Integral Life Practice – first look

di090312 Proof that I have at least unpacked it!

So I have cracked open the book I got in the mail the other day. I have even read the first chapters. Obviously I can’t give anything like a sensible review until I have either read it through or thrown it in the recycling bin. Even then, I shall have to be cautious, for this is a book that could save or damn the world.

The concept of integral life practices looks very much like what I in my near future fiction called “the Innerways”. This is not surprising, since when I made that concept, I already had a cursory knowledge of Ken Wilber’s theories, and had taken an interest in them since they resonated with my own writing about what I call “the Next Big Thing”, the necessary shift in human consciousness to enable our new role as stewards of the planet rather than simply one of its millions of species. The way from our current halfway apelike state to that frightening responsibility goes through the Innerways, the practices that prepare each of us to reach our highest aspiration. The book Integral Life Practice is an attempt at just that, guiding individuals onto the beginning of those paths.

For those who haven’t read or don’t remember my series of essays in 2005 (starting June 18), let me briefly state my own position. This is one of the most important things I have written about. In fact, it is one of the few important things I have ever written. So bear with me for a paragraph.

Our ancestors until around 60 000 years ago did not have culture as we know it. Well, recent findings show outbreaks of it here and there in Africa, but scattered and temporary. Mostly they lived like their ancestors a million years earlier, despite having the same body and brain as us. At some point there was an explosion of creativity, traditionally associated with the invention of abstract language, although we don’t really know that. There has been a lot of upgrades since then, but none nearly as fundamental. There is a gaping abyss between any healthy human today, even the naked Stone Age hunters of the jungle, and our ancestors who knew nothing of inspiration or aspiration. A similar leap, I believe, is about to happen again. The Ice Age mind will give way to something so much greater that it is hard to believe we are the same species. Either that, or we’ll all die terribly along with most of the planet’s higher life.

The Innerways – or integral life practices – are the perfectly natural, non-magical things we can do while we are ordinary humans, but which will at the same time move us toward the next stage. It may be that we who live today will never be part of the next phase – actually, I am pretty sure of this – but we have to move in that direction, so that the next generation can stand on our shoulders and reach for the stars. We may not become more than human, but we have an obligation to become more human than we were.

The genius insight of Integral Life Practice is to serve a “balanced diet” of such practices, which can mutually strengthen each other. This is not a new concept – “a healthy soul in a healthy body” is an ideal that has lasted for millennia. But it is extended to four core areas: Body, mind, spirit and shadow. (Shadow here refers to the subconscious, not to demon worship or some such.) I know many people today think that spirit may be an epiphenomenon, kind of like the sun seems to rise and set while in reality it is the earth that rotates. But even if you don’t believe the sun rises, you would still be a fool to think the night will last forever. In the same way, spirit is an experienced reality, and you ignore it at your own cost. Spirit – in the form of aspiration and inspiration, at the very least – has been with us since we became human.

This was pretty random, as can be expected of a chaotic mind in a sick body after a brief look at the beginning of a new book. I am not going to recommend it just yet, but I sincerely hope to complete it and test its basic ideas – to the extent that I have not accidentally tested them already. The terrain seems strangely familiar.

Oh, and one more thing: The book is a very accessible read for something so groundbreaking.

PS: I found that the book was also recommended by Bill Harris, of HoloSync fame. It is a small world Integral movement after all!

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