Integral Life Practice is the practice of Integral Theory in real life, as the name implies. For thousands of years human beings have engaged in practices to transform and balance their lives. In this paper I will do an Integral analysis of my ILP during this quarter. The ILP-I model offers a framework for thorough processing of the enactment and feedback, which consist of the four quadrant perspectives, single-, double- and triple-loops as well as visioning, designing, practicing and assessing. I have collected data concentrated on my vision for this quarter of the qualities based on a rating scale. The intention of all this is to find and recognize shadow projections and resistance leading to further insights, learnings, and awareness. Besides taking a look at the theoretical aspects of ILP-I this paper is mostly a description of personal transformation, transcending and including various aspects of human life.
Keywords: ILP, integral, body, mind, spirit, shadow
Integral Life Practice 2011 – Final Research Assignment
Why practice? What is the driving force in all of us that makes us want to develop as human beings? What drives the desire for reaching higher and higher in the realms of body, mind, soul and spirit? Inspiration (in-spire = breath in the spirit) is the first thing that initiates the cascade of practicing, the yearn to grow, to become all that we can be, to reach our full human potentials. Of course this isn’t the case in every human beings, but especially with those who have “reached” the magic point of leap called second tier, have the innate drive to function as fully as possible. “Sometimes the choice to practice comes after you’ve been touched, opened, shaken, or maybe even awakened by something or someone profoundly true” (Wilber, Patten, Leonard & Morelli, 2008, p.3). The things we do in our lives can be thought as practices even though many of us wouldn’t; that’s why the word practice perhaps needs a little explanation. The connotation of the word leads to usually some kind of sports or other type of training, where practice is obvious. But in fact in every areas of life there are things to be practiced. Would you consider a magical ritual of an ancient shaman a practice? Well, it certainly is one and it is representational of the wide meaning of practice. We can practice every aspects of our precious lives and that’s what Integral Life Practice (ILP) is all about. It is “…a way of organizing the many practices handed down though the centuries – along with those developed at the cutting edge of psychology, consciousness studies, and other leading fields – using a framework optimized for life in the 21st century” (Wilber, p.1).
Because we are all unique beings, unique souls arising in the same Kosmos, all of us enact our lives in personal ways. But what connects us all in the great web of life is the universal love, the driving force that is behind all life forms on Earth and beyond. The reasons for engaging an ILP are thus universally the same, but varying from individual to individual. One might want to work with crisis or suffering, wanting to become a better person, desiring to live according to one’s highest ideals or loving and caring for others more fully. Whatever the reason, there is always a perfect moment to start an ILP.
Designing my present ILP began with a closed-eye experience (CEE) through a guided meditation that settled the quality and vision for this course. What popped out for me was a quality that I’ve clearly been avoiding, but which I knew had to happen sooner or later. “Self-loving” was what came out so clear that it was like I’d been on a dream all of my life so far ignoring the fact that if I cannot truly love my Self (non-narcissist) there is no way I can unconditionally love anyone else. After the CEE, my vision took this form:
“I am following my heart’s will and desire, my deepest love into life. I am taking life as it arises every moment and I am off from the attachments to fleeting sensations and feelings. I am already perfect the way I am and I respect myself deeply because of it! I am fulfilling my driving Eros of helping people and that way I also help myself. In the mornings I feel blessed and thankful of the arising day and every single day is a unique possibility for love to shine. The various parts of my life are in balance, especially close relationships, financial issues and work life. I love my life!”
AQAL in ILP design
I am literally a “developmentalist”, which means that my desire to develop will probably never saturate. As I’ve mentioned to quite a few people, my life has been intuitively Integral for quite a long time and ILP has been name of the game even before there was an ILP in my consciousness. I try to develop evenly in many lines and on the basis of the tests from 2nd quarter (LIMA, LSUA, LRJA etc.), I have been introduced to areas that clearly need development in my life. So, what I’ve been trying to build my ILP design on is on the basis of what I’ve already been doing with more “self-loving” and respecting and with more compassion and understanding for my significant others. I have also been neglecting some basic needs based on Maslow’s hierarchy and my financial/house-holding statuses are not really optimal. My ILP design is about finding a balance with full self-respect and love as well as developing my inter-personal skills. The design also supports my state-stage growth and I am really happy for the Spirit module structure that it has been developing during the past two years. So, the most important issues for me in an AQAL sense are located in the LL quadrant, in the inter-personal line and overall self-identity development through psychological practice and understanding.
“Resistance hurts. When we suffer, what we suffer most is our way of relating to our experience, rather than the experience itself” (Wilber et. al, 2008, p.356). This is a realization that is often very hard to accept and sometimes even understand. Often the suffering causing experience isn’t that hard or bad, it’s our way of coping or relating into the situation that is hard. I know this personally very well and so do others. Then what might be the solution here? It’s awareness! Central to our practice is noticing resistance and relaxing into the, moment letting it be. As Eckhart Tolle says: “What already is, is the case. It couldn’t be otherwise.” Which of course means that we are resisting something that already has happened, something that already IS. Resisting something that is, is really non-sense. But still we do it. “Meeting the experience of resistance with genuine curiosity often yields insight into the futility of resisting” (p.357). It’s like making the awareness stronger and stronger every time the resistance shows up. Another way is to be the resistance, letting it take you over and resist the resistance itself. That, of course, leads into another direction. Painful experiences are not the only ones we resist, it is also the case with growth, practice and newly arising awareness. Change creates resistance. That’s why it is so easy to surf on the wave of the ordinary. Two of the most typical responses to resistance are to force our way through it (the masculine tendency) or to go with whatever feelings are present (the feminine tendency). For myself, the various forms of resistance are offering an opportunity for shadow work, for greater knowledge and forgiveness; especially forgiveness for myself, which supports my quality of self-loving. Why is it that often the most difficult thing is to forgive our selves?
Equilibrium, such a beautiful concept but still rarely ever we are in equilibrium or balance. Any system will try to restore its previous balance. It’s the same thing with our body weight, with our current self-identity in structure-stage or with our spiritual state-stage. We have both “bad days” and “good days”, in every aspects of our life; so are there in ILP. Wilber et. al. recognize a few things why practicing on BOTH of the days is important: “Practicing on good days boosts your peak experiences. Practicing on bad days transforms your lows and brings up your overall level of functioning. Practicing patiently at the plateau plants the seeds of your next breakthrough” (p.361). Well, how do I cope then with this? Sometimes I don’t and the resistance takes me over. But more often when I notice unhappy life patterns, I go back into my intention to practice and honor it.
Analysis & Discussion
My ILP design consisted of two parts: two weeks on a meditation retreat in Armenia and four weeks in Finland. Those were structured basically around my current practice at the time with some twists, but still differed from each other especially between physical and spiritual modules. The retreat was naturally more spiritually oriented and now in the normal working life I had more stable physical module. My vision and quality were still the same through the whole six weeks from July 15th to August 28th. Actually I had quality rating data from 58 days so that was nearly two months. The ILP began two weeks later than deciding quality and vision for it. I will systematically go through different parts of the design and practice with intentions, multiple perspectives and the collected data.
Intention to practice
While making the design through the dynamics of the ILP-I, intention for each of the core modules (body/physical, mind/mental, spirit/spiritual, emotional/shadow) and the auxiliary modules (work, money, house holding, social) was also set with a commitment statement. Intention was also a flexible part of the ILP design, but I didn’t feel the need to change any of the intentions. I will list all of the modules here below:
Physical module intention. “To maintain a healthy, natural and functional body as well as gaining strength, mobility, flexibility and stamina.” Health of the body has been always a top priority for me, so adjusting an intention for this module was fairly easy. I noticed that I frontloaded this module quite a bit, which was also the feedback I got from the instructor. So I managed to set a compromise for the practices I was engaged in and actually dropped one off and merged two practices into one. Maintaining health is also a realization that overdoing is unhealthy; this has been a shadow issue for me, but accepting that less is more and when performed with intention, awareness and presence greater results can be achieved in less time.
Mental module intention. “Accepting that I already know a lot and that my mind might sometimes get a little overloaded. Intention is to find balance and find new ways to practice my mind.” Well, here we go! My mind tends to function really fast cognitively and I might read a book a day, if I find it interesting. At other times a great resistance might show up and a book that I could read in a day I find that I skim it through and don’t read it at all (this is what happened with the self-selected reading). I find a little bit of contradiction between my active mind and a sleep practice that I set out for the physical module. My mind tends to be really active when I should go to sleep and I tried to balance that by setting up a practice where I’d go to sleep at 11PM. That didn’t work out quite well and I eventually removed the practice. I enjoy being active in the evenings and at those times I am often most creative.
Emotional module intention. “To find a balance, which is, even more grounded. Sometimes I tend to identify with my emotions but making them as objects could be helpful.” I am very emotional and my feminine type tendency to “be” my emotions is at times overwhelming. According to Clare Graves women most often see themselves through their relationships and men through their doing. Balancing this polarity between masculine and feminine types is a challenge, but I take it as the core for the emotional module via the intention.
Spiritual module intention. “Realizing that there is no fear, ultimately there is no death. Evolving as a spiritual being and living in joy.” I find it odd saying that spirituality and spiritual module is probably at this time my strongest part of ILP. The practices are rock solid and our sangha is amazing. I just feel really blessed and living according to this intention is easy. No adjustments here, just practice, practice and Love.
Work-money-social-house module intention. “I am stabilizing the balance on my Lower Right quadrant with financial, work and household practices.” This area and intention is what I really need to focus on. My financial status is not what I want at the moment and house holding also needs attention. I gave a lot of effort on these, but the money doesn’t grow in trees. The direction is good and I find that taking this module also into my ILP has been of greatest value. In work-life things are really flowing and that is also one thing that will balance my finances soon.
Commitment statement. “I am committed to my ILP practice daily with awareness, mindfulness and joy for a period of at least four weeks beginning August 1st and ending August 27th, 2011 (and continuing longer with this or a renewed design). I am living according to my vision and rating my daily experience of engaging my quality. I am committed to reviewing my ILP weekly and taking corrective actions if needed.” As my ILP design consisted of two parts, this commitment statement was pretty much the same as for the first two weeks, but since I could engage my practice here on a familiar ground with the normal daily routines, I only discuss this on here. The percentage that I was committed to my ILP was on average 87 (ranging from 73 to 92,5). I did not achieve a 100% commitment to my ILP, which makes me think that I should probably change some modules and/or adjust the number or practices per week.
Multiple Perspectives & Quality Data
1st person perspective (Upper Left). I will skim through some of the feelings of my interior that I experienced during this quarter. One of the most important parts are the letter to practice and weekly inquiry papers. Here are some highlights of those and reflections of my inner peace/disorder whenever those arose. First, here is my letter to practice (Zone1) and an exterior (Zone2) perspective of it:
I am writing you a letter since we’ve come a long way already but our relationship is in constant change; or actually maybe it isn’t that much, what do you think? We have stabilized a good connection with each other but sometimes it seems that you are too strict and demanding for me especially on the physical plane. This has lead my body (and mind) into exhaustion at times, but what is positive about it is the way I’ve learned to listen to my body and not just trying to achieve everything and be over-committed to my plans. I’ve ignored you in some sense that my development hasn’t been equal between your brilliant modules. At times my spiritual path has been “on hold” and there hasn’t been enough time for meditation and contemplation. I’ve felt guilty because of that but with your new structures plan for me I flee comfortable and what is more important, not overwhelmed!
You have been there with me all these years trying to awake me from the dream, from the egoistic realms that everything is surface and that there is no depth into life. Luckily you somehow managed to introduce me to Eckhart Tolle and his writings, which has been the turning point in my life. Thanks for opening my eyes into Life with the big L. Being full of it; I am also now very open to Love in every possible sense. And the true challenge and journey for me is to learn to love my Self unconditionally without restrictions and demands. Thus my quality and vision with you is self-loving. I know you will support me on this!
We are going to have a beautiful time together from now on and what is even more important is your capacity for change, the tilt of Eros that is driving all of us forward. May the rest of our lives be tied together in peace and harmony.
“I feel like this is a letter from my soul child, the Ennea-type Six (I am a Three) and a recognition for the awakening that happened 4-5 years ago. This is an encouragement for the continuum of my direction of integration, translation and transformation. I’ve learned that we have many parts in our psyche and soul and that the more we integrate, the more of our Essence is being recognized the more we are in contact with the Being, the fuller and comprehensive our lives can truly be! I know I am on the right path even though there are times of doubt, fleeting but still arising from time to time.” I remember doing the quadrant-orientation test in the first quarter of our studies and I was clearly Upper Left oriented, which probably shows also in my posts and writings. Here are some glimpses of my inquiry journal during the course, which give a great view of my “inner life”:
- “I am more in tune with my quality and vision. I am experiencing deep moments of unconditioned self-love.” (wk 4)
- “Still strengthening the quality of self-loving. I can really feel the effect of that and the wonderful thing is that I feel love for others more “powerfully” because of this act for myself.” (wk 6)
- “Do it when you can and feel like it”. (wk 7) -> freedom for practice showing up, but also a shadow element and resistance to practice
- “My emotions and feelings are more balanced than in a long time”. (wk 9)
I guess this week nine quote pretty much sums it all! I notice still some shadow elements showing up especially in close relationships, but I would say that I am behind the wheels.
2nd person perspective (Lower Left). In addition to first person feedback, in this quadrant I feel like having really great support from my peers as well as from the instructor. Our small group has been really great and functioning and I hope that we will keep in touch after the quarter. Here is a little progression of the 2nd person feedback throughout the quarter:
- “Discussing this about my peers as well as people close to me has been really important. I take their feedback very “seriously” and as a gift.” (wk 4)
- “Others seem to notice that too and I’ve actually been a magnet for other people, which mean that people I haven’t met for weeks are contacting me.” (wk 6)
- ”I feel closer to my friends, who share that notion too.” (wk9)
I find the instructor’s feedback also very supportive, challenging and even transforming; this clearly shows the meaning of professional and personal experience. Quote: “Sounds like you are on track… wonderful shifts! And while your ILP might not be 100% you seem to be fully engaging the ILP-I and recognizing how you need to shift to be even more aligned.” (wk6) This made me realize that I don’t really HAVE TO engage my ILP 100%, but what’s more important is the constant flexibility through the ILP-I, which is really freedom for practice. What I also find very close to my heart and actually what is my Soul’s purpose (an inspiration and a role model) is the feedback I got from many of my peers. Here is one from Justin: “Once again, your development is inspirational as it comes through here. I find a lot of positive perspectives in what I see you seeing in the world.” I also feel that one of my missions in this world has been manifesting when my own example can also transform others. Justin continues: “I also appreciate what the ILP has brought up for me to deal with in my shadow, though I clearly haven’t gotten over it as much as you have. I intend to follow in your footsteps in the regard, though!” (wk9).
3rd person perspective (Upper Right). Objective data is, as a scientist, one of my favorite parts of this assessment. I have collected data of the quality manifesting day-to-day for 58 days with three measuring points of each day (morning, afternoon, evening). I have counted averages for each time of the day and made some histograms/plots of the data (see figures and data in Appendix II at the end of this paper). This gives an objective feedback for my ILP and perhaps how I should schedule my practices and how to balance my inner sense of well being, which is in very close contact with the quality (self-loving). I made changes to my ILP two times for the last 4-week part of the ILP. My ILP design had two parts, first for the two weeks in a meditation retreat in Armenia and the last 4 weeks here in Finland. The two changes I made were due to following reasons: I had to give up on bicycling, because my vehicle broke down. I also downshifted my running/walking practices. Also, sleep practice did not work out, so I dropped it completely. Another major change was putting the psychotherapy on hold, which was mostly due to the reason that we (psychotherapist and I) did not think that I would have any advantage of it at this time and another was the great financial cost of it. Otherwise the design has been stable.
The total average quality of my rating data was 7.61 (from 1 to 9). For morning the average was 7.09, for afternoon 7.62 and for evening 8.14. From this we can deduce that the manifestation of my quality is at its highest in the evening. And also that, as I have previously known, my activity level tends to rise throughout the day and my sense of well-being is also on it’s lowest often in the mornings. This I find for the most parts being “genetic”, since based on the observations of my family (parents, brother, other relatives) they tend to show up in a similar fashion. This could also be due to a reason of not sleeping enough to feel completely refreshed in the morning. But, I have also noticed that even when sleeping enough the rating would be the same (e.g. retreat in Armenia). According to one study, only 10% of the people are naturally “morning people”, but this tends to change when we are growing older. Another study shows that while morning people are more effective in their career, “evening people” are more intelligent, creative, extrovert and happier. Of course we cannot draw any conclusions based on a single study, but subjectively this makes a lot of sense.
On the basis of this data I feel like I would benefit from a short practice in the mornings. Now I usually have the routines, but there aren’t any commitments to any practice after I wake up. I usually engage with a short affirmation and inquiry of the night/dream and do some breathing, but I wouldn’t consider this a practice since it has been a routine for ages. I used to have a morning asthanga yoga practice a few years ago, but that has faded away from my practices eventually.
3rd person plural perspective (Lower Right). For some reason having feedback and using it in this quadrant is often the hardest for me. I am really not keen into systems theory, which I see a point for development in the future. The structure of my ILP changed a bit from what it had been previously. This was mostly due to adding the financial-social-work-money module and engaging with practices that helped me to balance my Lower Right quadrant. The structure of this class was really supportive and it made me do the inquiry that I certainly wouldn’t have done without having the strict assignments and deadlines. So in that sense I find it an essential part of the feedback-loop system. Here is what I wrote in week 10 of the LR perspective on my ILP: “The Developmental Action Inquiry (DAI) is in my opinion a wonderful way of looking at one’s own practice from the quadrant perspectives, but sometimes it is hard to really find an inter-objective one (I mean, this has been really hard when filling out the inquiries at the end of the week; but now I realize that it is just that! Filling out the inquiry, checking out my data, seeing how the structure is changing and the structures around me in others…).” So there was a major realization of the quadrant in action! Here is a highlight of a LR feedback from my inquiry paper week5: “The surroundings that I have been in have supported me in a very special way. I am in contact with the nature more fully and that really shows in my practice too. So cool!” I think that with DAI and ILP-I my understanding of the importance of this quadrant has deeply opened and I will use the data from it more carefully in the future.
Before attending the Integral Life Practice class I had a previous and ongoing ILP, which was really not that structured. I did not keep any data except physical training log; the design was in my head and I made changes to it whenever feeling like it. So in a sense, I’ve done some silent and unconscious inquiry of my ongoing ILP, but this course elevated it into a whole new level. The collected data from different perspectives (quadrants) indicates that my vision and quality have been manifesting beautifully with some major shifts and transformations in my life. The most dramatic change that I experienced was after the meditation retreat, which freed myself from a destructive relationship and was actually one of the key elements for my quality of self-loving. From another perspective I found out that my physical practices were probably too intensive and too frequent. And from another angle, my balance in the work-house-money-social area was clearly downgraded. I feel fairly comfortable with my mind and emotional practices, thus no dramatic shifts there. The collected quality rating data indicates that my energy levels and self-appreciation/loving tends to increase towards evening/night (note: while writing this conclusion it is midnight and I feel energetic). This process has taught me the importance of the three loops and how constant evaluation and inquiry can keep the ILP flexible, which is at best transformative and at least translational.
An optimal ILP for me in the future is a mixture of what I have experimented with this quarter and which kind of new approaches into life are emerging (this has to do a little with my huge progress in work-life as a specialist in medical nutrition and exercise; things are really rocketing sky high!). From a general point of view, ILP is clearly the best transformative practice available and I will go on recommending it to people who are receptive for it. They don’t need to be Integral or even Green; I think some people at the rational world-view can also benefit from structured body-mind-shadow-spirit work, the spiritual module although often has to be framed into something non-conventional. As Shawn Philips named his brilliant book on exercising the body-mind-spirit FIT For Life, I will say “ILP for Life”, with Love.
Appendix I: Quality-rating scale
1. Feeling self-contraction, hatred and emptiness. Not open to self-love and love from other people.
2. Feeling quite angry towards myself, wondering why I am the way I am. Contraction is still the dominant mode of being.
3. Feeling at times sad, worthless but with glimpses of self-love. These moments keep me going towards something better.
4. The moments of clarity and self-acceptance arise from time to time. Going towards the realization that self-loving is truly possible.
5. Starting to realize that with self-love others will also love me “more”. Starting to get there and understand the beauty of my unique self.
6. Contractions are less permeable, loving moments that arise from self-loving are becoming more regular. There is truly hope!
7. More self-embrace and loving. Having the trust that I am loved just the way I am because I am able for it too.
8. Feeling more joy in myself, love arises nearly every moment, accepting love from other people as genuine; there are no conditions for experiencing the love.
9. Feeling the uttermost appreciation towards life, my true Self and having the sense of being loved unconditionally and being one with the world. All separateness has vanished and there are no contractions.
Appendix II: Quality data figures and statistics
Golin, CL. (2008). Integral Life Practice Inquiry: And Integral Research Approach to Personal Development. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 2008, Vol3.
Golin, CL. (n.d.). Pièce de Résistance. An Integral Approach to Engaging Resistance.
Wilber, K. (2006). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Shambhala.
Wilber, K.; Patten, T.; Leonard, A. & Morelli, M. (2008). Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity and Spiritual Awakening. Shambhala.