Saturday, August 26, 2006

Do I Need AQAL?

Matthew Dallman said yesterday (in addressing the recent Wilber parody that Geoff Falk posted):
I'm still waiting for the day when the integral community finally drops AQAL all together, in favor of traditional scholarship based on interdisciplinary and global thinking, without the crutch of "-isms" nor narrow theory. The day will come, I believe. And sophistic Wilberism and its "Wilber School" can be left out to pasture, just like the French School and the Frankfurt School. But since a number of friends are still riding the Wilber train, I make it a point to stop by the station and do my song and dance on the platform, in the hope of inviting them off the train, and rather out to dinner, then perhaps a movie, and well, maybe even for them to buy a house in our neighborhood, or even in the same time zone. It'd be fun, don't you think?
This is a topic I've been thinking quite a bit about recently. I find certain elements of AQAL very useful sometimes, but I also find that it gets in the way.

I'm not one of the people that thinks Wilber's version of integral is completely wrong or misguided. However, I think more and more that KW himself is confusing the map with the landscape. There are certainly some benefits to having a map when you are lost, but there is also the reality that the map is only one person's version of reality -- no matter how "integral" the map may be.

I don't reject AQAL because I think it is entirely wrong, as I said, but I am questioning whether or not I need AQAL at this point. When I sit on the cushion, does AQAL help me be more aware of my breath? When I am listening to a client tell me about whatever issues s/he is facing, does AQAL help me be more present and attentive? When I am with Kira (my partner), does AQAL help me love her more deeply and with more pure intention?

Theory is great, and I suspect I'll never reject that element of my interior-individual experience. (See, it still works for me in some ways.) But as I am evolving(?), I am craving more presence and less intellect. I am a better meditator, writer, trainer, coach, partner, person when I am present in the immediate moment and not living within some grand framework that keeps me at least one step removed from life.

I've lived in my head for so long that I've always thought it was the best place to be. Those who know me well probably can't imagine who I'd be if I wasn't in my head.

But as I think about this issue, Wilber himself has pointed me in the right direction:
We don't see that Spirit is fully and completely present right here, right now, because our awareness is clouded with some form of avoidance. We do not want to be choicelessly aware of the present; rather, we want to run away from it, or run after it, or we want to change it, alter it, hate it, love it, loathe it, or in some way agitate to get ourselves into, or out of, it. We will do anything except come to rest in the pure Presence of the present. (The Eye of Spirit)
And one of thoee avoidances is trying to dissect it and classify it and break it down into little chunks so that the ego can relate to it and manage it. KW is often the perfect example of how not to live in the moment. Now, to be fair, he meditates daily and reports that he has profound experiences of presence (see One Taste), but more and more I get the feeling that he is more caught up in the ego realm than in maintaining a connection with presence.

I've had my fill of ego cravings (at least right now -- in an hour I might be all about my hungry ghosts), and I feel more of a need to feel some deeper connection with the world, with those around me, and with myself.

I don't need AQAL for any of that, which probably comes across as a "duh!?" moment to many readers. But for someone who has avoided being present by being intellectual, it's a major step forward.

[image sources: 1. Wilber banner; 2. Four Quadrants; 3. "Stillness in Our Hearts"]

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