Saturday, April 11, 2009

Poem a Day, April 11

April 11, 2009

nothing is or was, but now
falling rain and clouds

the slow hum
of thought, of warmth
flowing from the vent

dark, and darker the sky
swirling and churning
clouds, then more rain

nothing now, but it was
maybe, wet with meaning

then what? coyotes howl
and rabbits say nothing, so?
spring, yes, it's spring

the phoenix, rebirth in flame
but now here, here it's sand
and rocks, various pale greens

what does it mean? it means
what, for lizards and snakes
care why? or don't

spring, yes, ravens nesting
clouds and rain, then sun
always sun, always . . . .

Link TV - Explore the Global Spirit...

This is an amazing and very cool series - looking forward to seeing each of these episodes.

Explore the Global Spirit...

Global Spirit is set to premiere Sunday, April 12, 2009, with weekly episodes on topics such as The Spiritual Quest, The Journey Towards Oneness, Art and the Creative Spirit, Earth Wisdom and more. Each program features in-depth discussions with knowledgeable guests from around the world, together with compelling film segments or live performances.

Global Spirit will offer insights into some of mankind’s deepest existential questions, tracing our collective human journey in the timeless quest for truth, wisdom and understanding. Each Global Spirit program will highlight the trans-cultural, transcendent dimensions of human inquiry, from the ancient or indigenous wisdom traditions to the latest advances in scientific knowledge. Global Spirit will do for the first time on national television what the Mars Rover did for space: beam back a celestial wonder, a glimmer of what is possible in the realm of human consciousness, spirit and the mind.

Most new episodes will also premiere online weekly.

Explore the joys of “internal travel”. Don't miss Global Spirit. Upcoming episodes include:

Support for Global Spirit has been generously provided by the Kalliopeia Foundation, the ONE Foundation, Fetzer Institute, the Compton Foundation, and the Shei’rah Foundation.

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week - The Quality of Our Life

A nice quote this week by the Dalai Lama, from Snow Lion Publications.
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

If the first true fact is that life in general is not easy, we should certainly not expect that seeing the nature of our mind will be simple. The actual nature of mind, on any level, is not very obvious. Even to identify and recognize correctly what is mind is extremely difficult. Just to start to try to see it, we need strong motivation. We need to be clear about why we would like to see the nature of our mind.

The foundation for any level of spiritual motivation is to take ourselves and the quality of our life seriously. Most people get up in the morning and either have to go to work or school, or stay home and take care of the house and children. At the end of the day, they are tired and try to relax by maybe having a beer and watching television. Eventually they go to sleep, and the next day get up and repeat the sequence. They spend their whole lives trying to make money, raise a family and catch whatever fun and pleasure they can.

Although most people cannot alter the structure of their lives, they feel they also cannot change the quality of their experience of this structure. Life has its ups, but also lots of downs, and it is all very stressful. They feel they are a tiny part of some solid, giant mechanism they can do nothing about. They therefore go through life in a mechanical, passive manner, like a passenger on a life-long speeding roller coaster going up and down and round and round, assuming that not only the track, but also the tension and stress experienced while circling on it are an inevitable part of the never-ending ride.

Since such experience of one's life, despite its pleasures, can be very depressing, it is vitally essential to do something about it. Just drinking ourselves into oblivion each night, or seeking constant entertainment and distraction by having music or television on all the time or incessantly playing computer games so that we never have to think about our life, is not going to eliminate the problem. We must take ourselves seriously. This means to have respect for ourselves as human beings. We are not just pieces of machinery or helpless passengers on the fixed ride of life that is sometimes smooth, but all too often bumpy. We need, therefore, to look more closely at what we are experiencing each day. And if we see that we are stressed by the tension of our city, household or office, we should not just accept this as something inevitable.

Our living, work and home environments, including the attitudes and behavior of others in them, merely provide the circumstances in which we live out our lives. The quality of our life, however--what we ourselves, not anybody else, are experiencing right now--is the direct result of our own attitudes and the behavior they generate, not anybody else's.

~ From The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Alexander Berzin, published by Snow Lion Publications.

AlterNet - Is Hysterical Right-Wing Media Pushing the Unhinged Over the Edge?

I think this is a pretty serious issue. The nation is facing the most difficult economic challenge any of us have lived through - houses foreclosed, jobs loss, lack of health care, and on and on. People are scared, and those who already have extreme views are really scared.

And so what does the right wing media do? They poor gasoline on the fear, and possibly generate the kind of violence we saw in Pittsburgh last week.

AlterNet has collected some of the comments from their readers into this post, which offers some perspective from the public (admittedly the liberal public) on how the right is making this mess worse, and inciting violence.

Is Hysterical Right-Wing Media Pushing the Unhinged Over the Edge?

By Tana Ganeva, AlterNet. Posted April 11, 2009.

AlterNet readers had a lot to say about a recent article arguing that right-wing media may have fueled the Pittsburgh killer's rage.

Confronted with a wildly popular president prone to few gaffes, conservative media are having trouble coming up with ways to successfully smear Barack Obama's administration.

So, they have resorted to propagating insane conspiracy theories. Fox News is giving airtime to 9/11-truther Alex Jones, while Fox anchor Glenn Beck has spouted off about a "new world order” and mused about the existence of "FEMA-managed concentration camps."

The conservative media's embrace of paranoid right-wing ideas should serve as a mildly entertaining gauge of the movement's implosion. Except, Max Blumenthal points out in an article recently published on AlterNet, the legitimization of the uber-fringe may further unhinge mentally deranged individuals and spur them to act out their paranoid fantasies.

Blumenthal points out that Richard Poplawski, the 22-year-old Pittsburgh man who allegedly killed three police officers, was an avid Jones fan and was reportedly petrified that the government would take away his guns.

Blumenthal quotes David Neiwert, a veteran reporter on right-wing militia movements, who says: "It's always been a problem when major-league demagogues start promulgating false information for political gain. ... What it does is unhinge fringe players from reality and dislodges them even further. When someone like Poplawski hears Glenn Beck touting 'One World Government' and 'they're gonna take your gun' theories, they believe then that it must be true. And that's when they really become crazy.

AlterNet's readers had a lot to say about the dangerous new turn taken by Fox News and other right-wing media.

Aimleft writes:

It is a thin line between talking about censoring ideas (which I'm not trying to do) and figuring out if expressing those ideas, continually and in a constantly outraged manner, is an actual incitement to violence, and not necessarily only for those who are already "crazy." Know what I'm saying? I'm not sure we should put limits on the expression of thought, but then again, there are reasons why it's wrong (and illegal?) to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. The article isn't saying the right wing BS caused this incident. It's just asking if their rhetoric fueled the rage. I'm in total agreement that it did, with this guy, and will continue to do so with others. You can't listen to that shit over and over again without getting all riled up.

zola77 agrees, writing that media are a powerful force:

It would be hard to make a case that conservative media had no impact on these actions.

Media (of all political persuasions) tend to amp up the paranoia factor in their audiences to draw a crowd. The difference is that conservatives are naturally more prone to fear and are therefore already in a more paranoid mind-set.

Scientific studies suggest that people who identify as politically conservative are by nature/genetically more prone to fear and paranoia. If someone is naturally in such a frame of mind, and then an external source amplifies that -- there is inevitably going to be a breaking point.

snax writes that in general, the conservative mind frame is more susceptible to conspiracy theories:

It's not whether somebody is a "nut" or not, but rather their propensity to regard others as inherently bad and needing to be controlled versus inherently good and needing freedom to grow.

Conservatives by definition, because their ideology is based on fear of "evil," fall firmly into the former category and are thus far more likely to assume the worst and trample the rights of others to assure that the "evil inside" they fear cannot run amok. Note that I did not use political party in this assertion, however, as clearly there are plenty of misdirected Democrats to be watched as well.

DrBrian points out though, that it is important to separate thought and words from actions:

While I agree that raving lunatics can unsettle unstable minds, it would be a mistake to hold that they are responsible for the acts committed by their listeners. Unless they actively promote violence, the First Amendment protects their rights, as it should.

But Cybershaman disagrees, pointing out that certain types of incendiary talk are in fact very dangerous:

Using rhetoric to goad people into a state of mass hysteria is the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater in order to start a panic. It's just on a bigger scale.

We have a multitude of Walter Winchells trying to stir up another McCarthy movement.

What amazes me is that he is blaming "liberals" for the programs created and nursed along by their "conservative" leaders. The New World Order was a Reagan-inspired and Bush I-implemented program.

brunowe takes issue with Cybershaman's argument:

"Using rhetoric to goad people into a state of mass hysteria is the equivalent of yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater in order to start a panic. It's just on a bigger scale."

No it isn't. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater creates an imminent risk. Incendiary conspiracy-mongering over the airwaves doesn't.

Ayla87 also disagrees with Cybershaman's point:

"Using rhetoric to goad people into a state of mass hysteria is the equivalent of yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater in order to start a panic. It's just on a bigger scale."

No it's not. Anyone with half a brain can tell when someone is blowing smoke up their ass.

Just because one person was mentally unstable and took his words literally doesn't mean he intended for that outcome. No more than most pro-life advocates intend for abortion clinics to be blown up, or most Muslims clerics intend to instigate jihad against all infidels.

People have misinterpreted the rhetoric of others and used it to justify their own atrocities for thousands of years. Punishing orators who come up with these ideas is counterproductive. Instead, we should be encouraging them to stand up and denounce misinterpretation as much as possible.

Sister_Lauren however, points out that incendiary rhetoric by pundits has had some pretty serious repercussions:

Incendiary conspiracy-mongering over the airwaves led us into an illegal occupation in Iraq, covered up a lot of serious crimes, continues to this day to mislead and misinform.

Jack Kornfield - Doing the Buddha’s Practice

Shambhala Sun posted this cool article from Jack Kornfield, Doing the Buddha’s Practice. This is a great article on mindfulness practice.

Doing the Buddha’s Practice

Mindfulness/awareness was the meditation the Buddha practiced and taught—it was his basic prescription for human suffering. Looking at life with an open and nonjudgmental attention, we see our confusion and develop insight. This is the basis of all Buddhist practice and the key to liberation.

My friends, it is through the establishment of the lovely clarity of mindfulness that you can let go of grasping after past and future, overcome attachment and grief, abandon all clinging and anxiety, and awaken an unshakable freedom of heart, here and now.
—Majjhima Nikaya (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha)

Establish a liberating clarity of mindfulness of the body in the body, of the feelings in the feelings, of the mind in the mind, and of the dharma in the dharma.
—Digha Nikaya (The Long Discourses of the Buddha)

In myths from around the world, men and women have searched for an elixir that will bring protection from suffering. Buddhism’s answer is mindfulness. How does mindfulness work? Let me illustrate with a story that became the basis for the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist. The movie tells the account of Dian Fossey, a courageous field biologist who managed to befriend a tribe of gorillas. Fossey had gone to Africa to follow in the footsteps of her mentor George Shaller, a renowned primate biologist who had returned from the wilds with more intimate and compelling information about gorilla life than any scientist before. When his colleagues asked how he was able to learn such remarkable detail about the tribal structure, family life, and habits of gorillas, he attributed it to one simple thing. He didn’t carry a gun.

Previous generations of biologists had entered the territory of these large animals with the assumption that they were dangerous. So the scientists came with an aggressive spirit, large rifles in hand. The gorillas could sense the danger around these rifle bearing men and kept a far distance. By contrast, Shaller—and later his student Dian Fossey—entered their territory without weapons. They had to move slowly, gently, and, above all, respectfully toward these creatures. And, in time, sensing the benevolence of these humans, the gorillas allowed them to come right among them and learn their ways. Sitting still, hour after hour, with careful, patient attention, Fossey finally understood what she saw. As the African-American sage George Washington Carver explained, “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.”

Mindfulness is attention. It is a non-judging, receptive awareness, a respectful awareness. Unfortunately, much of the time we don’t attend in this way. Instead, we react, judging whether we like, dislike, or can ignore what is happening. Or we measure our experience against our expectation. We evaluate ourselves and others with a stream of commentary and criticism.

When people initially come to a meditation class to train in mindfulness, they hope to become calm and peaceful. Usually they are in for a big shock. The first hour of mindfulness meditation reveals its opposite, bringing an unseen stream of evaluation and judgment into stark relief. In the first hour many feel bored and dislike the boredom. We can hear a door slam and wish for quiet. Our knees hurt and we try to avoid the pain. We wish we had a better cushion. We can’t feel our breath and we get frustrated. We notice our mind won’t stop planning and we feel like a failure. Then we remember someone we’re angry at and get upset, and if we notice how many judgments there are, we feel proud of ourself for noticing.

But like George Shaller, we can put aside these weapons of judgment. We can become mindful. When we are mindful, it is as if we can bow to our experience without judgment or expectation. “Mindfulness,” declared the Buddha, “is all helpful.”

Peter, a middle-age computer designer, came to a meditation retreat looking for relief. He was coping with a recently failed business, a shaky marriage, and a sick mother. But meditation quickly became an agony. The anger and disappointment that pervaded his current situation rose up in the quiet room to fill his mind. His attempts to quiet himself by sensing his breath felt hopeless; his attention bounced away from his body like water on a hot skillet. Then it got worse. A restless woman seated nearby began to cough loudly and frequently. She began to fidget and move and cough more as the first day wore on.

Peter, who was struggling just to be with his own sorrow, became frustrated and angry, and, as she continued coughing, enraged. He sought out my co-teacher and good friend Debra Chamberlin Taylor and insisted that meditation was the wrong approach and that he wanted to leave. The teacher asked Peter to close his eyes and mindfully notice the state of his body. It was filled with tension and hurting. With Debra’s help, Peter found he could hold the tension and hurt with a more accepting and kind attention. He breathed, relaxed a little, and recognized that the medicine he needed was nothing other than to understand his own pain.

The next instruction he was given was simple: as you sit, keep a gentle mindfulness on your body and notice whatever happens. After only a few minutes, his fidgety neighbor began a long coughing spell. With each cough Peter felt his own muscles clench and his breath stop. Now he became more curious, interested in how his body was reacting. He began to notice that hearing each cough produced an internal clenching and a wave of anger, which subsided as he practiced relaxing between the spells.

Finally, at the end of the sitting period, he got up to walk down to the lunchroom. As he arrived, he noticed this same difficult woman in line just ahead of him. Immediately he noticed how his stomach clenched and his breath stopped—just seeing her! Again, he relaxed. After lunch when he returned to the mediation hall he checked to see what time his name was listed for a private interview with his teacher. Further down the same list he read the restless woman’s name. Still paying attention, he was surprised. Just seeing her name made his stomach clench and his breath tighten! He relaxed again. He realized that his body had become a mirror, and that his mindfulness was showing him when he was caught and where he could let go.

As the retreat went on, his attention grew more precise. He noticed that his own anxious and angry thoughts about his family and business problems could trigger the same clenching and tightening as the woman’s cough did. He had always tried to have things under control. Now that his life had proved out of control, the habits of anger, blame, and judgments toward himself were tying him in knots. With each reaction, he could feel the knots arise. After each one he would pause mindfully and bring in a touch of ease. He began to trust mindfulness. By the close of the retreat, he was grateful to the restless woman near him. He wanted to thank her for her teaching.

With mindfulness Peter found relief. He also discovered the benefit of curiosity and openness, what Suzuki Roshi famously called beginner’s mind. In Suzuki Roshi’s words, “We pay attention with respect and interest, not in order to manipulate, but to understand what is true. And seeing what is true, the heart becomes free.”

Mindfulness as Fearless Presence

“The art of listening is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”
—Alan Watts

Sitting mindfully with our sorrows and fears, or with those of another, is an act of courage. It is not easy. Mary believed that to face her rage might kill her. John’s son’s cystic fibrosis brought terrifying images of wheelchairs and early death. Perry was afraid to face his infidelities and sexual peculiarities. Jerry could hardly bear to think of the carnage he had seen during his work in Bosnia. For Angela, facing the re-occurrence of her cancer meant facing death.

With patience and courage, they gradually learned how to sit firmly on the earth and sense the contraction and trembling of their body without running away. They learned how to feel the floods of emotions, fear, grief, and rage and to allow them to slowly release with mindfulness. They learned to see the endless mental stories of fear and judgment that repeat over and over, and with the help of mindfulness to let them go and relax, to steady the mind and return to the present.

In the Buddha’s search for freedom he too turned his mindfulness to overcome his fears:

How would it be if in the dark of the month, with no moon, I were to enter the most strange and frightening places, near tombs and in the thick of the forest, that I might come to understand fear and terror. And doing so, a wild animal would approach or the wind rustle the leaves and I would think, “Perhaps the fear and terror now comes.” And being resolved to dispel the hold of that fear and terror, I remained in whatever posture it arose, sitting or standing, walking or lying down. I did not change until I had faced that fear and terror in that very posture, until I was free of its hold upon me . . . And having this thought, I did so. By facing the fear and terror I became free.

In the traditional training at Ajahn Chah’s forest monastery in Thailand, we were sent to sit alone in the forest at night to practice the meditations on death. Stories of monks who had encountered tigers and other wild animals were part of what kept us alert. There were many snakes, including cobras. At Ajahn Buddhadasa’s forest monastery we were taught to tap our walking sticks on the paths at night so the snakes would “hear” us and move out of the way. There were moments when I was really frightened. At another monastery, I periodically sat all night at the charnel grounds. At one monastery, every few weeks a body was brought for cremation. After the lighting of the funeral pyre and the chanting, most people would leave, with one or several monks left alone to tend the fire in the dark forest. Then, as a practice, one monk would be left, remaining there until dawn, contemplating death. Not everyone did these practices. But I was a young man, looking for initiation, eager to prove myself, so I gravitated toward these difficulties.

As it turned out, sitting in the dark forest with its tigers and snakes was easier than sitting with my inner demons. My insecurity, loneliness, shame, and boredom came up. All my frustrations and hurts, too. Sitting with these took more courage than the charnel ground. Little by little I learned to face them with mindfulness, to make a clearing within the dark woods of my own heart.

Mindfulness does not reject experience. It lets experience be the teacher. One Buddhist practitioner with severe asthma learned to bring a mindful attention to his breath and limit his attacks by being patient as the muscles in his throat and chest relaxed the stress in his body. Another man undergoing a painful cancer treatment used mindfulness to quell his fear of the pain and added loving-kindness for his body as a complement to his chemotherapy. Through mindfulness a local politician learned not to be discouraged by his attackers. A frazzled single mother of preschoolers used mindfulness to acknowledge feeling tense and overwhelmed, and to become more respectful and spacious with herself and her boys. Each of these practitioners learned to trust the space of mindful awareness. With mindfulness they entered the difficulties in their own life. Like the Buddha in the thick of the forest, they found healing and freedom.
Read the rest to see his "Four Principles for Mindful Transformation."

Integral Life: Honoring Dr. James Fowler - What is Faith?

This is part one of a three part entry on James Fowler and The Stages of Faith. This one is free, the other two require membership at Integral Life (first month is free).

Honoring Dr. James Fowler

What is Faith?

This is the first installation of an extraordinary hour-and-forty-five minute presentation, in which Rollie offers a simple overview of Dr. James Fowler's work, demonstrates how it fits into the rest of the Integral model, and clarifies what exactly we mean by words like "faith" and "spirituality."

Dr. James W. Fowler III is Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, and was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. He is a minister in the United Methodist Church, and is best known for his book Stages of Faith, published in 1981, in which he sought to develop the idea of a developmental process in faith.

During the 2007 Integral Spiritual Center conference, Integral Institute paid a formal tribute to Dr. Fowler's extraordinary body of work, presenting him with a very special lifetime achievement award—the first Integral Spirituality Award ever presented. It was an incredibly moving occasion for everyone involved, and remains one of the most poignant memories in Integral Spiritual Center's already abundant legacy.

Roland Stanich

Rollie has played a vital part in the emerging Integral movement as the Chief Facillitator of Integral Spiritual Center, as a former managing editor of Integral Naked from 2004-2005, and as an ongoing contributor to Integral Life. Rollie's spiritual path is that of contemplative Christianity—he is a practitioner of Centering Prayer and a longtime student of Fr. Thomas Keating; he co-wrote and co-produced the 2008 Integral Life DVD The Future of Christianity; and he is currently writing a book about Integral Christianity entitled Who Do You Say That I Am? Rollie is an extraordinary friend, teacher, and role model; an exemplar of clarity, compassion, and grace; and is dearly beloved by all who have been fortunate enough to feel the tender warmth of his heart.

Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages, and is the first philosopher-psychologist to have his Collected Works published while still alive. Wilber is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development, which continues to gather momentum around the world. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Some of his more popular books include Integral Spirituality; No Boundary; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and the "everything" books: A Brief History of Everything (one of his largest selling books) and A Theory of Everything (probably the shortest introduction to his work). Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute, Inc. and the co-founder of Integral Life, Inc.

* * *

Written by Corey W. deVos

The Integral Spirituality Award (6:56)

Dr. James W. Fowler III is Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, and was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. He is a minister in the United Methodist Church, and is best known for his book Stages of Faith, published in 1981, in which he sought to develop the idea of a developmental process in faith.

During the 2007 Integral Spiritual Center conference, Integral Institute paid a formal tribute to Dr. Fowler's extraordinary body of work, presenting him with a very special lifetime achievement award—the first Integral Spirituality Award ever presented. It was an incredibly moving occasion for everyone involved, and remains one of the most poignant memories in Integral Spiritual Center's already abundant legacy.

What is of Ultimate Concern? (13:46)

Rollie begins by explaining three central intentions behind his presentation on Dr. Fowler's work. First, he hopes to accurately communicate what Fowler means by the faith—it is, after all, a tremendously loaded word, wrapped in many different and often-conflicting interpretations, and we must first define our terms in a cogent and meaningful way if the discussion is to go anywhere.

Second, he will offer a detailed overview of each of Dr. Fowler's proposed stages of faith. The purpose of this presentation, he explains, isn't just to better understand and qualify the world around us, but to bring more love, more consciousness, and more skill to all of our relationships—meeting people exactly where they are with a full and open heart.

Finally, and most Rollie invokes the enormous implications and opportunities Fowler's work has to offer the future of spirituality on this planet. His Stages of Faith represents one of first fundamental steps toward a "universal catechism" approach to all the world's religious and spiritual traditions, capable of guaging and guiding people's growth through the entire spectrum of human potential.

He then situates Fowler's work in context of Integral theory and practice, emphasizing the Stages of Faith as one of many different developmental lines—each measuring distinct "intelligences" or vectors of human growth. Other examples of these developmental lines include cogntion (studied by Piaget and Aurobindo), values (studied by Graves, Beck, and Cowan), self identity (studied by Cook-Greuter and Loevinger), worldviews (studied by Gebser), and morals (studied by Kohlberg). Taken together, these psychological models offer a comprehensive map of human growth and development in all its multifarious dimensions. Each successive stage of consciousness adds more complexity and more understanding of the world around us, as well as more capacity for love, compassion, and connection. By ascending the spire of psychological development to higher and higher altitudes of consciousness, humanity becomes increasingly more human with each and every step.

What is Faith? (14:23)

"As human beings, we have imaginations, intuitions, and moments of awakening that disturb us into awareness of dimensions of circumambient reality that we can only name on our own as Mystery. And yet our feet mire in the clay of everyday toil—getting and giving, spending and being spent—in the struggle for survival and meaning. In the midst of contingency, suckled on uncertainty, we spend our blessed and threatened years becoming selves through relationships of trust and loyalty with others like us—persons in communities. We attach to one another in love; we struggle with fidelity and infidelity; we share our visions of ultimate destiny and calling; our projections and hope; our moments of revelations. We are language-related, symbol-born, and story-sustained creatures. We do not live long or well without meaning—that is to say, we are creatures who live by faith." -James Fowler

Faith, Rollie reminds us, is better understood as a verb than a noun. It's original meaning, unfortunately lost in modern English translation, is "to set one's heart on"—that is, to set your heart upon something is to place your faith in it, to enact a sacred connection between lover and Beloved. The shape, range, and intensity of this faith can change over time, growing through magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral stages of development—but the overall role of faith as a fountainhead of meaning and purpose remains a permanent fixture in our hearts, regardless of our explicit relationship with God, spirituality, or religion.

Ken offers a brief summary of the distinction between states of consciousness and stages of consciousness, both of which have had a profound influence upon how we think of and relate to our faith. Vertical stages of development (such as Fowler's Stages of Faith) act as containers of consciousness—unseen structures that pattern our knowledge and mold our interpretations of the world around and within us. Horizontal states, on the other hand, are the stuff of experience itself—gross physical and emotional experiences; subtle visions, inspirations, and revelations; causal glimpses of transcendence, clarity, and emptiness; nondual states of radical union, flow, and atonement.

Spiritual practice such as meditation or contemplative prayer typically works to transform temporary states into permanent traits by stabilizing gross, subtle, causal, and nondual states in succession. However, we do not experience these horizontal states in a rigidly sequential way like we do vertical stages of development. States are ever-present, meaning they are accessible to all people at all times—“peak experiences” that punctuate our personal narratives with moments of catharsis, epiphany, clarity, and unity. This is true regardless of our psychological and spiritual growth—a person can experience a subtle state of divine Illumination early in life at Fowler’s stage 2 (Mythic-Literal), and then again decades later, after developing to stage 6 (Universalizing). Though the actual phenomenological state may be similar, the interpretations of the experience would differ drastically from different altitudes of consciousness, with an immense chasm of meaning, context, and sense of personal duty separating the two experiences.

Finally, Rollie offers a quick breakdown of some of the different ideas people typically have when they hear the word spiritual: the idea of spirituality as it's own developmental line; spirituality as the highest potential in any developmental line; spirituality as first-hand experience of the divine; spirituality as a general attitude, disposition, or openness; etc. Again, as it pertains to Fowler's work, we are discussing the first definition: spirituality as a distinct line of human development, growing through its own stages of maturity—in fact, while many other versions are certainly possible (and needed!), Fowler's work represents one of the finest and most sophisticated treatments of the spiritual line of development that we have ever seen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poem a Day, April 10

April 10, 2009

moon obscured by clouds
doll heads, doll parts
time pieces on the table

abstractions, details
dust beneath my eyelids
yellow paint on my hands

meaning is a ghost
days pile up as dishes in the sink
and all I have is questions

Said E. Dawlabani - What Investment Means to the Different Cultural Value Systems

This is a great series of posts from Said E. Dawlabani's Spiral Dynamics based blog, Sustainability’s New Frontier. Thanks to Elza Maalouf for posting this at Facebook. I'm including a couple of posts in full

What Investment Means to the Different Cultural Value Systems

I have been asked by many who attended my Spiral Dynamics Integral presentation at the Adizes Graduate School for a copy of some of the slides in my presentation and I promised to make as many of them as possible available to the reading public on this blog. Unless accompanied by my narrative that’s informed by the in depth research I’ve been involved in, I’m afraid that the information on most of the slides will be misinterpreted. Below are 2 slides (needed to split up the slide into 2 images) that are rich with useful information. This Memetic table represents a comprehensive look at the investment world as seen through the eyes of the different value systems of Spiral Dynamics Integral.


Economic Policy and Global Value Systems

Most of us have heard the saying “to the victor belong the spoils”. Well, to the victors of WWII belonged the greatest spoils humanity had ever seen; the undisputed mandate to set up a single economic model for the world to insure that human potential is put into productive peaceful pursuits. Europe and Japan were rebuilt with economies based on what England and the US thought were best suited for their own cultural value systems. It was strongly believed that a developed world where private ownership of resources with the least amount of regulation and the pursuit of free market ideals will surely make our planet a better place. In addition, for less developed countries wishing to pursue this Utopian dream, institutions like the IMF and the World Bank were set up through the Breton Woods System of Monetary Management to help them finance this arduous journey.

More than sixty years into this experiment and the results seem to have produced a very mixed bag. On one end of the spectrum the free market economy concept worked well for nations that were already developed and had the institutional capacities in place to make the transition to highly industrialized consumer-based economies. At the other end of the spectrum, less developed countries have gotten further behind and are struggling to feed millions of their own people. So, what went wrong? The answer might lie in the developed world’s inability to identify barriers to development from a cultural values perspective.

How Economic Policies Deny Evolution of Cultural Value Systems

At the end of the colonial era imperial powers carved up tribal lands into arbitrary countries with the hope that tribes will be forced to dismiss thousands of years of rivalries for a cause called “Nation”. The promise of industrial prosperity was the carrot at the end of the stick; A concept that worked so well for Europe and Japan but has remained foreign to most places in Africa, the Middle East and many poor places till this day. What the framers of the Breton Woods architecture ignored was that places that are primarily tribal in nature must build their own indigenous capacities that would eventually transcend tribal existence and propel them into their own unique expression of cultural prosperity. Before a tribe can embrace industrial age values, it has to go through an egocentric stage where an individual’s values are imposed over those that make up the collective values of the tribe. Europe went through this evolution over hundreds of years and the results were many bloody wars. The US went through it during the civil war at a cost of millions of lives to get to a stage to say “never again”. The conquest of this egocentric stage should never be underestimated or it will manifest in pathologies that create organizations like Al-Qaeda and the endless number of failed states. (Bin-Laden’s family was extremely wealthy but relied on nepotism and tribal favoritism to become wealthy instead of through the industrialized system of merit that levels the playing field in the West). What policy makers should have been aware of is that this stage of social development wouldn’t need to take on the form of bloody warfare. Instead, designing for economic prosperity at the tribal level will blunt any unhealthy desires to start wars with the neighboring tribes. This type of policy setting would have required intimate knowledge of the indigenous life conditions of those tribes and the challenges they face. Based on information gathered from these places, we can create the base for what I call “Stratified Economic Policy”. The concept of micro loans created by Muhamad Yunis is a great example of such highly functional solutions for Bangladesh and places of similar indigenous challenges.

Without the interference of Western designed development programs, the non-western world would have very likely developed along these lines: In order to move to more advanced developmental stages, capital accumulation earned from hard work must be applied by a tribal culture towards what evolves next and naturally for that tribe. To some it could be acquisition of farm land. To others it could mean sending their first born to a good school, or buying more cattle like the case is with most Central African tribes. These normal transitions to healthy manifestations of a culture’s uniqueness were halted by the appearances of two phenomena that were the byproduct of post WWII prosperity: The West’s insatiable appetite for resources and the creation of the IMF.

Into a Tribal World Enter OPEC and the IMF

After WWII the industrialized world shifted its focus to a consumer-based industrial economy, which required a tremendous amount of resources and raw material. And lo and behold, as if the Gods were testing the West’s true intentions in claiming to help the rest of humanity, most of these raw material were found in third world countries; OPEC for oil and Africa and South America for the rest of the raw material needed for our modern day consumption. From a macro development theory perspective, these non-industrialized countries had never experienced a systemic enforcement of the rule of law at a national level nor had the resources or the complexity to understand the meaning of most of the institutions that the West takes for granted. In describing the reason for the arrested development stage of these countries, a renowned social scientist said that they never had the chance to rebel. The discovery of natural resources in tribal cultures had, in essence halted the normal stages of human development within them. Left to their own devices, without having the West take the stuff from the ground, these cultures would have maintained a natural evolutionary process and formed healthier and more cooperative tribes tested and tried by the passage of time to smooth out tribal differences before the idea of “Nation” could crystallize. Life conditions at the time of discovery of oil were such that egocentric warriors had to rise to leadership positions without ever being exposed to concepts such as nationalism, the importance of state institutions, and a real understanding of wealth management. To protect their new-found “lute”, these leaders used tribal warfare tactics in making sure their own tribe prevails. Till this day, if you’re a developer wishing to get a Billion dollar project approved in Saudi Arabia, or Dubai, a poem written just for the occasion that praises the generosity and the greatness of the Sheikh, will improved your odds of success over someone who’s done extensive research about the market viability of the project and its associated costs. The OPEC dynamics in a place like Venezuela have taken on a slightly different twist. Populist economic policy has been the tool of choice for tribal leaders in South America. Chavez, while paying lip service to the poor and giving them small siphons for food has sidelined most national institutions and stolen billion in oil revenues in the process.

The story with the IMF is slightly different in the sense that it catered to the same pathologies through loans instead of oil revenue. Without ever knowing what Africa needs like Dr. Yunis knew what Bangladesh needs, the IMF, by shear ignorance of the role that cultural values play in the development of a place, is single handedly, responsible for more death and corruption than any other post WWII institution. One only needs to look at which countries borrow from the IMF. Over 97% of borrowing countries were dictatorships (before recent loans made to Iceland). Yes, dictators with the blood of thousands on their hands like Mugabe and Assad (the father) are on the top of that list. A full discussion of IMF policies is a subject needing many posts to expose its pathologies.

The road to that Utopian dream hatched by FDR and Churchill in Breton Woods, NH over a Brandy (as President Obama says) has turned out to be the road to Perdition for third world countries rich and poor . If the G-20 want to address the causes of poverty they need not look any further than the dysfunction inherent in the institution they just voted to triple its resources The flood of unconditional oil revenues from industrialized countries and loans with little accountability from the IMF have corrupted tribal values forever and created a pathology that has become very difficult to undo. When oil revenues disappear, most OPEC countries will have to wake up and realize that to prevent future abuse of power it’s not enough to choose a good tribal leader to lead. Rather, it becomes paramount to establish societal institutions and the rule of law. To Europe, the US and Japan, this rule of law came after hundreds of years of bloody warfare. To the third world, it would have to come from a perspective of “stratified policies” that are informed by the life conditions on the ground and not by some Western think tank with Ivy League credentials billing the UN for millions for their advice and claiming to know what ails a world of lower complexity.

Read the whole blog.

TED Talks - Emily Levine: A trickster's theory of everything

Hilarious and cool.
Philosopher-comedian Emily Levine talks (hilariously) about science, math, society and the way everything connects. She's a brilliant trickster, poking holes in our fixed ideas and bringing hidden truths to light. Settle in and let her ping your brain.

The TED blog offered some more info.

More on "Trickster Makes This World"

trickster_book.jpgEmily Levine's TEDTalk this morning references Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde's 1998 book about the trickster figure -- who crosses continents and centuries to appear in almost all recorded mythologies. The book is also, it turns out, a cult favorite at the TED offices. TED's media production specialist, Angela Cheng, a writer and filmmaker, tells the TED Blog why Trickster Makes This World means so much to her. Here's a snippet; for the full story, hit the jump:

The trickster is anybody who's a bit of an outsider. They're the ones who make change. They're not thinking about making change; they're almost doing it in a selfish way. But because they're working outside the rules, they change the rules. Everything around them is always new, everything is an opportunity.

It's important to honor mischief-making, in a constructive and creative way, because that's how we effect change. And it's so important that we figure out our inner mischief maker. That's the creative part of us. And everybody's capable of it.

Read the full commentary, after the jump >>

More on Trickster Makes This World:

The trickster, in all mythology that features a trickster, they always have a bottomless hunger. They work from the outside and mess with the system in order to fill their bottomless hunger, and they constantly learn more and more sophisticated ways to steal from the gods. The gods get angry, but the trickster is so charming they'll make the gods laugh.

When you apply this to math and science and art, the trickster is anybody who's a bit of an outsider. They're the ones who make change. They're not thinking about making changes, they're almost doing it in a selfish way. But because they're working outside the rules, they change the rules. Everything around them is always new, everything is an opportunity.

I feel like lots of TEDsters and TED speakers -- they got to the place where they are because they worked outside the system. They do mischievous things, but they're extremely disciplined. Because that's the other thing about tricksters: They're never lazy. They're very industrious. Kary Mullis reminds me of a trickster. He really just likes to blow things up. But he's creating chaos in order to get to the truth

It's important to honor mischief-making, in a constructive and creative way, because that's how we effect change. And it's so important that we figure out our inner mischief maker. That's the creative part of us. And everybody's capable of it.

Trickster Makes This World is also about the immigrant experience, because immigrants are, at first, outside the system, and figure out how to work with the system. And they end up changing the system.

Trickster Makes This World is so much about art and science and music and immigration -- it's like a weird amalgam of all these things. It's a really good structure that holds all the different narratives of my life and brings them all together. TEDTalks is part of the narrative. It's my job to sit and watch TEDTalks, to make sure that they look good and sound good for the world to see. So I get to be an admirer and get to oversee them all at once, which is sort of like being a listener of stories and a teller of stories at the same time. (Emily Levine is the one who got me into this book, actually, when I was digitizing her talk.) It seems to work with the story of my existence.

More: Read the first chapter of Trickster Makes This World >>

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

NineMSN's Money site posted this cool article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan) in which he offers ten principles for dealing with the financial uncertainty in our lives.

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. The economics establishment (universities, regulators, central bankers, government officials, various organisations staffed with economists) lost its legitimacy with the failure of the system. It is irresponsible and foolish to put our trust in the ability of such experts to get us out of this mess. Instead, find the smart people whose hands are clean.

4. Do not let someone making an "incentive" bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks. Odds are he would cut every corner on safety to show "profits" while claiming to be "conservative". Bonuses do not accommodate the hidden risks of blow-ups. It is the asymmetry of the bonus system that got us here. No incentives without disincentives: capitalism is about rewards and punishments, not just rewards.

5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. Complexity from globalisation and highly networked economic life needs to be countered by simplicity in financial products. The complex economy is already a form of leverage: the leverage of efficiency. Such systems survive thanks to slack and redundancy; adding debt produces wild and dangerous gyrations and leaves no room for error. Capitalism cannot avoid fads and bubbles: equity bubbles (as in 2000) have proved to be mild; debt bubbles are vicious.

6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning . Complex derivatives need to be banned because nobody understands them and few are rational enough to know it. Citizens must be protected from themselves, from bankers selling them "hedging" products, and from gullible regulators who listen to economic theorists.

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to "restore confidence". Cascading rumours are a product of complex systems. Governments cannot stop the rumours. Simply, we need to be in a position to shrug off rumours, be robust in the face of them.

8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains. Using leverage to cure the problems of too much leverage is not homeopathy, it is denial. The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it is a structural one. We need rehab.

9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible "expert" advice for their retirement. Economic life should be definancialised. We should learn not to use markets as storehouses of value: they do not harbour the certainties that normal citizens require. Citizens should experience anxiety about their own businesses (which they control), not their investments (which they do not control).

10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Finally, this crisis cannot be fixed with makeshift repairs, no more than a boat with a rotten hull can be fixed with ad-hoc patches. We need to rebuild the hull with new (stronger) materials; we will have to remake the system before it does so itself. Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the "Nobel" in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

Then we will see an economic life closer to our biological environment: smaller companies, richer ecology, no leverage. A world in which entrepreneurs, not bankers, take the risks and companies are born and die every day without making the news.

In other words, a place more resistant to black swans.

The writer is a veteran trader, a distinguished professor at New York University's Polytechnic Institute and the author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.