INTEGRAL SPIRITUAL PRACTICE is a fresh way to live the timeless truths of the great wisdom traditions—one that fully engages the challenges of our fast-paced, evolving world.
The “spiritual marketplace” that has emerged over the last 50 years has produced a cornucopia of new ways to be “spiritual but not religious” (and many revitalized ways of being spiritual and religious). A great, multicultural experiment has unfolded and developed… yet it’s far from complete.
Our contemporary spiritual culture holds many inspiring breakthroughs, but it is also chaotic and fragmented; it can sometimes tend toward narcissism; and it often neglects many of the more “worldly” domains (e.g., science, technology, business, politics, economics) that are crucial to our evolving humanity.
We need a more inclusive, or integral, spiritual culture—one that accounts for the radical simplicity of awakening AND meets the mindblowing complexity, and the heartbreaking realities, of our lives and world.
An Evolving 21st Century Spiritual Culture
Many dedicated practitioners—from both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds—are awakening into a new maturity, intelligence, depth, wholeness, and purpose in their spiritual lives. An “integral” wave of spiritual practice is now uniting the eternal truths of the ancient traditions with the realization that evolution is happening right now—in and through us—and thus spirituality itself is evolving too.
It, and we, are headed somewhere. We can see the contours of an overarching Big Story and Purpose to it all. And yet, this story is not another metaphysical “grand narrative” handed down uncritically. Rather, Integral Spiritual Practice espouses an empirical set of ideas, based on both “hard” science and the hard-won insights of spiritual practitioners around the world. It is thus perfectly rational, and yet not limited to linear, materialistic rationality.
Integral Spiritual Practice seeks to foster a culture of open inquiry, dialogue, and accountability. It’s a new “skillful means” for devout (or irreverent) people of any faith (or no faith at all). It can be the basis for communities of practice of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and agnostics—or for communities of practice that include “all of the above.”
By providing an “orienting framework” (incorporating the work of Ken Wilber, along with the insights many other Integral thinkers, visionaries, and activists), it can be a bridge between sincere, intelligent people across sectarian divisions. It’s a clarifying context for anyone serious about growing… about cultivating more goodness, truth, and beauty… and for anyone serious about contributing to their world.
A Personalized Approach to Practice
Integral Spiritual Practice has an “open architecture,” inviting innovation and customization. Instead of dictating a rigid set of particular practices, it provides principles for designing an individualized set of practices that are tailored to your needs—and that can work in your busy life. It honors the existing practices you are already doing, while helping you notice what you might be leaving out.
Here are some of the principles of this approach:
- Integral Spiritual Practice engages our body, mind, spirit, emotions, soul, and heart.
- Integral Spiritual Practice is expressed not just in our solitude and self-cultivation but also in all our relationships, our work, our communities, and our multiple levels of citizenship (local, national, planetary).
- Integral Spiritual Practice helps us rise to all of life’s challenges—those of making fierce commitments and of letting go into what arises; of touching transcendental realities and of showing up fully in our everyday lives; of celebrating times of creativity and success, and embracing times of challenge and loss; and of meeting every unique moment and texture of our lives as an opportunity to be more open, deep, free, loving, aware, and present.
- Integral Spiritual Practice strives for the right balance between formal periods of practice and normal, unscripted life. It can be scaled down to fit in a busy schedule (for example, a quick 10-minute meditative “check-in”) or ramped up for periods of intensive retreat. Since this balance is always shifting, it seeks to cultivate a “sense of appropriateness”—pushing our edges and comfort zones, without fixation or desperate seeking.
- Integral Spiritual Practice is eminently practical, because it is in practicing that we cut through the limitations of human beliefs and attitudes, and contact That which transcends our minds and identities.
Finally, Integral Spiritual Practice itself is growing and evolving. It is always seeking new ways to go deeper, to be more efficient and effective, and to make a positive contribution to our common humanity. It intends to help us meet the massive environmental, social, and spiritual challenges we face as a species. And it is inspired by a vision of peaceful, thriving, diverse, global civilization, where all are free to awaken to their true selves and realize their highest aspirations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Integral Spiritual Practice relate to Integral Life Practice (and all the other Integral practices)?
You may already be familiar with other Integral Practice systems, such as “Integral Life Practice,” “Integral Transformative Practice,” and “Integral Enlightenment.” While each has its own particular focus and flavor (and there are many nuances of difference the deeper you go), they are not mutually exclusive—in fact, they all share the same basic impulse.
I trained in Integral Transformative Practice with Michael Murphy and George Leonard. I’m currently co-teaching with Integral Enlightenment founder, Craig Hamilton. I helped Ken Wilber and a core team develop Integral Life Practice, co-wrote the book, and have been teaching it for years. Integral Spiritual Practice is a refinement that draws on all these innovations.
It is primarily, though, a refinement and extension of Integral Life Practice. In fact, I regard the book, Integral Life Practice, as a wonderful and essential practice manual for anyone seriously interested in Integral Spiritual Practice. As I have continued to devote myself to that work it has become necessary to give my evolving teachings their own name, so here it is: “Integral Spiritual Practice”!
Do I need to leave my religion—or join a new religion—to embrace an Integral Spiritual Practice?
Integral Spiritual Practice doesn’t require belief, but it is informed by, and compatible with, integral forms of any and all religious traditions (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Islamic, Sikh, shamanic and others.) It’s also informed by and compatible with modern science, existentialism, psychology, agnosticism, and postmodern insights.
As a beginner, what is a good way to start practicing?
My book Integral Life Practice is a comprehensive guide to beginning (or deepening) a life of practice. You can also download the first two chapters for free here: www.integral-life-practice.com.
About Terry Patten
Integral Spiritual Practice founder, Terry Patten, is a vital, leading voice in the fields of integral evolutionary practice, leadership, and spirituality. He speaks and consults internationally, inspiring, challenging, and connecting leaders and institutions worldwide. A community-builder, entrepreneur, and author of four books, Terry has worked for over three decades as a philosopher, activist, coach, and teacher, helping leaders embody higher consciousness in practical actions that transform complex systems. He is the author, with Ken Wilber, of Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening, and the host of the teleseminar series Beyond Awakening: The Future of Spiritual Practice.
Read Terry Patten’s bio.