The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 5 of 6: Spirit

The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 5 of 6: Spirit

The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 5 of 6: Spirit

 If you haven't already read the other posts in this series, you can catch up with the previous post on the importance of mental development here The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 4 of 6: Mind

The concept of having a spiritual practice is certainly one that is again in a greater degree of popularity as a certain amount of unfulfilled promise seeps through from the rational/conventional worldview, which denied interiors and subjectivity in its preference for the the objective and concrete. If it didn't have a specific location in time and space, then it was unreal and therefore had no value. Along with many other things, our spiritual nature, which is subjective in its experience, was cast into this bin with the rest. This concept which gained strength from the industrial revolution onwards has now come full circle and while the ghosts of the mythic/membership view are still lingering, we have moved forward, with the postmodernist view recognising that turning our eyes to something more than objects is a necessary part of our being and we are less than whole without it. It's time to re-embrace our interiors and that has opened the door for a more mature view of spirit to re-emerge without the ridicule that the rationalists piled on the mythic worldview.

There are many ways to define spirituality and what spiritual practice means:

  • It could be as a state of consciousness
  • As a level of development
  • As a developmental line in its own right
  • As an attitude of love/compassion
  • Or as an ultimate concern or ultimate being or condition

Which of these most fits your definition of what spiritual means? Do you find that you tend to have a variable view at different times or have you not even thought of considering other perspectives? Please comment below as to where you see yourself and how that comes to others as you observe them.

Integral Spirituality includes all of these definitions and lets you decide how you most feel called to embody your spiritual nature at any given time. The AQAL Framework recognises at least three perspectives through which we can experience Spirit; 1st Person, 2nd Person and 3rd Person. Integral Spiritual Practice attempts to include all three of these, considering them as three dimensions of the divine.

1st person spiritual practices include awareness meditations that help us to recognise our ultimate I or I AM, inviting us to realise the freedom of pure awareness. Integral Inquiry and Big Mind Meditation are examples of this form.

2nd Person practices are often forms of prayer or communion, relating to the scared as the great you or thou. This is really about the dialogue between you and the greatness of spirit, where we view spirit as the other to our I. Compassionate exchange, prayer of the heart and devotional yoga are examples of this form.

3rd person practices are often forms of contemplation by which we relate to spirit as the great It or Its. Seeing the divine as the great web of life or great perfection of all things, opening ourselves to the mystery of all things. Kosmic contemplation is an example of this form. And interestingly this is where the majority of scientism experiences its reverence for the objective world.

So what is your perspective, again do you find that you habitually practice in a particular way, or do you have a more balanced approach that takes into account different forms of spiritual practice? Please share your ideas and thoughts on this topic. 

To understand a little deeper the importance of a regular spiritual practice you can look here at this extensive list of supported research for the health benefits of meditation. What is always interested is that most research is still rooted in proving to a rational mindset that the body gains from you meditating. What it fails to really understand and embody is the benefits to mind, emotions, spirit and relationships that comes from having a regular spiritual practice. Because these are subjective aspects to a large degree and the type of research methodology needed to capture this data would need to be completely different. But this is also why an aspect of AQAL and Integral Theory is IMP (Integral Methodological Pluralism), which details how different methodological approaches need to be used in capturing appropriate data for each of the four main quadrants of AQAL. 

But Ken has also repeatedly written about the importance of engaging a broad scientific approach to each idea. If we take the injunction that meditation is beneficial for the mind, the apprehension to collect the data is to have a meditation practice and then compare your results with a group of appropriately qualified experts (experienced meditators in this case) who are in a position to validate your experiences. So by Ken's concept, you are unqualified to suggest that meditation and spiritual practice have no benefits unless you are carried out the practice to a sufficient level yourself.

So what is your practice? What do you do, how often and for how long? I can do anything from 1-2 minutes of mindful breathing, to spending extended amounts of time exploring Big Mind, to guided visualisations and shamanic journeys, standing in stillness or experiencing myself with crystals and colour on and around me; all of which deepens my experience of spirit at different levels and in different ways.

Anything from one minute of stillness and focus while standing in a que, to half an hour of silent contemplation, to dancing into ecstasy, to a moment of presence in nature. It doesn't have to be long, difficult or with some special posture or location. Spiritual practice can be done in every moment as indicated by the saying "Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water, after enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water." It can be a fully integrated part of your daily practice without much time or effort, but with significant benefits for body, mind, emotions and relationships.

In the last post in this series, coming soon, I will look at the least recognised aspect of ILP which is engaging and working with our shadow. It holds its own module because it doesn't get adequately addressed in any of the others.

I would like to acknowledge that the majority of this material is drawn from Ken Wilber and Terry Pattern's development of ILP. You can find out more on their website or other tasty ILP morsels from the Integral Life Website.

Until then, please comment and discuss what your experiences are.

Stay well, keep practising 

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