Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rejecting the Integral Map

In my speedlinks a few days ago, I mentioned a post from Tricycle blog that warned about maps being a distraction from the Buddhist path. I said that I had been feeling that very thing in relation to my use of integral theory. Here is the orignal quote that I posted:
Humans are attracted to constructing of their lives mental maps of linear progression aimed at improvement. We draw false and unwarranted assurance from maintaining a ready file of such maps as evidence that we know where we’ve been and where we’re going. We like to think that what we’re doing and where we’re headed amounts to making “progress.” We don’t much like chance events, because they can’t be anticipated or planned for and constitute a kind of messy interference in an otherwise well-designed itinerary. We don’t like sickness, old age, and death at all because these stubborn realities can’t be adapted to our travel preferences.
Joe Perez at Until disagreed with me and posted a nice response essentially arguing (1) that we can't escape maps no matter much we may wish to, (2) integral theory is a phrase that is losing its meaning (which is why some of us distinguish between integral theory and Wilberian theory), and (3) we will need valid maps more than ever as integral becomes more watered down by so-called "first-tier" thinkers claiming integral status.

All good points. And not relevant to me. This is an edited and conflated version of my comments left over at his blog.
It's always a risk to make a big point in an off-hand way, and Joe did nice job of calling me on it. However, I mostly stand by what I said.

Of all the maps available, the Wilberian and SDi models offer me the most in terms of contextualization, which is always useful in an intellectual way.

However, as the Buddhism post suggests, maps are a distraction. Maps will not help be more compassionate. Maps will not help me practice non-attachment so that my ego will cling less to samsara. Maps will not allow me to access the Buddhanature within me, you, all of us.

And that is where my interest lies of late. Maybe it is because I have the maps fairly well internalized that I can disgard them for now. Or maybe it is because they were and have always been a distraction that I can walk away from them.

As my original comments indicated, I hadn't spent much time thinking about any of this and was hoping to hear from others, especially Buddhists, on what they think.

Joe said:
you may be at a place in your own path where you need to emphasize non-map making processes.

Exactly. I've lived in my head for much of the last 39+ years (my whole life). My project for the last year or so has been to reclaim the emotional line. Clearly, having a map helped me figure that out, and clearly, having a map helps in knowing how to work with it.

As Joe pointed out in his post, we can't escape maps no matter how much we might want to.

Still, I don't feel that I'm relying on an intellectual map in the work I am doing right now. I'm doing my best to be mindful of my actions (and failing on many occasions of late), and trying to open my heart more through meditation practice.

All of this fits within a map, I'm sure, but I'm trying to play by instinct for a while.
I'd love to hear from any other integrally-minded Buddhists on this issue.


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