How did you first discover the integral approach? Describe the path that led you to your Integral Life.
Two constants through my career life have been the internet and zen. I was introduced to them during my junior year of college - and both led me to the world of transpersonalism.
At the time, zen and the internet were interspersed - both were emerging platforms for people with “alternative” interests; and my forays into online communities introduced me to the transpersonalist work of Ken Wilber, which ultimately led me to the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).
In Minnesota, I began my journey through the integral world of transpersonalism and zen. By day, I worked at a local food shelter and by night, I volunteered at A.P.O.L.L.O. - a psychosocial rehabilitation “club” for people experiencing “severe” mental illness. A.P.O.L.L.O. was a place where I could apply many of Wilber’s theories to relationship development - it was a creative space for people who otherwise would not be deemed creative - think DuBuffet’s Art Brut renderings made flesh.
My goal of simultaneously pursuing “enlightenment” and a doctorate was something CIIS seemed perfectly capable of harnessing; so I quickly dived, head first, into a world of “new age” theorists - renegade professors and spiritually-seeking students. I quickly learned I was amongst the very people that made the transmission of Wilber’s philosophies possible - Harrison Voight, Ian Grand, Ben Tong, Leland van den Daele, Ram Dass, Jack Kornfield, Ralph Metzner amongst others. My semi-conservative undergraduate training no longer applied; as I had literally walked through Huxley’s Doors of Perception into a place with seemingly unlimited boundaries - no idea was too wild and no experiment was void - CIIS was a pinnacle of intellectual absurdism.
How did I first discover the Integral approach…vaguely I recall hearing about someone named Ken Wilber who was able to find a way to bridge the conversations between Spiritual/religious persons along with other disciplines in modern life. I remember watching a video, about 12 year ago, of Ken speaking with a table full of people, all of different religious orientations, conversing with civility. I found that profound; even though I did not quite understand what they were talking about. The fact that they were able to communicate was enough for me to want to know more. In my life religion had been an issue of contention. Next thing I knew I signed up for Integral Naked, then Integral Life, and continue to explore each new level of my understanding of the Integral approach along with the amazing community of individuals and groups it has become and is becoming.
The path that led me to my Integral Life…an unknown yogi many years ago. The story went that he was able to shut down a valve to his heart, during meditation, and chose when to die. The question of “how” set me on a path that has brought me here. I figured there had to be a better way to die than of disease or old age.
What was the contention??
The interpretation of god according to my family and our religion at that time was an issue of contention. Mainly because my best friend was Protestant and ‘we’ were Catholic. I liked to pick my friends as opposed to being told who I could hang with especially since I thought other people were as ‘good and deserving’ as much as any fellow Catholic. The good thing about this is it made me look closer at religion in general; and all that considered they were the true and only way. I liked to believe that the Christian God loved everybody…it was my interpretation of what I learned and understood, at that time. Hence the conflict.
Well put. Integralism led me from a Buddhist-focused existence to a Christian one, which ultimately evolved into Catholicism. I chose Catholicism because, as a non-Catholic whom attended a Jesuit Catholic high school, I recalled never experiencing rebuke or judgement from the Catholic students, priests nor staff. They were 100% focused on my social (and) intellectual development, which gave me the critical thinking skills I needed to successfully pursue integralism. Once I entered the integral arena, the multiplicity of options and contrasts led me to choose Judeo-Christianity in a maximally informed manner.
That is so fascinating. My experience of Christianity has led me to a more Zen outlook and philosophy. Don’t you just love that there is room for everyone’s spiritual paths.
I grew up in a farming community where the churches were both Christian, neither Catholic. The strongest urge in my family towards church-going was led by my eldest sister. I enjoyed the social aspect of church and had no problem accepting the sermons.
In my teens I perhaps became more influenced by Strartrek, questioned religiosity on the whole and opted for atheism as a “logical” choice.
In my university years I had a classmate in a psychology course who introduced me to the (unbelievable) idea of out-of-body experience. In that same course I did a research project correlating alpha brain activity to anxiety levels. During that project, and while attempting to train an alpha state, I entered an altered state and experienced what I could only interpret as an unexpected out-of-body awareness–and felt considerably distant from my body. While fascinating, the experience had some elements that made me quite apprehensive. I decided it would be better to learn more about this than to continue into things in which I didn’t feel secure.
My study path took me from psychphysiology (where I experienced oob) to electronics where I designed EEG gear with the idea of correlating brain activity to altered state (and, hopefully, to enhance and facilitate entering altered states.) Electronics ultimately took me to industry and to a company where an engineer introduced me to Dianetics. That book seemed to hold the methods to solutions of problems that had bothered me and plagued others. While I was genuinely enthusiastic about giving and receiving Dianetic processing, I could not convince my peers that this was a worthwhile pursuit. Lacking anyone else with whom I could co-counsel the Dianetic process, I went to the address stamped on the inside front cover of the book: the Church of Scientology. This was 1978. I had come from a university, science background, and was expecting more than I met. Over some years I persevered through many courses that I still feel informed me well of the operation and function of the mind and spirit. Unfortunately the leadership of the organization sent it on a very toxic path, and after 14 years I left, waiting for needed change that never occurred. Many people have felt damaged by that organization. I certainly would not recommend it to friend or stranger, but I cannot say that I wasn’t helped along my path immensely by what I learned there. Unfortunately, it is what that organization hides about the mind that is even more important (and is in Integral Life hinted at by the “shadow thoughts”; a non-trivial barrier for most people.)
My search had been, since university, aimed at exploring states of being and what might make those states more stable and easier to enter.
In about 2009 a forum I was frequenting began a discussion on the wave-particle nature of matter. As I began to study quantum mechanics to catch up with the others, I was struck by the parallels that I saw between quantum phenomena and the operation of the mind as I had come to understand it. In conjunction with several other out-of-body experiences I’d had subsequent to my university days, my science background was adequate for me to mostly understand and extrapolate significantly on how physical bodies could interface with spiritual beingness. While this is all a continuing study, I have hit the point where I feel I could again approach and possibly solve the problems and apprehensions I first felt on being exterior to my body. The bigger problem has been finding people with similar goals and a willingness to do the hard work (mostly meditation-like) that it may take to achieve other states of awareness.
A few years ago I was re-examining the potential of EEG training as a method of stabilizing the altered state. At that time I came across a YT video of Ken Wilber demonstrating an unheard of level of control over brain activity. From that I later came to this website and finally to this community. I’m really looking forward to interacting with it.
Simple Answer: To Understand
Journey Type Answer:
Boy (early 60’s):
- Began a thirst for knowledge on the floor beneath my dad’s wall of books, studying world book encyclopedias, the Time-Life series, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and dipping into many other more esoteric books he had. Set a life pattern.
- Also, running wild and free in the woods, spring seep muck, climbing big live oaks, and swimming in just about any natural waters - lakes, spring runs, ponds, golf water holes, oceans, gulfs, … and enjoying all the wonders of life I came across.
- Tarzan, Doc Savage, and then leading into my dad’s John McDonald books about Travis McGee, and many others. All sorts of characters to imagine vividly.
Teen (Late sixties/early seventies):
- Moving to the mid-west and making friends with a guy whose brother hitchhiked, Arlo Guthrie style, with a guitar across the country and back, and a metal pipe full of weed. And a copy of Alan Watt’s “Taboo” book. Read all of Alan Watts. Re-read most later.
- Moved back to my changed home town - me, also changed, and experimented with a variety of open, care free activities including hallucinogens, and alcohol, and then quit. Began doing yoga and studying what was available at that time. Lot’s of threads. And also science fiction.
- College: Degree in Biology/Ecology. Professors had been studying the effects of NASA activities on the Florida space coast, quite interesting, large scale systems. Became a working Ecologist, spending a great deal of time studying ecosystems and ecological communities. Studied alligators, sea turtles, small native mouse populations, and finally the impacts of pollution on ecosystems. Got a big picture “It’s Quadrant” view of the world. Wide reading in the emerging eco-literature. Also began the “Great Conversation” with the “Great Books”. (Still working that).
- Move to Kentucky for wife’s graduate school. Interesting mix of subcultures. Took job in a cancer research lab (won’t describe that) but spent a lot of time in the UK libraries where I found Paul Brunton’s Notebooks and eventually bought and read them all. Became aware of the non-western world’s knowledge through him and other’s through serendipitous discovery. Haunted bookstores. Read much of the eastern canon.
- And then, the Whole Earth Catalog … s. Coevolution Quarterly. Practical, accessible, experiental, alternative knowledge. Loved this. Many activities and learnings around this.
- Continued broad reading and broad sojourns into Natural History. More seeking wilderness and natural clean water. Picked yoga up again for a while. Did quest to track down the Paul Brunton community and “archivists” of his material at Wisdom’s Goldenrod. Small dedicated group of seekers. Too small, too far.
- Found a group studying Rudolf Steiner and read through much of his material. Realized that all world knowledge had begun to be available, largely through conquest and colonization in the 1800’s. And the scholarship and translations had been slowly working into seeker’s hands over the last century. Read many of the books Wilber was using in his research (before being aware of him). Much eco-philosophy as it emerged.
- Found Wilber through “A Brief History of Everything”, and it brought together many disparate threads so, like before, I started buying and reading everything I could get my hands on. Joined the original Integral Institute online subscription but could not really afford it so dropped it. Thought about how I would love to have gotten a degree in Integral Studies but was priced out of possibility. Rejected the Integral Community at that point as it felt greedy and closed from my side of the country. But kept reading Wilber and followed various integral practitioners when I could find their trace. Just the content of Wilber’s books, and his evolution, kept speaking to me and my current understanding, often giving me insights that I had not pulled together.
- And of course, the internet …
- And perspective from “The Long Now Foundation”
- Rode the wave of change coming from Information Technology but grew tired of corporate life. Wild and interesting ride though. So I left at the first sensible opportunity.
Currently On Sabbatical, perhaps early retirement:
- Continue to this day with re-reading (and now listening on audio when I can) Wilber’s books. Recently rejoined Integral Life, and am working through the “free” material as well as some of the paid courses. Quite enjoying it.
- Currently, reading other Integral sites and authors syntopically with a close review of Wilber. Second listening of the Daily Evolver. Really like Jeff Salzman’s explanations from his heart. Enjoying and learning from Dr. Keith Witt’s episodes and many others.
- Beginning to really work seriously on my next step with Ken’s “Full Spectrum Mindfulness”, while listening to and reading both “The Future of Spirituality” and “Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality”.
- Now spurred on by the changes in US culture and politics, a personal desire/drive has emerged to work on the wicked problem of how to raise the center of gravity, collectively, up towards integral against the current downward pull to earlier stages.
- How can I make this world better for my, actually everyone’s, kids and grand kids?
Through my career, I developed skills in knowledge engineering and using “ontologies”, in the information technology sense. Now doing a close re-reading of “Wilber”, trying to crisply master the terms, concepts, and relationships by creating a personal knowledge web. The web extends out from here to all the other sources I have, like, and use. Quite an interesting hobby at the moment with great material to draw from. Later I hope, it enables recognition of emergent properties and understanding across a variety of domains. And further, if my body lasts, and my skills develop, into helping bring it into the world through emerging media platforms such as VR/AR/MR/Interactive Stories and the un-imagined possibilities of immersion and visualization they can bring.
So, once again, simply the desire to understand, is what brought me to the Integral Community. And the desire to make use of the understanding, with the community, to re-imagine and craft the world into a better place.
Wow what a wonderful journey your “simply understand” is taking you and well, me, in reading about it here. Thank you for your clear and honest process evaluation.
How did I get here? Insatiable curiosity and a meandering life path:) When I was a kid, my dream job was mathematician/theologian. That career path didn’t pan out, so I chose the next least practical career: Artist! After a couple of years of art school, I hit burnout and took some time off. I moved to New Orleans and my roommate there had a copy of Ken Wilber’s Sex Ecology and Spirituality on his bookshelf. It was a revelation! I found answers there to questions that I didn’t even know how to ask. After finishing that book, I went on to read everything by Ken Wilber that I could find. I especially loved his personal reflections in No Boundary and Grace and Grit. I moved back to San Francisco to finish school and started going to the Zen Center which made me realize how much community had been missing from my life. I’ve always been a hardcore loner and community is something that I tend to avoid. I admit that I’m a bit trepidatious to dive into this community as I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer…toxic levels of stress and cumulative effects of questionable lifestyle choices have taken their toll, but I promise to do my best!
I am endlessly curious about the correlation between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Holons all the way up and all the way down! In practical terms, I’m interested in learning and putting into practice activities in my daily life that will reverberate in a positive way. Integral life practices; shadow integration, intimacy, parenting, livelihood, community involvement, trying despite the odds to be mindful of what I consume, to carefully steward my resources, and honor my connection to Source.