Archives For Integral Theory and Applications

This relates to Ken Wilber’s Integral Model. This relates to Ken Wilber’s Integral Model. This category addresses questions about the model, applying the this model to real world problems and personal growth. As such, it will contain articles on personal growth and different ways to apply the model in a variety of contexts.

Image

Last month, I went to Guatemala to visit the Integral Heart Foundation.  It was my first time visiting Central America and I didn’t quite know what to expect.  I imagined that the enormity of the poverty would shake me up, but my experience was that it didn’t.  While there is a lot of poverty, I found that the indigenous population where I visited was on average as happy or more happy than the people in many developed parts of the world.  They have a way of holding their economic situation in juxtaposition to some of the real riches they have – family, a sense of purpose, being close to the land, etc.

On the whole, I liked the atmosphere.  The most appropriate word I could put on it is “soulful.”  Rather than having a white-washed quality, everything was in the open, both the best of the country and the worse.  This is not to say that the poverty associated with Central America is in your face in tourist areas, but you don’t have to look far to touch upon both the warmth of the local people and the social injustice.

Although I was a bit on edge at times, on the whole I found their was a “spacious” and “alive” quality about the place and the culture.  Truly, Guatemala is one of the most physically beautiful places on earth.  I also think some of the lack of formal education is offset by the common sense and simple wisdom of the native people.  I found they carried themselves with dignity and an authenticity that is rare to find in the average American city.

While I stayed and slept in a nice environment, the Porta Antigua hotel, I spent a fair amount of time visiting various villages, schools and areas of poverty.  I thought that if I had this contrast, it would help me to better contemplate my experience and if I got sick from the water or contaminated food, at least I would be relatively comfortable.  I also had some safety concerns, but that’s another story.

My main purpose in visiting Guatemala was to visit the Integral Heart Foundation founded by Mick Quinn and Debra Prieto.  I liked the idea of applying Integral Theory in a difficult social situation and it seemed like this broad approach had a lot of potential for being effective as it utilizes a multi-dimensional approach.  Without going into a lot of theory, it focuses on individuals, their social situation, the beliefs of the culture and holistic tactics to deal with complex problems.

In a more concrete fashion, I found that the Integral Heart Foundation really walked their talk and began with fundamentals such as providing education.  This occurs at an early age as exemplified by their kindergarten program and continues on to high school.  While academics are a big part of their work, the development of self-esteem, critical thinking skills and tapping into a person’s inner wealth through meditation and other practices is foremost from the inside glimpse I received.

I also enjoyed seeing the results of the implementation of their solar program.  In remote areas, there is no electricity so this puts a limit on how long kids can study.  While candles are available, they cost money and families that make $8.00 per day or less are reluctant to burn there money in this way.  While we take light for granted, these people experience the availability of light as life transforming.

Image

This program goes hand-in-hand with education and other social work, which is performed on behalf of the families involved in any programs.  Such basics as providing food is also part of the equation and therefore, it is easier to hold individual families accountable for their children’s attendance at school and other types of follow through that it takes to make the program effective.  Below, you can see some examples of a kindergarten environment and also a high school setting.

Image

Here, Jen M. a volunteer appears with some of the youngsters.  She came to Guatemala to support the work of the foundation and to share her big heart in person.  While the Integral Heart Foundation has some great volunteers, they also need sponsorship, corporate volunteers and other sources of revenue.  Now, they help over a hundred families on an operating budget of approximately $100,000.  This is barely enough for a middle class family of four to live on in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I also found that cooperation between organizations to share infrastructure was one way to lower costs and make the most of donation dollars.  I toured one school that works with the Integral Heart Foundation where the infrastructure and environment was at least as good, if not better than some of the schools in San Francisco.  I think this is because everyone chips in, people are committed to the outcomes and even the indigenous people who can volunteer in the kitchen, cleaning or whatever else needs to be done.

I was also impressed that the high school had a garden, recycled water and was in essence a green environment.  This is completely in alignment with many of the values of organizations in the Bay Area including various companies that develop, sell or distribute solar products.  Wouldn’t teaming with this organization represent a win-win?

Another area of commonality we have with this community is that we all consume coffee.  Unfortunately, it is the coffee economy and historical complexities associated with it that causes a lot of the poverty and suffering in areas such as Guatemala.

These are the people that the Integral Heart Foundation serves and their living conditions are not impressive.  On average, a coffee worker in Guatemala makes as little as $3.00 a day and perhaps a bit more than twice this amount if they are in their prime.  These low wages are one reason why people keep their kids out of school.  The more hands there are to pick coffee beans, the more income a particular family can make.

Image

Above, Deb Prieto during a lighter moment and below, Mick Quinn perhaps in a more serious one.  Philosophy, critical thinking and even Integral Theory are introduced at this level and therefore, some deep topics come up that help students related what they are doing to their social situation, fundamental place in the world and future.

Image

If you want to know about Integral Theory and how it can be applied, I have written several articles that appear on this blog and my other at http://patca63.wordpress.com/.  You can also do a search on Amazon under Ken Wilber or read Mick Quinn’s excellent book the Uncommon Path, which although is not on Integral Theory proper complements and augments the concepts of this general approach.  The former focuses on the high level perspective and the latter on individual mental health and responsibility.

While I was visiting, I gave a talk to some of the high schools students and I found them to be polite, curious, well-mannered and glowing reflection on the results this organization gets.  Indeed, several of the kids I spoke too had been accepted into college programs which is saying a lot given the circumstances they were born into.  I also met the young woman that I personally sponsor and I felt very proud of her accomplishments and to be personally involved in her ongoing success.

zzz-guatemala-pat

Here, you can see me in a classroom with some of the Critical Thinking teens.  I was speaking to them about success, my life experience and trying to make a real authentic human connection with them.  I found they were open and engaged me at a deep level asking thoughtful questions and offering their own opinions freely.

I must say that while visiting Guatemala, I learned as much from these kids as perhaps they learned from me.  In fact, at times I felt humbled by their warmth, presence and attitude of gratefulness that they had.  They were clean, well-groomed and not just for this one day.  In general, I found the people in most of these villages very conscientious to details of outward appearance, not in a bad way, but in the sense of taking pride in themselves.  This surprised me given some of their living conditions.

If you visit the Integral Heart Foundation website or Facebook page, you can see a lot more pictures of the work they are doing, the families that their work touches and also of their hands-on projects.  The link for their website is http://www.integralheartfoundation.org  Below, I have posted one picture of the living conditions that are pretty typical:

IMG_2332

Here, indoor fires are common and many of the children have respiratory problems at a young age.  You will note that the walls of this dwelling our corn stalks.  This is fairly common, but you will also see some buildings made out of stone blocks or adobe.  In one village, the people were living in a setup like this and the one building they had was used for supplies and food.  In other words, they put keeping these things safe above their own comfort and lived next to and around the supplies.

I feel a social responsibility to spread the word about this organization and to participate in their work to the degree I can.  As I said above, I am also a sponsor and I encourage others to get involved.  Unfortunately, to some extent it is U.S. intervention in Guatemala that has contributed to the social inequity here and our habit to demand cheap coffee without thinking of the potential consequences on the people who grow it.  So, if nothing else, please be a conscious consumer and consider buying shade-grown, free trade, organic coffee.  If you want to do more or meet Deb and Mick, they will be coming to the Northern and Southern California next week to talk about their work.

http://www.integralheartfoundation.org/LA-SF-Fundraisers_Feb.2013.htm

If you can make it to this event and/or spread the word that would help.  You can sponsor a kindergarten student for a month for as little as $35/month and this includes some nutritious meals.  That’s not a big sacrifice for many people to touch a life in such a deep and long-lasting way.

I mentioned above that Guatemala is physically beautiful.  You can find many examples of that on the Internet.  However, I thought I would leave you with a picture of me near Lake Attitlan.  The poncho I’m wearing was actually a necessity because the morning at lower altitudes was uncomfortably cold and damp.  I don’t know how well I fit in with the other tourists, but that handmade wool poncho felt like a heating pad.  I brought it back with me as a memory of Guatemala – a soulful place with equally soulful people who I will always hold in my heart with great fondness and respect.

 

IMG_2298

Typical living conditions for many who pick coffee in Central America

Typical living conditions for many who pick coffee in Central America

By: Patrick D. Goonan

I had just landed in Dallas on my first leg of a journey back to California.  I had been visiting Guatemala to see the principles of Integral Theory popularized by Ken Wilber applied on the ground to complex social problems in Guatemala.  After landing, I knew I had a layover of several hours, so I decided to go outside and have a smoke.  Yes, this not a socially acceptable habit in some circles, but it is a vice that I still hold onto along with enjoying a coffee.  Some would say the two go together and once outside the airport, I looked around for the nearest coffee shop.

I happened to find a Starbucks back inside the airport a few gates down.  I ordered a latte and while I waiting for them to make it, I looked over the list of beverages and their prices.  The largest sized latte was $4.23 about one day’s wages for picking approximately 200 lbs. of coffee beans in Guatemala.  Those wages will get you something like a place pictured on the left usually without running water, electricity or even real walls!

Often 4-6 or more people share conditions like this out of necessity to supply our coffee habit and in order to survive.  Of course, some companies, countries and conditions are better than others.  However, in general it is rare to make more than $8.00 a day harvesting coffee in a Central American Country.  These numbers are according to the statistics found in the book UNCOMMON GROUNDS – A History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World.

Coffee was initially discovered in Ethiopia and from there spread to the Arab world.  Eventually it caught on in Europe and with the demands placed on working class in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, it became increasing in demand.  In fact, coffee is an international commodity that drives the economy, politics and social structures of entire countries.  This is certainly true of Guatemala and it has lead to an uneven distribution of wealth and the exploitation of the indigenous Mayan people.

In general, coffee is grown between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn at altitudes between about 4,5000 and 6,000 feet.  After the Spanish Conquest, the Mayans were pushed up the slopes of the volcanoes onto what was considered inferior quality land.  However, coffee grows best in this type of volcanic soil at about this altitude.  As a result, this land became valuable, but the Mayans were displaced and subjugated into cultivating this very same land by new landlords, companies and an often corrupt government.  Currently in Guatemala, it is my understanding that 10 families hold about 70% of the wealth.  That is a very telling statistic.

This economic system evolved slowly and as we all know, these types of complex social inequities are difficult to resolve in practice.  Indeed, various governments including the United States have intervened in Central and South America often with terrible results.  Guatemala specifically, has also been wracked by civil war and other political problems.  It also a place where drugs are cultivated and possesses trade routes between countries that grow and distribute various types of drugs.

Lake Attitlan in Guatemala

Lake Attitlan in Guatemala

At the same time, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries on the face of the earth.  It blessed with beautiful weather, volcanoes, rainforests, etc.  Almost anywhere you look, there is an abundance of natural beauty.  However, beneath this natural beauty and the veneer of civilization that is presented to tourists in places like Antigua lies enormous poverty.

Several years ago, Mick Quinn the Irish-born author of the Uncommon Path came to Guatemala with his wife Deborah Prieto on vacation.  After visiting Antigua and other areas, they were moved by the contrast between the physical beauty of Antigua and and the lives of many of the people struggling to survive.  To make a long story short, they ended up staying and created a foundation called the Integral Heart Foundation http://www.integralheartfoundation.org

Having my Masters in Integral Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, I was intrigued by the application of the principles of Integral Theory to the social problems in Guatemala along with those found in Mick’s wonderful book the Uncommon Path.  I wanted to talk to them, so I pursued my intuition!

When I first encountered the organization on Facebook I was intrigued and set up a Skype call with Deborah Prieto.  I wasn’t quite sure what was calling me to Guatemala, but I arranged to visit in order to see the work they were doing.  In a nutshell, they were applying sophisticated models that take into consideration the interior and exterior aspects of situations along with the systems that accompany and give rise to them.  Their work is with individuals at a deep level, but also looks at the more complex relationships between various systems, developmental levels and even the interior of the society, which is to say the culture.

You can read more about Integral Theory on my blog, but what is unique about it is that it considers the external and interior, individual and collective aspects of reality as inseparable and irreducible.  This gives this model tremendous transformational power and when I went to Guatemala, I saw their work in action in all of these domains e.g. education, direct social work, education and even a solar energy program.  I also witnesses wonderful cooperation between other nonprofits and productive partnerships with every level of society.  This can be an article in itself, but you can hear Mick Quinn talk about this work in more detail in about 7 minutes by following this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAWQl04QhvI

If you watched this video you get a sense of the work, people and synergy between the various projects they sponsor and how it all comes together to yield tangible life-changing results.  Moreover, they run the organization on a tight budget and although U.S. dollars donated go further in Guatemala, they are still running on a low operating margin and without larger donors or corporations they may encounter challenges in scaling their work.  Right now, they offer a sponsorship program for children and young adults and there are some companies and individuals who have been generous with their solar project.

I currently live in the midst of the wealth of Silicon Valley where the average person drinks a lot of good coffee from Guatemala and other similar countries around the world.  Per capita, I can’t imagine a population that appreciates coffee as much as it fuels the often late nights of the software engineers and other technical innovators as it did the working class during the Industrial Revolution.  I’m not sure exactly how many coffee shops are in the SF Bay Area, but it’s definitely in the hundreds if not thousands.

My thinking on this organization’s future is what if they partnered with coffee shops, coffee roasters and technical companies in Silicon Valley.  They have a solar energy program, it would seem it would be conscientious capitalism to raise awareness of the social issues that accompany the coffee economy and at the same time promote green initiatives, their companies products and further the education and survival of the indigenous people who are living at a subsistence level to supply us with our morning latte.  Again…. one latte is about a day’s wages for a healthy man working all day in the sun, walking long distances, etc.!

If that’s not bad enough because people are living at a subsistence level, they keep their kids out of school to pick coffee.  This implies that to break the cycle of poverty, you need comprehensive programs that include education, other types of aid and accountability.  This is exactly what the Integral Heart Foundation does and it works.

Critical Thinking Teens

Critical Thinking Teens

I have visited Integral Heart Foundations schools, witnessed the work of their programs and the wise use of their resources.  If you are interested in learning more, you can visit their website and become a sponsor or look for them on Facebook.  I am sure they would love to hear from you.

If you live in or near San Francisco or in Southern California, you can meet Mick and Deborah in person and see a presentation of their work, hear about their future plans and see pictures and video of their most recent work.  If you are interested in corporate sponsorship, partnering or just supporting them through your communication network or whatever is within your means, I know they would be happy to see your face in the crowd at their upcoming fundraiser – http://www.integralheartfoundation.org/LA-SF-Fundraisers_Feb.2013.htm

I’m very proud I can play a small part in raising the visibility of this organization.  If you come out to attend their fundraiser please share your perspective.  Although the United States has hit some difficult times, we still are very fortunate compared to the rest of the world.  If we all share a little, we can help a lot and even sharing your well wishes or communicating with your friends sets causes in motion that lead to results.

Here…. you can see me with the young woman who I sponsor, Dinora.  After being in the program, she is self-confident and is planning on attending college for pre-law.  I met her in person when I went to Guatemala and I hope to go again soon.  If you are considering sponsoring a child through their organization, I would love to hear that in your comments.  It only costs $35 a month to sponsor a kindergarten child for a month and that even includes nutritious meals.

Dinora and Pat

Pat Goonan and Dinora

I appreciate Mick and Deb’s hospitality while I was in Guatemala and I wish them success with their upcoming visit to the Bay Area and Southern California.  You can see exact details below:

The first step is to join the INTEGRAL HEART FOUNDATION founders Deb and Mick for their perspective on poverty and
potential, but most importantly the SOLUTION in education and how you can help make a difference to many.

Sunday, February 17, 2013 – Los Angeles – Hosted by Malena Gamboa.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 – Berkeley – Hosted by our friends Terry, Valerie, Chris, Jeff, Lisa, Bill & Deborah at BAI

Who we are:
Topic of events:

Format:
Purpose:
Duration:

Contact:
Watch a 7-minute made-for-TV documentary on our humanitarian work in Guatemala
Learn about our four programs: Sponsorship, Integral Education, Kindergartens and Solar Power.
Talk and photo presentation by co-founders about our work with Q & A afterwards.
To raise funds for our work in Guatemala.
1.5 to 2 hours.
RSVP or questions to tour@celf.org
Solar Energy

Mick and Debra – co-founders IHF

It has always fascinated me that the manifest world that we can know via our senses exploded from lack of a better word from Nothing.  After all, the assertion that something can come from nothing seems absurd at first glance.  However, if you consider Nothingness as “No-thing-ness” i.e. One without a second — then perhaps we can make some sense out of this first moment in time.  The Buddhists refer to this Nothingness as Emptiness, but what is it empty of?

If we accept the Buddhist’s term of Emptiness for discussion purposes and then try to explain what it is empty of — then maybe we will have a useful starting point to look at what arose, how it might have come about and where it is going.  This is the fundamental assumption of this post.  As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name is still a rose,” what’s important is the underlying reality, not the specific word or symbol that is pointing to that reality.  I think different traditions use different words, but the concept seems to be eerily the same and yet ineffable.

In this context, I would like to point out that one thing Emptiness is empty of is space and time.  If we are looking at something prior to the Big Bang, it is prior to the emergence of the space-time continuum, prior to matter and prior to the cosmos in the sense of universe.

Clearly, Emptiness is a sort of infinite potentiality that has not differentiated itself from any type of ground.  This sounds suspiciously like what the various world’s wisdom traditions would label a Ground of Being – a fundamental Oneness upon which things stand out against the background.  In fact, existence implies “ex stasis” to stand out from a Ground of Being i.e. to differentiate from this underlying Oneness taking on qualia and opening up the possibility for categories and comparisons.

The world of manifestation, the world that science could measure with the senses and extensions of the senses came out of this Nothingness, which while empty of qualia such as space (extension) and time was nevertheless full of potential.  Prior to the Big Bang, it was certainly nothing and everything.  If not, how could a universe of matter emerge from it?  Instead of Emptiness, we could have chosen the term Fullness, but both would be equally inadequate in different ways.

The point I am making here is that the Ground of Being can’t be contained within a boundary or line.  Therefore, it is outside of categorical thought and comparisons, but yet we can intuit it as many cultures have across the world and throughout history.  Whatever it is, this ground seems to want to emerge into existence and unfold.  That is to say, it is this underlying ground that evolves in increasing levels of complexity, consciousness and wider embraces.  You can label it many different ways, but Spirit-in-Action seems to be equivalent to what many call evolution.  Pure undifferentiated Being merely abides, but really these are two sides of one paradoxical coin.

This is actually the argument I am making here.  That somehow, enfolded into what for lack of a better word we call Nothingness or Emptiness is the potential to become.    Further, it seems at each level of organization, new wholes emerge which are greater than the sum of the parts.  These new properties in this sense can be called emergent qualia.  Probably, the best example of such a progression is quarks, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms and man (self-reflective consciousness).

Another more general progression that shows up in the world’s wisdom traditions is matter, life, mind, soul and spirit.  This is the Great Chain of Being found within every major religious tradition.  Is this parallel a mere coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Life is more than the sum of the properties of molecules and mind is certainly more than the sum of properties of living cells, especially when you consider agency or will.

The problem, however, that leaps to mind is how can we know this?  I would suggest in the same way we know a “thought” or our own “consciousness.”  Certainly, we can’t look at a thought under a microscope or our consciousness via a telescope or other extension of the senses.  I believe this is because these are realities outside of space, but yet every scientific theory started as a thought and was formed in consciousness.  So, how do we know consciousness?  My conclusion is through direct experience, through union with that reality with no mediation of thought.  We have a simple feeling of Being.  Yet, I am more sure of my consciousness existing than the chair I’m sitting in.  In fact, how atoms exist or better, do they exist at all in the way we imagine is less clear to me than my own consciousness.  At least, since I studied quantum theory!

Without getting into a formal discussion of epistemology or theories of knowledge, I am asserting that I can and do know my own consciousness far more intimately than the physical universe although I can’t locate it in space or measure it with any instrument.  Further, I also propose that a scientific reductionist is making a very unscientific statement when they say that anything that can’t be known by the scientific method is unknowable.  That is a metaphysical statement, not a scientific one.  We privilege science so much, we often don’t take the time to reflect upon the fact that this assertion can not be proven by the scientific method.  Therefore, it is outside the domain of science.

So, for the purposes of this article I am assuming this Emptiness that exists prior to the universe is pure Spirit – undefinable, but NOT unknowable.  This pure ocean of Being must in addition to being pure potential, must have some type of intention to become, I call this the evolutionary spark.  It is an impetus for this One to differentiate and transcend itself in deeper layers enfolding (in-folding), which is to say depth while at the same time, embracing a wider span i.e. community.  Ultimately, this evolutionary process gave rise to our self-reflective consciousness, which has sufficient depth to contemplate the evolutionary process itself.

Like a wave coming out of the ocean, each of us is unique, yet an expression of the whole.  We are not really separate from the vast Ocean of Being, but rather a particular expression of it governed by organizing principles that differentiate us from the vast ground it arises from.  In fact, as something differentiates, it acquires more depth which is to say more consciousness.  In other words, more of this Being is wrapped or enfolded into a phenomena’s depth.  As it deepens the phenomenon also embraces or encompasses more of the Kosmos within itself.  Here I use this word, in the older Greek sense to denote not only the physical universe, but the nonphysical aspects of it.

If we extrapolate this line of thinking then an individual of infinite depth, would also have infinite embrace.  Certainly, Christians believe that is what Jesus represents.  In fact, this gives new meaning to the gospel quotation of “the kingdom of heaven is within you.”  In Christian and other traditions, this is often understood as an embrace of love where the divine that is outside of space (and time) is equally present at all points of space.  In other words, it is fully present everywhere, not a piece of it because it wholly outside of space and time!  This is what is meant by omnipresent.

In Hindu mythology, this reality is expressed through a different metaphor,  the jeweled net of Indra.  Here, at every point in the net, which represents the manifest world, there is a jewel that reflects the whole.  A more modern, but perhaps more crude metaphor might be a hologram.  However, it is interesting that this concept shows up in a variety of cultures, traditions and times.  Could this be revealing a universal truth?

While we can’t be absolutely sure of anything, it’s certainly interesting to consider this line of thought as a real possibility.  Is this any less fantastic that somehow the universe exploded from nothing in the sense of a vacuum and consciousness evolved out of inert matter by pure random forces through ascending levels of complexity over a LIMITED time frame – about 15 billion years.   Within a finite time frame, our current knowledge of evolution can’t explain the jumps in the evolutionary process to where we are at today.

While from one point of view a purely physics-based explanation is somewhat plausible, it contradicts the pull of our own hearts toward something greater than ourselves (meaning), the testimony of seekers of various wisdom traditions across cultures and it doesn’t explain many important phenomena such as love or consciousness.  In fact, as this point in time we can’t even pin down the physical universe at least as evidenced by having two great scientific theories that are not reconciled – namely, general relativity and quantum theory.

The quest for meaning is close to everyone’s heart, why?  Could that which you are seeking be the cause of you seeking in the first place?  Is God, Being, Emptiness or whatever label you care to put on it so close that you can’t see it.  If it is pure subject then it can’t be an object to consciousness, which would need to subsumes it.  This is like the eye not being able to see the eye.  Could your simple felt sense of Being offer you a clue as to Original Face prior to the Big Bang (a famous Zen koan or paradoxical statement meant to evoke a deeper understanding).  I would contend that yes, if you don’t privilege reason beyond other ways of knowing and you are willing to look at your unexamined assumptions about reality.

By: Patrick Goonan

In the first article of this series I talked about an unconditional attitude of friendliness toward yourself as a condition for deep transformation.  In the second, I talked about skillful means, gave some examples and spoke  about working with our past conditioning.  In this last post in the series, I will talk more about working on all levels of your being and across various life domains together in order to increase the probability of a transformation taking place.  If you haven’t read the other two articles, you can go back to my blog and read them first.  I recommend doing this to get maximum benefit from this more complex discussion and in-depth discussion.

In Part 2, I mentioned that in order to move up a level along a line of development you need to first disidentify from the level you are at and then identify with the new higher level. In other words, you have to transcend, then include the lower level as you move up.   As I explained earlier, you will have to pass through a transitional period of discomfort because you have separated from a lower level, but haven’t fully stablized the next level as part of self or your identity.  In other words, this desert period may provoke anxiety because it will seem to threaten your ego.  This point is very important and the attitudes I discussed in Part 1 of the series will help you cope with the discomfort.

This going up in steps is called a stage conception of development and you can talk about the upward path as a developmental line.  Some examples of developmental lines are cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual.  I also talked about conditioning and how to work with it in this series.  Besides reading this earlier post, I suggest looking at the 3-2-1 shadow process video also posted on my blog.  You may also find other useful material under other various categories on my blog.

Here in Part 3, I want to elaborate on a helpful map of reality that is particularly suited for personal growth.  This model is known as the Integral Model and was developed and popularized by Ken Wilber.  I believe it’s a an excellent map of the territory of deep change because it includes all the irreducible aspects of reality inherent to the human conditon.  In other words, it looks at the interior of things (e.g. your own thought process, feeling life, etc.) and the exterior (your body, observable effects in the world).  It also considers interactions between individuals and single objects, which is to say the collective aspects and the emergent properties of  systems.

Emergent properties can’t be explained away in terms of just looking at the parts that make up a whole.  Two good examples are life and intelligence.  You can’t explain life completely by just considering the large molecules that constitute a living organism.  Similarly, you can’t explain consciousness and intelligence in terms of the sum of physical structures that make up the brain or the electrical impulses occurring within it.

In simpler terms, the Integral Model takes into consideration individuals and how they interact in collectives such as a group, organization or society.  The model also assumes that collectives have interiors and emergent properties.  For example, a society has shared values, beliefs and other qualities that can’t be observed via the sense or their extensions.  Also, a collective has  emergent qualities that can’t be explained in terms of the sum of the parts.

It is easier to understand this model if you can see it visually.  Here is a simplified diagram that will help you grasp the points I have made so far.  Notice, the horizontal axis separates the individual dimension from the collective and the vertical axis separates the interior from the exterior.

simple_integral

Again, one quadrant of this model can not be reduced or completely explained in terms of another.  That is to say that you can’t completely understand the nature of consciousness (Quadrant 1) in terms of measuring physical correlations such as neurons firing in the brain (Quadrant 2).  You also can’t completely explain the dynamics of a society (Quadrant 3) by looking at the sum of observable behavior of the individuals that make it up (Quadrant 2).  In other words, all phenomenon have these four irreducible aspects and many of the irreducible complexities in systems correspond to emergent properties of collectives or systems as I explained.

Therefore, when we look at our own behavior, we must consider what is going on inside of us in terms of thoughts, feelings and other Q1 parts of ourselves.  At the same time, we need to deal with our outer behavior Q2 and also consider the systems we are embedded in such as our families, work environments and society.  These of course are all Q3 areas and then each of these external systems has it’s own value system, worldviews, etc. (Q4).  This is a fancy way of saying that everything is interconnected or interrelated.  In other words, to understand something you must look at the inside, the outside, the parts, the whole and how they all interact.

This model can be helpful with respect to personal development because it is largely  the systems we are embedded in and their interior aspects held as unexamined assumptions that keep us stuck.  In general, systems resist change and when an individual in a system tries to make a change, the interconnected nature of the whole system tends to pull the individual back to the status quo before any personal development work was attempted.

However, by examining an issue against the four quadrant model, you get an awareness of the systems you participate in, how they effect you and your unconscious cultural assumptions.  This allows you to overcome the almost magnetic pull of the systems dynamics and cultural beliefs on your values, beliefs and behaviors.  With this increased awareness, you have increased freedom via the process of disidentification as I explained in Part 2.  If you think about it, conditioning is a cultural phenomenon.  It is a belief or value or system of beliefs and values programmed into you by a group.  This is another reason why it’s so difficult to make a permanent change.  There are many forces you are mostly unaware of acting to preserve the status quo.

Another dimension of the model is developmental lines which I discussed above.  Since this article is about personal growth, one of the Q1 lines such as cognition, morals or emotions are what you are most likely seeking to change.  You can consider these various lines like spokes on a wheel originating from the center and moving outward in a stepwise fashion.  Since we are considering a stage conception, each step will look like a rung in a ladder. Moving up a stage is not like moving along a continuum, you are either alive or not, have self-reflective capacity or not.

Certainly, evolution follows this stepwise progression from fish, to reptiles to mammals.  Depending upon your personal beliefs, you can also consider a progression like matter, life, mind, soul and spirit as a stage progression.  Certainly, the worlds great wisdom traditions agree on this basic progression and you can consider these worldviews as part of the model.  Specifically, as organized religion or worldviews they belong in the fourth quadrant.

You can also see this type of progression in a collective such as a societal progression from hunter-gather to agrarian, agriculture to industrial, etc.  Interestingly, you will also observe a correlative developmental line in each quadrant for each of these stages!  Therefore, in Q4 or the interior of the society, you will see belief systems corresponding to each stage a civilization goes through i.e. magical beliefs will be found in hunter-gatherer societies and mythical beliefs in agrarian ones.  The quadrants are all related and we can use this knowledge to help us overcome the resistance of systems to changes and create some reflective distance between us and our shared beliefs.

Here are two diagrams, one simple and one more complex that will give you a deeper sense of how this all works together.  In the first one you can see developmental lines without a label and understand each as having steps like a ladder.

aqal_quadrants w lines

In this diagram, the yellow concentric circles represent levels, the green lines the various lines of development in each quadrant and you can see how each quadrant relates to but is not reducible to the other.  That is, each quadrant requires skillful means unique to this aspect of reality.  For example, a microscope (Q2-instrument) won’t help you to study love (Q1).  Studying social interactions (Q3) won’t help you to understand the underlying religion or worldview (Q4) that drives a lot of social behavior.

At this point, you probably have a good feel for the Integral Model.  However, it could get very complicated and while it’s good for self-development work, it also lends itself to extremely complex studies of organizations, living systems, etc.  If you think about it, it has the potential to integrate the arts, science and morals into a comprehensive unity and it has the same power for integrating the different aspects of a human life.

For your own edification and curiosity, here is a more complete four quadrant model diagram that fills in even more detail.  You don’t need to learn it at this level, but having an appreciation of it will help you understand its potential integrating power at the individual level and for analyzing complex modern day problems.  Just look over this diagram and move on unless you have a deep interest in the theory or applying it in a more complex context.

Integral Model

Integral Model

The most interesting thing about this diagram is the levels are represented by different colors and you can see some specific developmental lines and how a particular line in one quadrant corresponds to another line in an another quadrant.  I talked about this above, but here you can see specific examples in a visual context.

However, you may be asking yourself what does this have to do about be making a change in my life.  The answer is that by choosing growth practices for each quadrant and expressing them in each quadrant, you are more likely to have a transformation that is long lasting.  That is, if you work in this way you are more likely to stabilize the things you are working on into a permanent trait rather than a temporary altered state.  This integration also implies embodying your insights by expressing them deeply in each quadrant – self (Q1), culture (Q4) and nature (Q2 and Q3).  In other words, with this approach you get synergistic effects and integrate the new capacities into all the domains of life.  In this way, you get the systems working for you rather than against you.

On a practical level, this means picking one or several developmental lines to work with, choosing practices that help to develop those lines and finding ways to exercise the developing capacities in each of the four quadrants.  I realize there is a lot of new vocabulary and concepts here, so again a diagram might help.  This diagram is where the rubber meets the road in terms of applying and benefiting from the theory.

ILP_matrix

With this matrix, you can take advantage of the Integral Model without having to do a deep dive on all the theory because by your choices, you are working on different lines across quadrants and in all the domains of your life.  The specific instructions for using this matrix are in the diagram’s caption.  You simply pick one practice for each of the four core modules.  This gets you working in both your interior and your exterior dimesnions.  Then you add auxiliary practices which are collective by their nature and involve both interior and exterior dimensions too.  The point is that by working across all quadrants and on various lines, you are more likely to grow and stabilize that growth into permanent change.  This method of working also encourages and integration of your various capacities and intelligences.  As such, it is a holistic approach that touches you and your relationships in a very deep way.

The specific approach to transformation practice above is called an Integral Life Practice or ILP.  The model that comes from the diagram is a simplification of applying Integral Theory and is called the Integral Life Practices Matrix.  However, you can substitute your own practices, areas you wish to emphasize and specific means.  Technically, you can call these ILPs or whatever you wish.  The model is a useful guidelines, but when push comes to shove, you are the expert on how to apply the theory. The diagram above, however, is a very useful starting point for experimenting with this type of integrated approach.  What counts in the end is transformation or a permanent level change in one or more developmental lines.

I know this was a long article, but I hope you got a lot out of it and that you consider trying the approach I recommended.  As I said in Parts 1 and 2, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences working this way and I invite back to leave a comment or subscribe.  If you would like further information on the integral model you can see some of my other postings including a video with Ken Wilber on Integral Life Practices.  He developed this model over decades and now has over 20 book titles in continuous print.

In my opinion, the integral model is a very important tool for understanding and working with differences across various disciplines and solving complex real world problems.  The Integral Institute is dedicated to applying the principles of this model in education, politics, business, psychology and other areas.  My experience is that it is a powerful and effective way to work on your own personal growth or a group in any domain of activity or interest.

If there are any critical aspects of this work I left unexplained or you have any questions, please leave me comments.  I will be writing more on integral theory, but if I have your input I can target my blogs to your interests more precisely.  If you would like to contact or work with me, you can find my contact information under the contact information menu heading.

This is a great video on Integral Life practices.  These are practices that can be adopted in various domains of life that when combined tend to bring about transformations.  The general idea is that by working on different levels – physical, emotional, mental, etc., you are more likely to bring about a movement from one developmental level to another.

In order to fully appreciate these practices, one should understand a little bit of integral theory.  However, you can find this information on YouTube and I will be posting links that I think are particularly useful in this blog.