimity and agitation, where my inner character matches my outer behavior.
10. There’s always more. Where I am now is perfect…for now……but I hold it loosely as the nature of life is change. I am open to growth. I am flexible. I am part of a flow that is greater than me, but includes me in its evolution.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spiritual Beings on a Human Journey

I’m now into my second week of the UK tour. It’s all going smashingly. I’ve met some great people, seen some incredible places and had some wonderful realizations. I continue to find myself enjoying the beautifully human moments. More and more, the ordinary moments hold the treasure for me.

I’ve always felt this way, but it seems very clear to me now that spirituality is about a full experience of life, all of life. My favorite moments in church have always been the human moments. There were some nice moments in church at St James Piccadilly yesterday. A St Patrick’s Day parade passed by the church (it felt and sounded like it was going right through the church). First it was bagpipes, then a Johnny Cash sound-alike, then a big band, and raucous cheering all the while. The Catholic celebration outside merged with our protestant celebration inside. It was a nice metaphor for the merging of perspectives, traditions and lives. We really aren’t that different; English, Australian, American, Catholic, Protestant, old, young.

This realization came to me as I was speaking to a group of people in England, not that different to groups of people anywhere in the world. At St James, they gather in a motley circle to receive communion. I found this moving, after sharing in my sermon about a former church where people elbowed each other for first sip of the communion wine and prostitutes nodded off while standing at the communion rail.

Then I discovered that Rabbi Rami had spoken at C3 the same morning on spirituality as humanity, even the challenging moments. I shouldnt be surprised by that synchronicity. Rami is a kindred spirit.

There have been memorable human moments with each group I have mixed with, too many to mention here. I have now been from London to the top of England, into “All Creatures Great and Small” country, and across to Leeds. In each group there have been atheists, progressive Christians, Buddhists and people becoming more and more resonant with the phrase ‘Spiritual but not Religious.” One moment from Leeds stays with me. A 93 year old man spoke up right towards the end of the workshop. He had struck me early on as someone who has seen a lot of life, and still smiles in the face of it all. He said he was drawn to nature and then recited a beautiful verse from William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils”. I was very moved and it has stayed with me-

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

He captured the essence of living as a spiritual being on a human journey through mystery, nature, beauty, love and humanity.