At a Precipice
We are at a precipice. A lot is changing extremely quickly. When I step back and look from a bigger perspective, take my focus out of the pounding details of everything coming at me, and all around, I see we are at an evolutionary crisis.
I have spoken to many people who are struggling with a way of responding to our current world situation. They hunger for themes of practice that are relevant and meaningful. I will share some of my personal experience and an outline of Integral Theory as way of offering concrete tools and frames of reference that can help orient and give us a clear focus at this time.
The first 20 years of my spiritual path was wholeheartedly dedicated to the traditional Theravada Buddhist path. I love its clear concise instructions, tools to stabilize qualities like compassion and joy, and work with fears and resistance. In addition to providing clear guidelines for a gradual path, this path shows anyone who realizes it what is timeless, pervasive and ever-present. The more we are connected to what is timeless, the better off everyone is. This truth is accentuated with suffering, change and turmoil.
Suffering Not Resolving
After 20 years I became increasingly aware that some of my suffering was not resolving. I sought parallel practices and philosophical views outside of my tradition to help me understand and resolve what was not being transformed by meditation and the 8-Fold Noble Path. Integral Theory helped me personally. It also helped me make sense of the incredible confusing and heartbreaking situation I was in. When I apply Integral Theory to our current geo-political situation, it clarifies many things. When I see the context of the problem, it helps me stay focused on solutions.
Framework of Integral Theory
Integral Theory has been evolving for a few hundred years. Ken Wilber has contributed most to its modern day iteration. Integral Theory is a developmental map that describes evolution of consciousness. It includes people and cultures. We start at the first level when we are born. In an optimum situation we mature through each stage, include each level’s needs and move past being fixated on them. In a less than ideal progression, attention stays fixated on earlier needs. The stages are as follows:
Level 1 – Is about our safety and managing physiological needs.
Level 2 – Is about satisfaction and managing self-protective needs.
Level 3 – Is about the way our will operates and managing power needs.
Level 4 – Is about connection and belonging and conformist needs.
Level 5 – Is about achievement and self-esteem and cognitive needs
Level 6 – Is about harmony and self-actualization needs
Level 7 – Is about unity and self-transcendence needs
If we look more at Level 6 we see that at this level there are many different but equally valid approaches to reality. At this stage there is a strong belief in egalitarianism and hierarchies are taboo. If there are a number of these values operating, the way to practice with it is to start noticing the tendency to judge someone who judges, or get down on schemes that rank.
The Good and the Bad
I’m part of a group of spiritual activists. In the last few weeks there have been many emails sharing information, reactions, action items as well as good news to balance the bad.
In sharing good news, a story was told about a Muslim woman who was with her daughter standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant. A man in line shouted that she had no place there and should leave. Frightened and agitated, clutching her daughter’s hand, she started walking towards the door. A very big burly man with tattoos got up from his table. He said that he was in the military and his job was to protect all American citizens including this woman and her beautiful child.
He offered to escort her through the line and walked up to stand next to her. With his protection she moved back into the line next to him. The woman telling the story referred to the man who shouted as a jerk and the man who stood up as the hero. The hero said to the jerk, “Are you sure you want to have dinner here tonight?” at which point the jerk left.
This woman telling the story said that her faith in humanity was rekindled.
We are being called to understand the way the values of this level contradict itself – how the thing it values most it doesn’t do. The performance contradiction of these values takes us into a post truth world. This is a cultural evolutionary crisis that Trump and his cabinet are a symptom of and not the cause for. Knowing this we can see that the solution out of the crisis is to evolve both individually and collectively through this stage into the next level. Can we find the place where we value everyone having enough safety to eat dinner in peace without having to leave, even if they have values and act in ways we do not respect?
Opening to Love
Understanding the map and opening our heart to a love that is inclusive even of the things that we deem unacceptable are the two most critical components to evolving. We are being asked to accept into awareness without judgment the judgments we have of others who are judging.
No matter what level we are at we have an opportunity to evolve, to grow personally and to anchor more deeply in facets of awakening that are reliable. As we do this, the more we are able to grow up, wake up and show up for others and our fragile tender world, the more a revolution based on love is possible.