Obama’s First Year: The Good, the Bad, and the Partial
with Ken Wilber, Diane Musho Hamilton, Robb Smith, Aaliyah Haqq, and Bert Parlee

After last week’s State of the Union Address, you may have been reflecting upon the past year of Obama’s presidency and asking yourself a few questions:

  • How did he do?
  • Am I feeling inspired?
  • Am I benefiting in any real way from Obama’s policies and his leadership?
  • Could Obama really be our first truly integral president, transcending and including the best of Democratic and Republican values?

We’ve been asking ourselves the same questions, and thought we would take a moment to offer our own integral assessment of President Obama’s first national State of the Union Address. So we posed these questions (and a handful of others) to Ken and a few other smart and savvy minds, who were kind enough to share five uniquely enlightening perspectives on Obama’s first year—the good, the bad, and the partial….

Incubate, Don’t Procrastinate!
with Jeff Salzman and David Riordan

Have you ever felt like you were long on vision, but short on actually making it happen? If so, Jeff Salzman’s Integral Incubator is something you will want to dive into deeply. The first Incubator event hatched in November, attracting participants from seven different countries who all crowned it a wild success.

In this latest interview, Jeff explores the work/career themes that he noticed resonating in the first Integral Incubator pioneers, and how they will help shape the next Incubator event coming up in March 2010. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • How do you know that your great gift actually meets the world’s great need?
  • When do the many perspectives the world offers become distracting?
  • Can a task perseverance practice give you a shot at entering the creative flow?
  • What if the project that brings meaning to your life is… you?

So, what are you waiting for? Are you doing what you love? Does your calling support you financially? Is your success; however you define it, all that you want it to be? If your answer currently is no or you don’t know, it’s time you begin incubating your genius instead of procrastinating about enacting your unique calling in the world.

A Prayer For Haiti

January 20, 2010

A Prayer For Haiti

with Marc Gafni

There is nothing too big for Big Heart. But when something as overwhelmingly painful as last week’s earthquake in Haiti washes through us, it can be easy to feel like our own access to Big Heart isn’t quite big enough. How can we contain all these tears, all this suffering, and all this destruction? How can we make sense of this magnitude of devastation?

Hearing a phrase like “200,000 estimated casualties” has a way of sliding right through us: too big to understand, too big to digest, too big to let in. It’s hard enough to allow ourselves to feel a single death, let alone wrap our minds around hundreds of thousands of them.

But in a certain sense, you don’t need to wrap your mind around it. You don’t need to understand it (though it’s always a really good idea to try). All you need to do is let yourself feel, let yourself love, and let yourself act—all in full deference to the God who lives in you, as you.

Take fifteen minutes out of your day and listen as Marc Gafni offers a special prayer for Haiti. Invoking both God’s Tears and God’s Laughter, Marc’s prayer helps us to digest the overwhelming emotions, to cut through the paralysis of helplessness, and to rededicate ourselves to serving the perpetual emergence of our perfectly flawed world.

The End of Poverty. Part 1: Dignity in the Midst of Deficiency

with Martin Burt and Ken Wilber

It was impossible not to feel our hearts burst as we watched the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Haiti.  We looked on with horror as an entire nation of people already on the edge of survival had their lives and their families stripped away from them. We sat helpless and heartbroken—praying, practicing, and breathing for the victims, trying to find a point of silence still enough to contain all this pain.

What we witnessed last week was tragic, and yet tragically inevitable.  Haiti is a nation without building codes and without a modern infrastructure, because Haiti is a nation without an economy.  It is truly maddening to know that there would have been far fewer deaths last week if Haiti hadn’t been so morbidly impoverished—it is worth noting that the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco registered a 6.9 on the Richter scale, and killed 63 people.  Last week’s earthquake in Haiti registered a 7.0, with a recent estimate of 200,000 casualties.

So what is really responsible for these deaths? Tectonic plates? Or poverty itself?

This is why we are so inspired by Martin Burt, whose Foundation Paraguay is one of the world’s most innovative micro-finance organizations, used now in 27 countries and modeled by 50 institutions.  Martin employs an explicitly integral approach to poverty elimination, using 200 different measures for poverty to finally solve poverty in both its interior and exterior dimensions.

Poverty, Martin reminds us, is not only an impoverished standard of material living, but also an insidious misconception about human beingness: that we only are only rich in spirit when we are rich in wealth.  This misconception, prominent among the world’s rich nations, paradoxically exacerbates the suffering of the world’s poor because it encourages partial approaches to poverty, as if merely giving them more “stuff” will cure the poverty of dignity that always and everywhere accompanies the absence of human self-sufficiency.

Some of us had the opportunity to listen to Martin talk with Ken a few months ago, and we were all blown away by his story. It wonderful to see Integral theory being applied in such concrete and practical ways around the world—but more importantly, it was invigorating to see it used in a way that is directly improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. After all, you can spend a lifetime learning all the very best philosophies in the world, but if it doesn’t actually help make this world a better place, it’s just empty words.

Poverty elimination lies at the core of the integral spiritual impulse. It is impossible to consider yourself truly “spiritual” without caring about the poor, without opening your heart to suffering in all its forms.  It’s important to remember that spirituality is more than a 1st-person experience—in order for our lives to be fully lived, we must allow our hearts to break open to the full suffering we are surrounded by, recognizing the basic human dignity reflected in every person’s eyes.  But it’s not enough to just feel it in the 1st person, or to open ourselves to love in the 2nd person—we must also act in the 3rd person, directly engaging the political, technological, and economic systems that continue to lock so many people into perpetual poverty, supporting the world with our wallets as much as we do our hearts.

The Extraordinary Commonplace

by Bo Bartlett

As you may already know, art, creativity, and aesthetics have always been an essential part of an integrally-lived life. In fact, the very existence of a genuinely transformative Integral Art scene is one of the greatest indicators that we are indeed part of a bonafide cultural movement, as we have often looked to our greatest artists to scout out the unfamiliar territory ahead of us—blazing new paths through the wilderness of consciousness, while bringing the sounds and visions of a newly discovered world back for the rest of us.

This month we are proud to feature the art of Bo Bartlett, in a stunning collection of paintings that depict a seamless integration of realism and surrealism, which Michael Schwartz describes as “visible familiarity and everydayness; integrated with strange and mysterious elusiveness: elements of an uncanny and wondrous art…” As you take in the visual splendor of Bo’s art, be sure to check out Michael’s accompanying commentary The Mysterious Abundance of the Everyday.

One of the extraordinary things about these Integral Life Art Galleries is that you can choose your own level of engagement, and can go as deeply into them as you want to go. Ken Wilber often talks about the three modes of knowing symbolized by the “eye of flesh,” the “eye of mind,” and the “eye of spirit”:

  • You can have a simple sensory experience of the shapes, colors, and composition of the actual artwork, just noticing the beauty and feeling how it lands in your body.
  • You can also use the intellectual treatments provided by Michael Schwartz to deepen your overall aesthetic experience, learning some of the most important perspectives you can bring to any work of art.
  • And you can use the magnificent beauty these artists offer as a spiritual practice, a doorway to your own timeless self, immersed in effortless appreciation of everything in this universe—as sometimes it takes something exceptionally beautiful for us to see that everything is beautiful, exactly as it is.

All three of these experiences are available to you, and we invite you to take in as much as you possibly can!

Art, Consciousness, and God: The “I” of Beauty

with Ken Wilber and Elle Nicolai

Do you know what Integral Art is? Would you be able to recognize it if you saw it? Does a piece of art need to have some intrinsic spiritual component in order to be considered integral? And since the word “integral” is often synonymous with phrases like “a theory of everything,” wouldn’t that require each piece of integral art to cover all possible bases—including all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types in the artwork itself?

In this interview Ken shines some light on these important questions, offering a simple coherent definition of Integral Art while explaining how it both includes and sets itself apart from every other artistic movement in history. If you are new to the integral aesthetic experience and are looking for a basic introduction to the major forms and functions of Integral Art, you will not want to miss this talk…!

Take a Moment

Perspectives on Beauty: Of course, there is much more to the Integral Art experience than just sitting back and taking it all in. We are more than just idle consumers of art—we are also the enactors of art, co-conspirators in Beauty’s unveiling. Our interpretations of beauty are therefore at least as important as our actual perceptions of beauty, and certainly indivisible from the whole of our experience. As such, we want to give you the tools needed to help you more deeply perceive and interpret the beauty that surrounds you.

Take a few moments to check out Michael Schwartz’s exquisite exploration Looking at the Overlooked as he guides us through some key perspectives to help deepen our experience of art, beauty, and the creative impulse.

Image: Griffin by Mark T. Smith

3 Easy Steps to Transform Your New Year’s Resolution

The way you set your intentions at this time is critical. In the past, even your best and strongest of intentions have faltered in the face life’s obstacles. This quick 3-step technique will transform your resolution into a powerful tool for growth and clarity in the new year. Your friends will soon ask you how that resolution is going, expecting the same old answer. Instead, you will say, “It’s changing my life!”