The Future of Spiritual Praxis
Fri, Sep 28 2012 02:59 | Adult Development, Development, Integral, Integral Consciousness, Psychological Development, Spirituality, Transcendence
Spiritual Praxis is, by and large, a progressive exploration of more and more subtle and transcendental states of awareness leading up to the simple, direct, unmoving dynamic that is your unmediated and obvious liberation. The vast spectrum of paths, practices and discourses around the world are an investigation into ever more expansive states of consciousness. Throw away the many labels and the differing value systems that rest upon divergent states of consciousness and you have one massive tradition, one broad lineage of human beings that are yoking their awareness from their habituated identities that consolidate limitations where liberations belong.
Let us all give a huge, wide open bow to the billions of human beings that have carved forth these groves of wakefulness. Both those who are here, alive in practice today and the many that are no longer animating their known and unknown forms. Whether you're alive, died 5000, 2000, 100 years ago or if the great Cessation raptured you yesterday - there is a Silent Space beyond all habituated movement that shines a calm simple gratitude. That's for all of us :-)
There is a new form of spiritual praxis that is emerging. By new, I mean an explicit supra-developmentally-organized-practice picked up with an explicit developmental aim. Implicitly we have been participating with this since our origins, but it is only very recently that we have begun to pick up these novel forms of spirituality to explicitly participate with our evolving developmental complexity.
This new praxis is not the investigation, stabilization and realization of greater states of consciousness, rather it stems from the investigation of structure stages of consciousness. This has largely been born through modern Western psychological research methodologies, but more specifically it stems from an even more rarified specialization into studying the highest known levels of developmental maturity. So while childhood developmental psychology might not be disclosing these novel spiritual practices, the study of the highest levels of complexity of adult development is disclosing something profoundly new for spiritual practice.
These maps of our most privileged stages of maturity (development is a privilege, one of the central ones) can be used as a type of pointing out instruction. They point to novel ways of relating to everything. These maps disclose new subjective world spaces of self-organization with greater functional capacities for engaging life. They can tell most of us about our own developmental future and our larger ability to respond to the complexities of life. It takes what is called the "emergent unconscious" and points the spot light of wakeful attention into this area of the unconscious. What happens is stunning.
What I have been doing is inviting people to participate with their larger complexity by providing developmental injunctions that yokes them out of their embedded structure stages and invites them into their larger aliveness, elegance and authenticity.
Something powerful often happens when this occurs and it is very different than the more known and practiced explorations of states of consciousness. I brought some of this teaching to my instruction at the Integral Spiritual Experience a couple of years ago and I had a number of people telling me that my sessions were the most significant of their experience of the entire event. I've been leveraging this technology with coaching and psychotherapy clients, in my classrooms with my students and in my own practice life and my sense is there is something deeply vital, cutting edge and pragmatic about this approach.
Translating our highest known levels of maturity into practice injunctions appears to facilitate development dramatically and from my vantage point is a different form of spirituality.
So what does this mean? I've got a few thoughts for us here.
1. Spiritual teachers are wise to pick up developmental injunctions to shape and refine their own teaching methodologies and to refine the complexity with which they interpret the states of consciousness their traditions explore.
2. Spiritual practitioners (who has more or less stabilized conventional adult stages of development) are served by picking up injunctions in both state training and structure-stage training.
3. Integral spiritual teachers should be required to rigorously study these developmental maps with an expert who has access to at least some of the highest known forms of meaning-making. Reading about these maps on your own is a great start, but it is not sufficient just as reading about states is no substitute for actual state-refining practices. Teachers need developmental structure stage transmission and the continual re-organizing of experience into their larger complexity. Without this spiritual teachers are extremely susceptible to consolidating their meaning making, teaching and practice injections around levels of complexity that lack the larger elegance that evolution is demanding.
4. Spiritual teaching, instruction and practice is most effective and efficient when the rigorous state-training methodologies are being translated through some of the most privileged stages of maturity. We need novel systems, new traditions, and a larger methodology for holding the most privileged developmental stages as a new requisite for spiritual instruction.
Finally, we need ongoing open inquiries and a full, unmediated participation with the mystery of developmental complexity amongst our genuine leading edge. What does this practice community look like? How do we support one another? How do we challenge one another? There is no terminus to development, and one of our most important responsibilities that is co-creating us moment to moment is our unknowable evolutionary possibility. We must Submit to this participatory-immediacy.
The practice injunctions I speak of are to follow. I'm developing a course to teach at The Integral Center here in Boulder CO. I just met on this last week so I'll be sharing some of this with you in the coming weeks. If you're hungry for some of it now, tear into my book Strength to Awaken as it's littered with developmental injunctions to yoke you into your greater embodiment.
Aliveness and the Survival Habit
Ask yourself this simple question: Do you want aliveness?
Chances are you answered yes to this inquiry. There is some facet of the human being that desires, yearns and searches for the sensate quality of aliveness. While there may be times where you cannot find this part of yourself, the vast majority of us can access this desire most of the time when asked.
But, What precisely is aliveness?
This is a rich inquiry yet defining it is less rewarding than actually feeling it, which is what interests me and I hope sparks something precious in you. The facet of you that desires aliveness is less concerned with looking at aliveness objectively and more invested in subjectively inhabiting the feeling of being alive.
Aliveness, at least from my present vantage point, has at least one central obstacle: survival. I know at first that sounds absurd, but let me explain.
If you are like most adults, you have two basic ways of engaging each moment. The first constellates around engrained survival strategies and the second organizes around the quality of your life. Survival strategies are perhaps the most habituated ways of functioning available while the inquiry into what births your greatest quality of life is something that requires liberated space to even ponder.
Let's be clear out of the gate here, your survival strategies are rarely organized in such a way that they actually support the ongoing enrichment of the quality of your life. Read that again… It's important. At each moment you have a choice, do I want to "survive" (which often implies feeling less) or do I want to qualitatively improve my life (which often requires feeling more)?
Survival habituations are root organizations in your way of being that protect you from threats. This is great, except something has gone off course when you habitually stop feeling because the sensate experience feels threatening. Perhaps the most basic habituation I am aware of that does this is the shift from feeling consciousness to thinking consciousness.
To be clear here, I am not talking about the full conscious participation with dynamic thought which is inextricably woven to feeling consciousness. I am talking about the habituated movement of consciousness out of feeling and into conditioned scripts that unplug you from your larger complexity.
This larger complexity is what fascinates me because it is only here that any of us can find our emergent elegance that can co-create our greater quality of life. Birthing this is qualitatively distinct from merely surviving.
This brings us to the topic of embodiment. Dis-embodiment is most often our preferred survival strategy. This is a good thing. I can tell you first hand as I faced death face to face some facet of my being pulled the eject handle and with it I was spared the panic, open terror, anxiety and raw pain of suffocating to death from an asthma attack. Yes I mean dead, passed out, not breathing, can't find a pulse, body turned grey dead. My consciousness followed this ride only so far until I found myself "somewhere else."
But if you happen to be like me, your survival strategies also unplug you from the immediacy of your life when experience gets uncomfortable. Chances are you've got some missing discernment in your core survival strategies which do not distinguish from being in actual danger and experience being uncomfortable and no longer fitting habituated preferences.
Survival strategies working for habituated preferences, needless to say this is not a recipe for human elegance that embraces your larger complexity. Find out just what is your actual window of tolerance to experience your full unmediated embodied experience. Where is the actual limit and where is the habituated limitation? These are very different!
I think you will find that your larger complexity is freed up from many of the habituated closures from feeling. If you are like me, you are likely to find that the larger complexity that you are able to participate with is rooted in feeling through the full open immediateness that is right here regardless of preferences.
In this rich texture and tapestry of the open embrace of pain and pleasure I think you will find a wellspring of aliveness that simply does not reveal itself to human beings bound to habituated survival strategies.
Life Hack at The Integral Center
Join Rob McNamara as he guides readers through a 10 week tour of his book Strength To Awaken. Rob’s personalized tour reshapes your basic understanding of the purpose of training, provides never before seen instruction on the inner dimensions of training and performance while inviting you into what McNamara calls Whole Hearted Engagement. Enjoy rare clarity as you are taken beyond the conventions and limitations presently holding you back in your training.