Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gratitude, Day 3

[Desert Rain, copyright by Skins Gallery]

Rain, rain, glorious rain! For liquid life falling from the sky, I am grateful beyond measure. More than 130 days without rain have come to an end.

What are you grateful for?

Follow Up: The Absolute and the Manifest

In response to my original post on this topic, Nagarjuna asked why Spirit would bother to go through the hassle of manifesting if it is already perfect. Today, Tom came to the rescue and pointed me toward the Wilber interview that answers this question. Thanks!

From the interview, which was conducted for Pathways: A Magazine of Psychological and Spiritual Transformation:
Pathways: Why does Spirit bother to manifest at all, especially when that manifestation is necessarily painful and requires that It become amnesiac to Its true identity? Why does God incarnate?

Ken Wilber: Oh, I see you’re starting with the easy questions. Well, I’ll give you a few theoretical answers that have been offered over the years, and then I’ll give you my personal experience, such as it is.

I have actually asked this same question of several spiritual teachers, and one of them gave a quick, classic answer: “It’s no fun having dinner alone.”

That’s sort of flip or flippant, I suppose, but the more you think about it, the more it starts to make sense. What if, just for the fun of it, we pretend -- you and I blasphemously pretend, just for a moment -- that we are Spirit, that Tat Tvam Asi? Why would you, if you were God Almighty, why would you manifest a world? A world that, as you say, is necessarily one of separation and turmoil and pain? Why would you, as the One, ever give rise to the Many?

Pathways: It’s no fun having dinner alone?

Ken Wilber: Doesn’t that start to make sense? Here you are, the One and Only, the Alone and the Infinite. What are you going to do next? You bathe in your own glory for all eternity, you bask in your own delight for ages upon ages, and then what? Sooner or later, you might decide that it would be fun -- just fun -- to pretend that you were not you. I mean, what else are you going to do? What else can you do?

Pathways: Manifest a world.

Ken Wilber: Don’t you think? But then it starts to get interesting. When I was a child, I used to try to play checkers with myself. You ever tried that?

Pathways: Yes, I remember doing something like that.

Ken Wilber: Does it work?

Pathways: Not exactly, because I always knew what my “opponent’s” move was going to be. I was playing both sides, so I couldn’t “surprise” myself. I always knew what I was going to do on both sides, so it wasn’t much of a game. You need somebody “else” to play the game.

Ken Wilber: Yes, exactly, that’s the problem. You need an “other.” So if you are the only Being in all existence, and you want to play -- you want to play any sort of game -- you have to take the role of the other, and then forget that you are playing both sides. Otherwise the game is no fun, as you say. You have to pretend you are the other player with such conviction that you forget that you are playing all the roles. If you don’t forget, then you got no game, it’s just no fun.
There you have it. The Ken has spoken.

But seriously, I like the idea that Spirit would create the manifest Kosmos out of a sense of play. Not out of ego-driven ideas, or even to further evolve, but to play.

We are the Other in the game that Spirit has created. Our proper relationship to Spirit, under this pretext, should be playfulness. Life should be joyful and fun.

The only way to get to that place where we can relate to Spirit in playfulness is to transcend the ego that feels pain and loss and craving. As long as we are bound by ego, we can never know the joy of freely playing with Spirit.

Tarot as Mirror of the Psyche: The High Priestess

[Please see the Introduction to this series for a brief synopsis of my approach to working with the major trumps of the Tarot. I am hoping to post a new meditation each Saturday. I use "meditation" here in the philosophical sense of the word, meant to denote an open-ended, free-form exploration of an idea.]

Following the Magician in the Tarot, we come to the High Priestess, sometimes also known as the Popess. In the popular Rider-Waite deck, she is depicted as young, austere, robed as one might find an actual pope. She sits between the Pillars of Solomon, each column marked with a letter. The precise meaning of the letters is a mystery, but some have speculated on their origin. In general, it is common to mark the opening to a temple with two pillars in order to form a threshold, a demarcation of sacred space. This element is crucial to nearly all depictions of the card.

On her lap the High Priestess holds a Torah, representing the manifestation of God's word. She is heavily associated with water and the moon, both in her clothing and the symbols surrounding her. The feminine has traditionally been seen as fluid and lunar, both creative and passive. The paradox in this interpretation is at the heart of the card's archetypal energy.

Sallie Nichols (Jung and Tarot) emphasizes the creative aspect of the card, focusing heavily on the ability of woman to give birth. Nichols hovers round and round this idea in her text, but never quite gets to any deeper meaning as far as I can see.

The Osho Zen version of the card is called Inner Voice. This seems to suggest a passive openness to the Truth that can move through us and provide direction.
If you have found your truth within yourself there is nothing more in this whole existence to find. Truth is functioning through you. When you open your eyes, it is truth opening his eyes. When you close your eyes, it is truth who is closing its eyes.
The Osho Zen view feels to me like a variation on the idea of involution, which approaches the card's depth. They further suggest that the Inner Voice acts as an oracle:
It is like an oracle who only speaks the truth. If it had a face, it would be like the face at the center of this card - alert, watchful, and able to accept both the dark and the light, symbolized by the two hands holding the crystal. The crystal itself represents the clarity that comes from transcending all dualities.
This gets close to the older meanings embedded in the card. Rather than the structured version of the Rider-Waite image, many newer decks allow a more free-spirited Priestess--a move that feels more congruent with her depth.

In seeing the High Priestess as a kind of oracle, the Osho Zen variation suggests a Western priestess of high renown, the Delphic Oracle. She acted as an intermediary between humans and the divine. If the Magician is the creative impulse existing outside of space and time, the High Priestess brings that energy into the manifest realm. Through her, we can access that higher truth that ego obscures.

Holding the Magician as the creative impulse in the psyche that sets the whole process of individuation in motion, I believe the High Priestess is the creative impulse made manifest in the flesh. In this sense, Nichols is on the right track. The High Priestess is the yin to the Magician's yang.

In Jungian terms, she is anima in the male psyche, the gateway/threshold through which he must pass to access the deeper truths of the collective unconscious, which she guards in her role as High Priestess. Similarly, the Magician is also animus or Eros in the female psyche, representing the male energy that Jung felt women must integrate as part of the individuation process. In this sense, the Magician and the High Priestess work as the balancing aspects in the psyche.

According to Jung, and I agree, we must be balanced in our feminine and masculine energies to transcend the ego. These first two cards act as opposites that need each other. Whether we are born male or female, we need the psychic energy of the other to be balanced.

At the higher levels, these two cards act as the idealized masculine and feminine impulses that Spirit adopts as it becomes manifest. In later cards we will see how these energies become grounded in more specific archetypes, but for now they are raw, full of potential, and hard to nail down.

At birth, we have within us the seeds that can release us from the ego bonds that we must develop to mature in manifest form. As we move through the cards that follow, these seeds will grow more rooted in this realm, but they will never lose their source in pure Spirit. If we let them, they will one day guide us back in our journey to fully manifest Spirit beyond the limitations of ego.

One last note on the High Priestess. She has become very popular among the Gaian and Wiccan communities as a representation of the Divine feminine. She is often associated with various goddesses, with Mary, or as Shekhinah (the female face of God). If the Magician embodies the masculine element of God, then certainly the High Priestess is the feminine variation of that same divine energy.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Thanks to coolmel for the tip on this--this program rocks.

Gratitude, Day 2

Today I am grateful for a partner who loves me even when I am not at my best.

What are you grateful for? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


notes on the material of being

Rocks do not believe in sky. Such distance
is not possible. Wind and rain arrive
from nowhere then are gone. Then sun.

Beside Williams Creek, in July, the rocks
exposed in summer heat hold conversations,
compare notes. They remember winter fondly.

Water contains the only truth. In liquid
everything is possible. Small stones tumble,
or large earth-set rock erodes in current.

An awareness, how water defines rock
and stone directs a river’s flow.
Neither comprehends the height of a tree.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

New Practice: Gratitude

[Image source]

I was reading a recent issue of Psychotherapy Networker and found an article on Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman's reaction against traditional talk therapies. While I would reclassify Positive Psychology as "the psychology of sanctioned repression," a couple of the exercises he uses seemed to be possibly interesting additions to my practice.

The best part is that the exercise I'm starting with isn't time consuming and doesn't involve giving up anything--except possibly my cynicism.

The practice is a daily acknowledgement of gratitude. The idea behind the practice is to redirect consciousness toward those things that make our lives meaningful rather than getting stuck in the hard stuff. Seligman tends to favor methods that reject the hard stuff as opposed to processing and releasing difficult emotions, but that is his karma, not mine.

So, for 30 days, as an experiment, I will try to post one thing each day for which I am grateful.

Today I am grateful for a good friend who called me to arrange a lunch date.

Americans Reject Evolution in Favor of Bible

[I posted this yesterday at Raven's View, but I wanted to add an integral take on it.]

[Image source]

Gallup released poll results today that suggest more than half of all Americans (53 percent) reject evolution and scientific evidence. They agree with the statement, "God created man exactly how Bible describes it."

Another 31% allow for evolution, but claim it was "God guided." Only 12% back evolution and agree "God had no part."

Gallup summarized it this way: "Surveys repeatedly show that a substantial portion of Americans do not believe that the theory of evolution best explains where life came from." They are "not so quick to agree with the preponderance of scientific evidence."

Gallup found that 57 percent of Republicans support the statement, "God created human beings in present form," while only 44 percent of Democrats support the statement.

Support for this Bible view rises steadily with age: from 43% for those 18 to 29, to 59% for those 65 and older. It declines steadily with education, dropping from 58% for those with high school degrees to a still-substantial 25% with postgraduate degrees.

Newport wraps it up: "Several characteristics correlate with belief in the biblical explanation for the origin of humans. Those with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 and older, and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe that God created humans 'as is,' than are those who do not share these characteristics."
Gallup has been asking this in various ways since 1982, and has found support for the statement that "God created man in present form" to be 45 percent or higher each year.

This makes me question the notion of whether or not that whole "cultural creatives" thing is really happening. It also lends support for my Who Owns God? series of articles (parts one, two, and three).

Integral Reflection:

At least 53 percent of the population in this country still holds a pre-rational understanding of the world based in the Hebrew creation myth. Wilber/Beck (2000) had suggested that 40 percent of the population was still in the Blue meme of the Spiral. They had projected another 20 percent at Red and 10 percent at Purple, which would more than account for the numbers shown in the poll.

The problem is that they projected another 30 percent at Orange and 10 percent at Green. That leaves us with about 112 percent when you add in the 2 percent they projected at second tier. I'm guessing they were a bit optimistic with the Orange and Green numbers (I'm sure that Wilber has addressed this discrepancy somewhere.)

It's curious to look at the 53 percent number from the poll and realize that George Bush was able to garner 52 percent of the vote (if you overlook all the irregularities in the last election). What does that tell us about the voters in this country?

For those of us hoping to see a more evolved culture in this country, I am afraid it is much further off than we have thought. More than half of the people walking around on the street still believe the world was created in 7 days, approximately 6,500 years ago.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. These people vote.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Integral Coaching Model: Prototype

My partner, Kira, is working on a Life Coach certification. In a recent class, they talked about Wilber's quadrants and how to use them to work with clients. Kira knows a fair bit about integral theory, so she was pleased that it was part of the curriculum.

This evening we talked about how to go beyond the quadrants in a way that really expands the map a coach can use, yet still is useful in working with clients. We added a simple stage element: egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric (could also be pre-personal, personal, post-personal, and so on).

So in each quadrant the coach has each of the three stages, giving a total of 12 different ways into the client's issue(s).

From there we talked about a model she likes to use in which you meet the person where s/he is (the personal level most times). From there, one approach is to move into the pre-personal to look at how that developmental level persists and shapes self-perception and values. When that information is brought forth and can be operated on, the post-personal is accessed (when possible) to look at the newly "unearthed" material in a way that circumvents the interior monologue and its story of "how the world is."

This is where we started trying to create a framework to make sense of the model in a way that renders it useful.

Looking at the egocentric level, we came up with these areas of inquiry:
I: body feeling, intuition
WE: family values, cultural programming
IT: sensations
ITS: how environment shape self-sense

The personal level is the easiest to work with because that is where the client is:
I: ego, persona
WE: current values system (based on peer-group/cultural ties)
IT: health and behavior
ITS: how society shapes self-sense/options

Looking at the worldcentric level, we came up with these areas of inquiry
I: observer self/witness
WE: worldcentric values systems
IT: right action (how you do "it")--example: volunteering
ITS: what you do "it" for--example: a grassroots political campaign

We saw that we could make things even more challenging by adding in a few developmental lines within each quadrant, but that tends more toward a therapy model, which is off-limits in coaching.

Part of the training in Kira's program is peer coaching to get some practice, so I suspect Kira will be trying to use this model with someone to see how manageable it is, or isn't.

We are open to any thoughts readers of this site might have on how to improve this--or where we can look at people doing similar work. I'm sure Wilber has talked about this somewhere, but I haven't the time to dig through his books to find it.

As Kira tries this with some people, I will ask her to write a guest post talking about its usefulness or lack thereof. I suspect we will want to refine it as she works with it--and perhaps as I try to use it in a watered-down way with my training clients.

The next stage, as implied by the image, is to move from the simple three-stage model into a more comprehensive Spiral Dynamics model.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Absolute and the Manifest

Absolute Spirit is the fundamental reality. But in order to create the world, the Absolute manifests itself, or goes out of itself--in a sense, the Absolute forgets itself and empties itself into creation (although never really ceasing to be itself). Thus the world is created as a "falling away" from Spirit, as a "self-alienation" of Spirit, although the Fall is never anything but a play of Spirit itself.
-Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul

I so easily get lost in the 10,000 things that I forget they are all just variations of the One. For the next hour I will try to hold in my consciousness that all of this is Spirit--me, my clients, the traffic on the road--the whole buzzing mess of my world.

This wildly amazing Kosmos is all just Spirit growing back to itself with increased awareness. My goal for this limited life is to align myself as much as possible with that process.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Blogisattva Award Results…

A belated congratulations to all the very deserving winners. Check out the full announcement at Blogmandu.

Coolmel (Best Integral Buddhist Blog) and American Buddhist Perspective (Best Philosophical Blog) won the categories in which I was nominated. Both of these blogs are very cool--or in Coolmel's case, very fluffy.

Here are the other winners:

Whiskey river (Best Achievement in Clean, Straightforward, Unaffected Design)
Paper frog (Best Achievement in Wonderful, Remarkable, Elegant Design)
Zen Filter (Best Niche Blog, Unusual-Function Blog or Blog Service)
Hardcore Zen (Best Celebrity-Writer Blog)
One foot in front of the other (Best New Blog 2005)
Virtual Zen (Best Personal Journal)
WoodMoor Village (Best Achievement in Addressing Public or Political Issues)
Via Negativa (Blogger Best Demonstating a Multiplicity of Talents)
The Buddhist Blog (Best Kind and Compassionate Blog)
foot before foot (Best Achievement in Skillful Writing)
Katrina’s Charity (Blog Entry of the Year [including comments])
Zen Under the Skin (Blog of the year, Svaha!)

Check out these blogs and all the other nominees.

A Poem from Rumi

Image by Alex Grey

Ghazal 2133

wake up, wake up
this night is gone
wake up

abandon abandon
even your dear self

there is an idiot
in our market place
selling a precious soul

if you doubt my word
get up this moment
and head for the market now

don’t listen to trickery
don’t listen to the witches
don’t wash blood with blood

first turn yourself upside down
empty yourself like a cup of wine
then fill to the brim with the essence

a voice is descending
from the heavens
a healer is coming

if you desire healing
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill

Translated by Nader Khalili
Rumi, Fountain of Fire
Cal-Earth, September 1994

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Poet: Alan Dugan

On Finding the Tree of Life

After Genesis 3: 22-23

If there is an outside out there
one should go out to try to find it.
This I did. There is a garden world
out there, with birds, trees, and the tree
they call The Tree of Life. The birds
avoid it, naturally. The bunched of red
berries are intact except for one bunch. It's
partly eaten. The spoor around the tree
is old, but it would indicate that some
stupid godforsaken human or beast
had staggered around and crawled away
in the first agonies of immortality.
It's too bad for it, whoever it is
and will be: our own deaths are bad enough.

This is my first reading of Alan Dugan. I discovered him this morning by randomly opening my anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and reading what I found. I liked his directness and use of language. I really like that he simply numbered his collections, rather than naming them.

As a selection of the Yale Series of Younger Poets (given only for first collections), a volume for which he also won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, he was launched into the stratosphere of American poetry with first offering (he was already forty years old).

Here is some biographical info from the Academy of American Poets:
Alan Dugan was born February 12, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began his undergraduate education at Queens College in 1941, but after two years he was drafted into the Army Air Forces. He resumed his studies at Olivet College and received a B.A. from Mexico City College in 1949. For the next ten years, Dugan held various jobs in advertising, publishing and medical supply in New York City while he began his career as a poet.

Dugan's volumes of poetry include Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry (Seven Stories Press, 2001), winner of the National Book Award; Poems Six (1989); Poems Five: New and Collected Poems (1983), Poems 4 (1974); Collected Poems (1969); Poems 3 (1967); Poems 2 (1963); and Poems (1961), selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He has also received the Levinson Award from Poetry magazine, the Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Dugan was a member of the faculty of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and lived in Truro. He died of pneumonia on September 3, 2003.

From an article about Dugan shortly after he died:
When he learned that his first book would be published by the Yale Series of Younger Poets, he was working for a physiological-model manufacturer making plastic vaginas that showed doctors’ patients how to properly insert diaphragms.

I guess that helps explain the matter-of-factness of his poetry, a trait some readers describe as "obviousness." He doesn't use "elevated language," as might an Eliot or a Pound. He has more the daily diction of William Carlos Williams, a language that does not try to "pretty things up."

In choosing a flattened diction, he also chose to avoid sentamentality in his verse, which earned him a bit of reputation as nihilist, voicing the darker aspects of human nature.

My sense is that the quality and significance of Dugan's verse is all over the board. When he hits, he's very good. When he misses, he is very pedestrian. I think this is one of the drawbacks of early success--you can publish anything.

Here are a couple of other poems I found on the Web:

After your first poetry reading

I shook hands with you
and got a hard-on. Thank you.
We know that old trees
can not feel a thing
when the green tips burst
through the tough bark in spring,
but that's the way it felt,
that's the Objective Correlative
between us poets, love:
a wholly unexpected pain
of something new breaking out
with something old about it
like your new radical poems
those audible objects of love
breaking out through nerves
as you sweated up on stage,
going raw into painful air
for everyone to know.

On Looking for Models

The trees in time

have something else to do
besides their treeing. What is it.
I'm a starving to death
man myself, and thirsty, thirsty
by their fountains but I cannot drink
their mud and sunlight to be whole.
I do not understand these presences
that drink for months
in the dirt, eat light,
and then fast dry in the cold.
They stand it out somehow,
and how, the Botanists will tell me.
It is the "something else" that bothers
me, so I often go back to the forests.

Alan Dugan on the Web:
PoemHunter: 5 poems
Academy of American Poets
American Poems: 6 poems
The Pedestal Magazine: A Retrospective