Terry's Blog

The Integral Case for President Obama

Originally posted on Integral Life, September 7, 2012

'Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.'

 — Plato

First Things First

It goes without saying that I speak here for myself, and not for Integral Life or the “integral movement” as a whole. But at the same time, I’m making a call for our movement—for YOU—to take action in specific ways, and I recognize that this may be objectionable to some who disagree with my views. I fully respect that (as you’ll see below), and I’m also grateful to Integral Life for be willing to hold the space for a truly meaningful and timely dialog to take shape around a set of political issues—and an election—that will affect us all as global citizens. As integral practitioners, I believe we are called to engage and debate and even take sides—even as we practice a meta-level integral embrace—and so I welcome a vigorous, co-creative, and respectful exchange. But at the same time, I hope to call you to action—one way or the other—and so I also urge you not to let this exchange stop at the level of theory or perspectives, but to actually get engaged!

Like you, most likely, mainstream American political discourse doesn’t speak to my sensibilities—and I’m fervently committed to raising the level of our public dialog.  That’s precisely why, even though I'd rather engage a trans-partisan politics, I recognize that the path to evolving consciousness and culture today is by leaning in as a "partisan”.

I’ve created IntegralObama.com to offer integral evolutionaries an opportunity to support the re-election of President Obama by speaking with a single voice. Why Obama, again? And why should we, as “integral evolutionaries,” pool our support? Read more »

Integral ShamWow! or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love (or at least Tolerate) the Hype [VIDEO]

Written by myself and Marco Morelli
Originally posted on Integral Revolution, April 13, 2012.

We’ve long been considering the role of marketing in the integral movement. The images, stories, values, and ideologies communicated by marketing are ubiquitous and affect us on multiple levels — some of which we’re not even aware of. As postmoderns, we’ve learned to be skeptical of all marketing and marketers. We’re reflexively suspicious, and guarded. Yet at the same time, we delight in some forms of over-the-top advertising, like Super Bowl commercials. We admire cultural wizards like Steve Jobs and the mystique he created around his products — even though we know that behind the scenes, for instance in his interpersonal brutality, and in the working conditions in the factories of some Apple suppliers, things have not always been so shiny and cool. Read more »

Occupy Integral

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Written by myself and Marco Morelli
Originally posted on Beams & Struts, February 20, 2012.

We post this manifesto in what feels like a moment of calm before the storm. It is March 2012, just a few weeks into a year rich with social, political, and spiritual significance. In the US, of course, it's an election year, with all the media-induced madness this will spawn. According to the Chinese calendar, it's the Year of the Dragon, a symbol of dynamism and power. In the ancient Mayan calendar... well, we know about that.

The sense of calm is perhaps due to it being winter in the Northern hemisphere. But more so, it seems to be the quiescence or exhaustion following a complicated year. From revolutions in the Middle East to the Occupy protests in the US and globally, there is an upheaval brewing... and spilling over. Read more »

It’s Electric! Welcome to Integral "Scenius"

Crossposted from Integral Life

"Scenius": A word coined by musician Brian Eno to describe "the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of genius."

Research is teaching us that the most important creative new ideas come not from remarkable individuals but from the interactions of highly creative and collaborative communities.

The history of art and science is all about episodes of scenius: America's founding fathers; Paris in the 20s; the Algonquin Round Table, the SF Beats, the ever-expanding Silicon Valley, Building 20 at MIT, etc. etc. Read more »

3 Ways to Practice With the Daily News

The news so far during 2011 has been particularly electrifying: Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the whole Middle East.  Budget crises worldwide, and in the USA, bitter battles including dramatic moves to rewrite the social contract. Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. The brutal civil war and international intervention in Libya. And there will be more electrifying and heartbreaking news soon, undoubtedly.

It stirs our hearts and our fears, distracts us, fascinates us, and confuses us. There are several ways to practice with this kind of news, and I want to share three perspectives about how we can work with it as a practice.

Practice #1: Relax, Feel It Completely and Let It Go

Evolutionary Activism — A Bodhidharma Strategy

At the Integral Theory Conference a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Integral Politics. During the discussion, I found myself outlining a 3-part strategy for evolutionary activism—using the metaphor of Bodhidharma, the bushy-eyebrowed sage who is said to have brought Buddhism to China from India and to have founded Chinese martial arts at the Shaolin Temple.

The question I was addressing was: How can conscious citizens effectively help bring about a positive future in the face of our current crises and stuckness? Do we have a workable strategy?

According to ancient legends, certain Emperors of China ruled wisely and well, guided by the advice of great sages—including Lao Tzu, Confucius, and perhaps also Bodhidharma. Such stories suggest a broad approach that evolutionaries can adopt:

  1. Become Bodhidharma.
  2. Help create enlightened sustainable solutions— ‘spare parts’ for 4-quadrant systems redesign.
  3. Gain the ear of the Emperor.

Okay, let’s unpack that a little. First, some meta-context:

The Integral “Killer App” Challenge

Why the “Killer App”?

What made computers indispensable?

  • The first database programs, plus word processing and accounting software.

What first made the Internet a necessity instead of a curiosity?

  • Email, singlehandedly. 

Why did cell phones become nearly ubiquitous so quickly, despite concerns about their health impacts?

  • Mobile connectivity, plus the magic of texting, made cellphones an essential tool for postmodern lifestyles.

Why do we salivate over the iPhone, and now the iPad?

  • Because the sleek tool lets us use thousands of amazingly cool, intuitive apps.

We undertake the ordeal of upgrading our operating systems only in order to access new applications. A “killer app” legitimizes any innovative approach, making the expense and hassle of an upgrade worthwhile. Read more »

A rich discussion about spiritual teachers

For several years, something that's been "up" for me has been the evolution of practice: the actual emergence of new dynamics ("life conditions") and capacities relating to the process of growing to higher levels of consciousness.  Read more »

On Outrageous Teaching and Charges of Enabling Abuse

One of Andrew Cohen’s critics recently attacked me in a blog post. Detailing a few of the most inflammatory stories about Cohen, a group of teachers (including me, Ken Wilber and others) were accused of “enabling abuse” because we have dialoged and cooperated with Andrew, his students and his publications. None of us responded publicly to the attack. I chose not to because in the echo chamber of the blogosphere there is no way to respond thoughtfully and at length to irresponsible negativity without raising it to an implicitly equal status, and thereby validating and empowering it. Read more »

A News Flash We Can't Ignore

Yesterday’s political news couldn’t have been more important. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a dramatic departure from established law, struck down regulations limiting corporate spending on political advertising, including much of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

This ruling is of enormous significance to Integralists and Evolutionaries, because it is about a meta-systemic realignment of the very political mechanisms through which citizens’ choices can shape public decisions.

An Integral Analysis of Money Politics & Media

Americans live in a virtual sea of advertising and public relations messages that are structured (scientifically reverse-engineered, in fact) to influence us outside our conscious awareness. Subliminally, these communications have enormous influence over our buying decisions, attitudes, and votes, even though we think we’re aware of them and are disregarding their influence. This applies equally to commercial and political messages. They influence people up and down the evolutionary scale, but are particularly compelling at earlier levels of development. And ads cost money. Read more »

Finding Your "Yes"

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I'm writing this in the spacious stillness of Thanksgiving weekend. My life has been moving at high speed, but over this holiday break an opening appeared. The phone barely rang, and a sense of deep peace naturally blossomed. My heart has been overflowing with spontaneous gratitude (or as Brother David Steindl-Rast so beautifully puts it, "great-full-ness".)

I'm grateful for many things—family and friends, my spiritual friends and communities, some inspiring creative projects, amazing partners, and my growing, vibrant communities of integral evolutionary spirituality and service. I'm especially grateful for the opportunity to serve humankind, and our current intensifying wild ride through what is certainly a kind of evolutionary whitewater rafting.

Optimism vs. Pessimism About Humanity's Prospects Read more »

The Finance Lab

I'm honored to have been asked to join the faculty of The Finance Lab, an innovative collaborative action-oriented thinking project dedicated to envisioning redesign principles through which the world financial system can become a force for sustainable human civilization. The Finance Lab is a joint venture of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, The World Wildlife Fund, and REOS, an international consulting firm. It convenes a diverse team of individuals and institutions from business and finance, government and civil society to initiate and incubate several experiments and prototypes that will practically demonstrate aspects of a financial system that truly serves business, society and the planet. 

The first phase of The Finance Lab was held in July 2009 and brought over 200 people together to explore possible future scenarios for finance. These workshops were held in conjunction with the Scenario Planning and Futures Research Group, part of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford's Said Business School. 

The second phase of the Finance Lab is the Open Innovation Lab process, which uses Otto Scharmer's U process in a series of facilitated workshops, stakeholder engagements and design sessions.  It culminates in an event where the Lab's work will be shared with a wider audience. Read more »

Renaissance2—The Great Shift, Oct. 2009

My last blog entry was written as Deborah and I prepared to fly to France so I could MC the 5 day Renaissance2 Great Shift Gathering in Perpignan.

I asked a lot of questions in my last post about the efficacy of such an endeavor. And my report is, I'm happy to say, essentially positive. The key principles I enumerated were very present during the gathering. And although there were certainly a range of vMemes interacting, the emphasis on creating tangible projects with business models remains a deep consideration of all involved. And I still have real hopes for what Renaissance2 can spawn in the weeks, months and years ahead. Read more »

Two Interesting New Books

I want to let you know about an important new book, by a longtime close friend. It's about effective, research-proven ways to light up the circuits in your brain that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more inner peace.

Buddha's BrainIt's called Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love,and Wisdom. It's written by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.—a neuropsychologist and meditation teacher. (Go to www.rickhanson.net/writings/buddhas-brain for moreinformation. You can order it from Amazon here.)

Rick ably unpacks key, un-obvious implications of brain research to help us more skillfully surf the waves of moment-to-moment mental experience. This beautifully written, easy-to-read book gracefully conveys a series of epiphanies that can enable us to achieve self-compassion, balance and happiness.

Combining the latest neuroscience with the deep Buddhist understanding of the mind, Read more »

In Memoriam: Adi Da Samraj — 1939-2008

My root-guru, Adi Da Samraj, passed a year ago this Thanksgiving in Fiji. He was 69. I was a devotee of this great God-realizer from the age of 22 until I was 37. He not only profoundly transformed my life and consciousness, but, I think, helped transform the entirety of contemporary Western spirituality, even though he is not nearly as widely known as he is influential.

On this anniversary of his passing, I remember him with gratitude, and look back in amazement at his legacy. Please know, words fail here. To speak about Adi Da is to nominate oneself as one of the blind men reporting on the elephant. Adi Da was one part Jesus Christ, one part Picasso, one part Nagarjuna, one part Marlon Brando, and one part Genghis Khan. And more... Read more »

Integral Heart Newsletter #1: Exploring Big Questions in the Integral World

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This, the first in my series of monthly newsletters, is written as an open letter from The Crossings, a retreat center near Austin, where the Integral Leadership in Action (ILiA) conference has just concluded.

Tomorrow my wife Deborah and I set out for Perpignan, France, where I've been asked to serve as the Master of Ceremonies at Renaissance2: The Great Shift Gathering, a "network of world-changing networks" that aims to catalyze a whole series of high-impact practical projects in the fields of renewable energy, enlightened enterprise, integral governance, and resilient environments.

"Integral" — What's in a word?

Assumptions about Organizational Hierarchies 

The word "integral" evolved etymologically from the Latin root "tangere." This same root is also the source of words like "tactile," "tangible" and "tangent." It means "touch."  The first syllable of the word Integral, "in" is a negation. So, etymologically, "Integral" at its root then, means "that which is untouched."

Something can be untouched only if there's nothing else to touch it. That which includes everything (so that there is nothing "else") is that which is untouched. Thus, Integral means radical inclusivity. This is the essence of Integral - wholeness.

As used commonly, though, this word Integral appears has two aspects. 

One aspect can be seen in related words like "integrated" or "integrating." We use these words to describe what happens when some individual or group, some aspect, element, or idea, which has previously been excluded, is now included in a greater wholeness, and everything shifts, and all the parts then have a new and right relationship to each other.  There is integration. It's about parts coming together rightly and making a more perfect whole. They connote something like "including all the parts and rightly relating them to each other." Read more »

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (4)

How can we help those who are demonstrating and dying on the streets?

I think that what we are already doing — paying rapt attention — is the most powerful thing Americans can do to empower Iran’s popular uprising. If the USA is preceived to be attempting to interfere, we empower repression. If we become a factor in the process, we muddy the waters. But if we simply pay attention, with open hearts and minds, and if we let ourselves be affected by what we see, and if we speak publicly about our human and moral perceptions, in public forums that Iranians can access, we help. It will be obvious that we are paying attention, that we are emotionally involved in witnessing their cultural confrontation, that we are moved and inspired by their courage, dignity, and restraint, that we are learning from their examples.

Mutual awareness involves taking new perspectives. That tends to serve growth into more nuanced structures of awareness. In this moment, the world’s simple witnessing awareness is making a subtle, but fundamental and benignly transformative difference. We are helping by sympathetically identifying with their symbolic martyr, Neda, her family, and her nation.

When the whole world is watching, heroes are seen, and thus empowered. (At least their sacrifice does not go unnoticed.) The world’s rapt attention makese a difference. The observed is changed by the presence of the observer. This intersubjective connection, this imperfect empathic urge unites us with Iranians in a larger “we-space.”

It is a subtle difference, and it doesn’t necessarily change behavior, except as new understandings naturally evoke new behavioral choices. But this simple shift might prove to be the "iota" of difference, the “straw” that tips the balance scales (which may tip only over months or years) in favor of reform and progress in Iran.

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (3)

Integral Perspectives on Iran's Cultural Divide

In Integral terms, the demonstrators can be distinguished from the regime’s supporters by cultural qualities relating to states, stages, and relationships to shadow.

High states are part of the ethos both of the demonstrators and of the regime’s true believers. Most of these high states are evoked by acts of self-transcendence, whether they be self-abnegation or self-sacrifice, whether they be gross physical acts or subtle emotional or mental acts.

Persians are poets and revolutionaries, a heartfelt, brooding, noble, and passionate people. Each year, on Ashura, faithful grassroots Shia men go into a trance and beat themselves bloody to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hosayn Ibn Ali, in memory of whom Shiism originally emerged. Sufi mystics go together into trances in which they dance and sing and enter into ecstatic communion with Allah. Ancient Persian poetry is full of ecstatic mystic language, expressing a rich and passionate love affair with God. Modern Persian poetry is full of ecstatic emotional language, expressing a rich and passionate love affair with life, and pain, and death.

The structure of Iranians’ values are still centered in traditional agreements about symbols, tones, morés and resonances. But their values also now include certain modern and postmodern values like common sense, respect for the dignity of others, thinking for oneself, and the curiosity to observe the modern world directly. Their values are not altogether modern; but they are not exclusively conformist.

Their eyes have noticed a myriad of details and evidence and colors and shades of grey that the regime is telling them aren’t there. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” Everyone “in their right mind” knows the regime has lied to them. Read more »

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (2)

The uprising is fragmented. Its unity only concerns outrage against the clumsiness of the vote fraud. Ali Laranjani’s public statement questioning the vote tally was very mild, and buried in a series of denunciations of foreign powers for their public statements condemning the Iranian government. In the moderately arch-conservative no-man’s-land between Mousavi and Khamenei are perhaps dozens of potential kingmakers, including Laranjani.

Americans should not be confused into thinking that anti-Americanism will go away after this uprising reshapes the regime. Iranians have grown up hearing stories of how the U.S. plotted and financed the Shah before the overthrow of Mosaddeq’s fledgling democratic government in 1954 (after he nationalized BP’s Iranian oil holdings), how the US supported the Shah even when he brutally suppressed and exploited his subjects, how the US winked, financed, and even sold ingredients for chemical weapons to Sadaam which he used to maim thousands of Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war, including thousands of wounded veterans who are visible heroes who can be seen throughout Iranian society.  

Mostly Iranians are fiercely proud of Iran. Nationalistic rhetoric resonates. This uprising is one enacted by nationalists against other nationalists. But it is not united and fueled by resentment of foreign imperialism.  Iranians’ common cause is their stand for their human dignity, their refusal to be bullied to give lip service to what they see as transparent electoral cheating. Will this prove strong enough to prevail? We’ll soon see. Read more »