Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Single Handful by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

A great article from a great teacher from the Tricycle archives.

A Single Handful

By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu


To call something “a fundamental principle of Buddhism” is correct only if, first, it is a principle that aims at the quenching of f (suffering) and, second, it has a logic that one can see for oneself without having to believe others.

The Buddha refused to deal with those things that don’t lead to the extinction of dukkha. He didn’t discuss them. Take the question of whether or not there is rebirth after death. What is reborn? How is it reborn? What is its “karmic inheritance”? These questions don’t aim at the extinction of dukkha. That being so, they are not the Buddha’s teaching nor are they connected with it. They don’t lie within the range of Buddhism. Also, the one who asks about such matters has no choice but to believe indiscriminately any answer that’s given, because the one who answers won’t be able to produce any proofs and will just be speaking according to his own memory and feeling. The listener can’t see for himself and consequently must blindly believe the other’s words. Little by little the subject strays from dharma until it becomes something else altogether, unconnected with the extinction of dukkha.

Now, if we don’t raise those sorts of issues, we can ask instead, “Is there dukkha?” and “How can dukkha be extinguished?” The Buddha agreed to answer these questions. The listener can recognize the truth of every word of the answers without having to believe them blindly and can see the truth more and more clearly until he understands for himself.

There aren’t that many fundamental, or root, principles of dharma. The Buddha said that his teaching is “a single handful.” A passage in the Samyutta-nikaya makes that clear. While walking through the forest, the Buddha picked up a handful of fallen leaves and asked the monks who were present to decide which was the greater amount, the leaves in his hand or all the leaves in the forest. Of course, they all said that there were more leaves in the forest, that the difference was beyond comparison. Try to imagine the truth of this scene; clearly see how huge the difference is. The Buddha then said that, similarly, those things that he had realized were a great amount, equal to all the leaves in the forest. However, that which was necessary to know, those things that should be taught and practiced, were equal to the number of leaves in his hand.

From this it can be seen that, compared to all the myriad things in the world, the root principles to be practiced for the complete extinction of dukkha amount to a single handful. We must appreciate that this single handful is not a huge amount; it’s not something beyond our capabilities to reach and understand. This is the first important point that we must grasp if we want to lay the foundation for a correct understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.

The saying of the Buddha that deals with the practice regarding“sunnata”(voidness) is the saying that is the heart of Buddhism. It requires our careful attention. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as “I” or “mine.”

("Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya.”)

The Buddha himself declared that this is the summation of all the Tathagata’s [Buddha’s] teaching. He said that to have heard the phrase “Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya” is to have heard everything; to have put it into practice is to have practiced everything; and to have reaped its fruits is to have reaped every fruit. So we need not be afraid that there is too much to understand. When the Buddha compared the things that he had realized, which were as many as all the leaves in the forest, with those that he taught his followers to practice, which were a single handful, the single handful he referred to was just this principle of not grasping at or clinging to anything as being self or as belonging to self.

“To hear this phrase is to hear everything,” because all subjects are contained within it. Of all the things the Buddha taught, there wasn’t one that didn’t deal with dukkha and the elimination of dukkha. Grasping and clinging is the cause of dukkha. When there is grasping and clinging, that is dukkha. When there is no grasping and clinging - that is, being void of grasping and clinging - there is no dukkha. The practice is to make the non-arising of grasping and clinging absolute, final, and eternally void, so that no grasping and clinging can ever return. Just that is enough. There is nothing else to do.

“This practice is every practice.” Can you think of anything that remains to be practiced? In a given moment, if a person - whether Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones, or anyone at all - has a mind free of grasping and clinging, at that moment, what does the person have? Please think it over. We can see that the person has attained all the traditional practices: the Triple Refuge ("tisarana"), giving ("dana"), virtuous conduct ("sila"), meditation ("samadhi"), the discernment of truth ("panna"), and even the path-realizations, their fruits, and nibbana.

BuddhadasaAt that moment of non-grasping, one has certainly attained the first practice, that of the Triple Refuge. One has reached the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, for to have a heart free of the mental defilements and dukkha is to be one with the heart of the Triple Gem. One has reached them without having to chant “Buddham saranam gacchami” [“I take refuge in the Buddha”]. Crying out “Buddham saranam gacchami” and so on is just a ritual, a ceremony of entrance, an external matter. It doesn’t penetrate to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in the heart. If at any moment a person has a mind void of grasping at and clinging to “I” and “mine,” even if only for an instant, the mind has realized voidness. It is one and the same as the heart of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.

The next practice is giving ("dana"). The meaning of giving is to let go, to end all grasping at and clinging to things as being “I” or “mine.” At the moment that one has a mind void of ego-consciousness, then one has made the supreme offering, for when even the self has been given up, what can there be left to give? Thus, at any moment that a person has a mind truly void of self, when even the self has been completely relinquished, he or she has developed giving to its perfection.

To move on to virtuous conduct ("sila"), one whose mind is void and free of grasping at and clinging to a self or possession of self, is one whose bodily and verbal actions are truly and perfectly virtuous. Any other sort of morality is just an up-and-down affair. We may make resolutions to refrain from this and abstain from that, but we can’t keep them. Whenever the mind is void, even if it’s only for a moment, or a day, or a night, one has true“sila”for all of that time.

As for concentration ("samadhi"), the void mind has supreme samadhi, the superbly focused firmness of mind. A strained and uneven sort of concentration isn’t the real thing. Only the mind that is void of grasping at and clinging to “I” and “mine” can have the true and perfect stability of correct concentration. One who has a void mind always has correct samadhi.

The next practice is“panna”(intuitive wisdom). Here we can see most clearly that knowing sunnata, realizing voidness - or being voidness itself - is the essence of wisdom. At the moment that the mind is void, it is supremely keen and discerning. When a mind is void of foolishness, void of “I” and “mine,” there is perfect knowing, or panna. So the wise say that sunnata and panna (mindfulness and wisdom) are one. Once the mind is rid of delusion, it discovers its primal state, the true original mind.

We can go on to the path-realizations, their fruits, and nibbana. Here the progressively higher levels of voidness reach their culmination in nibbana, which is called the supreme voidness ("parama-sunnata").

Now, you may see that from taking refuge and progressing through giving, virtuous conduct, concentration, and wisdom, there is nothing other than sunnata, or non-clinging to self. Even in the path-realizations, their fruits, and nibbana, there’s nothing more than voidness. In fact, they are its highest, most supreme level.

Consequently, the Buddha declared that to have heard this teaching is to have heard all teachings, to have put it into practice is to have done all practices, and to have reaped the fruits of that practice is to have reaped all fruits: Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as “I” or “mine.” ("Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya.") You must strive to grasp the essence of what this word “voidness” really means.

Adapted for“Tricycle”from“Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teaching on Voidness,”by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, with permission from Wisdom Publications.

Image 1: Courtesy Chiaroscuro

Image 2: Buddhadasa, 1903-1993. Courtesy Donald K. Swearer - Lise Eliot: Pink Brain, Blue Brain

Interesting . . . .

Lise Eliot talks about Pink Brain, Blue Brain. Based on research in the field of neuroplasticity, Eliot zeroes in on the precise differences between boys and girls' brains and explains the harmful nature of gender stereotypes.

She offers parents and teachers concrete ways they can help all children reach their fullest potential.

Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, received her Ph.D. in Physiology and Cellular Biophysics from Columbia University in 1991. Working in Eric Kandel's laboratory, she combined electrophysiology and calcium imaging methods to analyze the synaptic mechanisms underlying learning in the marine mollusc, Aplysia californica.

Dr. Eliot has published more than 50 works, including peer-reviewed journals articles, magazine pieces, and the book, What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Bantam, 2000). Honors include a Magna cum laude bachelor's degree from Harvard, a predoctoral NSF fellowship, a postdoctoral NIH fellowship, a Grass Fellowship in Neurophysiology, a Whiteley Scholarship from the University of Washington, and a Rosalind Franklin Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dr. Eliot's newest book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It, was published in September 2009 by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt.

Dharma Quote of the Week - The Five Impediments


translated by Lama Sherab Dorje

Dharma Quote of the Week

Agitation, remorse and regret, lassitude and
sleepiness, longing for the desirable, doubt--
these five are thieves who steal the riches
of virtuous dhyana--so the Muni has said.

The impediments are agitation, regret and remorse, sleepiness and lassitude, longing for the desirable, and doubt--five in all. The agitation caused by thoughts scattering towards various objects and regret for inappropriate actions one has done prevent the mind from abiding serenely. Remorse prevents it from abiding happily. Torpor that occludes the mind, dullness (which is a more overwhelming form of torpor), and compulsion to sleep prevent the mind from resting lucidly. Longing, which is desire for material goods or sentient beings, prevents the mind from resting in an effective way. Doubt about whether or not this is leading to samadhi prevents the mind from resting with sharp focus.

These five can also be condensed into two. Torpor, lassitude and sleep are included in torpor, while the rest are included within agitation, so there are just the two, torpor and agitation. The method for eliminating them is reliance on the individual remedies given in the guidance manuals, or else,

This has nothing whatsoever to be removed;
there isn't the slightest thing to be added on.
Look at perfection perfectly.
When you see the perfect you are totally liberated.

So the main thing is to look at the very essence of torpor and agitation and just rest in that essence without contrivance. That is the most profound [remedy]. This is also absolutely necessary as a basis for higher insight. As Santideva says:

Once you know that serene abiding
with full measure of higher insight
completely destroys afflictive patterns,
then first strive for serene abiding that,
with no attachment to the world,
is accomplished with evident joy.

~ From The Eighth Situpa on the Third Karmapa's Mahamudra Prayer translated by Lama Sherab Dorje, published by Snow Lion Publications

To Mourn and to Honor - The All Souls Procession

A nice article on one of the cool cultural traditions here in Tucson. If you happen to be in or near Tucson, the procession happens tomorrow. This article comes from The Tucson Weekly.

To Mourn and to Honor

The All Souls Procession enters its third decade of helping Tucsonans deal with death

On a recent dark night, under the half-light of a waxing moon, gusty winds swept through Tucson.

At the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse studios, just east of the railroad tracks, a chain-link fence rattled in the breeze. Every once in a while, a train whistle wailed.

The weather had shifted, with October's balmy Indian summer suddenly giving way to a wintry chill. Ghostly November was coming. And a band of brave souls, wrapped up in sweaters and scarves, were outside creating homages to the dead.

Carol Bender was leaning over a giant puppet head of her late husband, David Rowe, dead since 2003. His papier-mâché likeness lay on the ground at her feet, his white hair curling onto his forehead over his big blue eyes.

"It doesn't really look like him," she said with a smile. But it was close enough. "He had curly, dark blonde hair and very blue eyes."

Carol was making a David mask to wear in the All Souls Procession, occurring this Sunday, Nov. 8. For the long, haunting march down Fourth Avenue and through downtown, Carol will have the puppet mounted on a backpack frame. David's head will tower over her own, teetering 12 feet in the air.

She's given him a lab coat—he was a scientist at the University of Arizona until his death from liver cancer at 53—and she herself will be hidden in the coat's white folds. Wearing his head and his work uniform, she'll march to mourn him, and to honor him.

"It feels like the right time," Carol said. "It took me a long time before I could talk about him without crying."

The late David Rowe was not the only loved one whose effigy was under construction in the crowded dirt-floor courtyard. A team from the Center for Biological Diversity was crafting an image of the late jaguar Macho B. The last known wild jaguar in the United States, Macho B was controversially euthanized by Arizona wildlife officials last March.

A collective of Peruvian artists, Entre Peruanos, was busily making condor headdresses for the flutists who will join their band of devil dancers this year.

Susan Kay Johnson honors her mentor, Eldon Danhausen.

A papier-mâché head of Glenda Ward stood poised on a platform, the handiwork of her daughter, Meli Engel. Glenda wore a crown on her head, and her nose was long and curving.

"My mom was pretty young, 62," said Meli, her own head snug in a gray woolen cap. "She passed away a few months ago. She was a queen," she added, nodding at the regal crown. "It was her way or the highway. But she cooked; she loved people, and people loved her."

Meli had an elaborate procession planned. Two friends will wear different Glenda heads, and still more friends will carry a banner painted with "personal hieroglyphics" about her life.

It might be hard for Meli to act out her grief in public at All Souls, she said, but "my friends will be with me. My girlfriend and her daughter and other friends will help."

Meli and company will have the support of a cast of thousands. Organizers estimated that last year, between those marching and those watching, 15,000 people thronged the All Souls Procession.

Started in 1990 by Susan Kay Johnson, an artist grieving over her father's death, the procession has become a magical Tucson tradition. Costumed marchers bearing homemade effigies of the dead walk to the rhythms of a panoply of music-makers, from Scottish bagpipers to Peruvian pipe players.

They might dress in skulls borrowed from the Mexican Día de los Muertos or Halloween, or, as the Peruvian collective Entre Peruanos does, dress as the devils of Andean lore. Parents push costumed babies in strollers, and giant floats and memorial shrines go by on wheels, often with the help of the rolling-wheel experts at BICAS, the bicycle collective. Last year, a man and a woman carried a coffin representing the borderlands' migrant dead.

Sometimes the revelers dance to the music, celebrating life; other times, they stumble along, overcome by grief.

"What you have here is a festival that addresses an archetypal human experience—death," said Daniel Meyers, board president of Many Mouths One Stomach, the nonprofit that organizes the procession each year. "The body dies, and love continues. What do we do with all that love?"

During All Souls, mourners find plenty to do with that love. They can write a message to their lost loved one and place it in a giant urn that will be set afire at the end of the parade, their words wafting up in smoke to the heavens. Or they can have a photo of their mom or their cat or their favorite jaguar projected larger-than-life on building façades along the parade route.

"Some make a mask of the loved one, or wear a T-shirt printed with a loved one's picture, or carry signs evoking that person, calling them back to be present," Meyers said. "It's a very powerful thing."

A former Jungian analyst, Meyers sees the home-grown All Souls Procession as a ritual that engenders "deep community, deep healing and deep unity."

Mourners in America sometimes have trouble finding an outlet for their grief, he said. "American culture has a bias against it. It expects you to be introspective for a week or two if your mother dies—the person who birthed you. The culture doesn't have a way to express that grief."

Mourners are invited to "be as creative as possible. In a mass public ceremony, we're saying, 'Come and express yourself.' We invite all religions and ethnic groups."

The grand finale is an explosion of talent. Most spectacularly, the fire dancers of Flam Chen soar through the air. And this year, Calexico may appear on the Franklin Flats stage west of Stone, for Flor de Muertos, the indie movie filmmaker Danny Vinik is making. (See the accompanying story.)

Like Nevada's Burning Man, Tucson's All Souls is a modern, invented festival, but it has links to ancient rituals from Europe and Mexico. It's named for the Catholic religious feast of All Souls, still celebrated by the church on Nov. 2, following All Saints on Nov. 1. But these Christian holy days honoring the dead—the saints are presumed to be in heaven, with the souls still struggling in purgatory and needing our prayers—were glommed on to earlier festivals.

In old Ireland, Samhain, the Celtic New Year, was celebrated on Nov. 1, marking the time when the veil separating the dead from the living grew thinner. On Samhain Eve, the dead could return to Earth, and bonfires were lit to guide their way. When Catholics turned up on the Emerald Isle, they tried to Christianize the old pagan feast by moving All Saints—the feast of All Hallows—from the spring to Nov. 1.

Oct. 31 became All Hallows Eve, and some of its traditions—costumes conjuring the dead and demons, lighted candles in carved turnips—were brought to a puzzled United States by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Over time, the festival's spiritual dimensions were lost, and it evolved into the American Halloween. But even the modern secular holiday has candles lighted in the darkness, and spirits traveling abroad.

Mexico's Day of the Dead goes back thousands of years as well. Indigenous peoples performed masked rituals commemorating the dead. As in Ireland, Catholic missionaries put a Christian stamp on older traditions. Día de los Muertos became associated with All Souls and evolved into "a remarkable blending of Catholic and native beliefs and observances," folklorist Jim Griffith has written.

Despite its ubiquitous skulls and skeletons, the Mexican holiday is a cheerful, even comical celebration of death as a part of life. Families picnic in the cemetery and cheerfully clean up the graves of their loved ones; they return by night carrying lighted candles. At home, they eat pan de muertos and sugared skulls and set up shrines ornamented with marigolds and photos of their dead.

The holiday has stretched into a days-long celebration, and can extend from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. Nov. 1 is the day reserved for remembering lost children, los angelitos.

Mixed and meshed along the border, these forms have survived or been revitalized in some form in Tucson's arty All Souls. The jaguar Macho B will have a Mexican-style memorial shrine, rolled alongside his dancing jaguar body. His cloth body, incidentally, will be modeled on a Chinese dragon.

The Peruvian arts collective hopes to inject a dose of untouched Latin culture into the festivities.

"I felt the procession was not representing the Latin-American community," explained Roberto Ojeda, one of the Peruvians making condor headdresses last week. So he got a little grant in 2008 and brought the flute rhythms of the Andes—and its folk devils—to Tucson's streets.

Go read the whole article.

Friday, November 06, 2009 - A Day in the Life of Your Brain: Judith Horstman

Yep, I love the brain/neuroscience stuff.

What's your brain doing, right now?

Award-winning journalist Judith Horstman writes about health and medicine for doctors as well as the general public. Her work has appeared in hundreds of publications worldwide and on the Internet. She is an award-winning journalist who writes about health and medicine for doctors as well as the general public.

She has been a Washington correspondent, a journalism professor, a Fulbright scholar, and has written and edited in many media, including newspapers, newsletters, special health publications, radio, video, the Internet, annual reports and books.

Horstman discusses what your brain is doing as you go through a typical day: sleeping, waking, fighting, loving and making important decisions.

Scientific American - How Noise Can Help Quantum Entanglement

Geeky science stuff.

How Noise Can Help Quantum Entanglement

What spoils quantum entanglement can also restore it

By George Musser

Wouldn’t it be nice to be an electron? Then you, too, could take advantage of the marvels of quantum mechanics, such as being in two places at once—very handy for juggling the competing demands of modern life. Alas, physicists have long spoiled the fantasy by saying that quantum mechanics applies only to microscopic things.

Yet that is a myth. In the modern view that has gained traction in the past decade, you don’t see quantum effects in everyday life not because you are big, per se, but because those effects are camouflaged by their own sheer complexity. They are there if you know how to look, and physicists have been realizing that they show up in the macroscopic world more than they thought. “The standard arguments may be too pessimistic as to the survival of quantum effects,” says Nobel laureate physicist Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois.

In the most distinctive such effect, called entanglement, two electrons establish a kind of telepathic link that transcends space and time. And not just electrons: you, too, retain a quantum bond with your loved ones that endures no matter how far apart you may be. If that sounds hopelessly romantic, the flip side is that particles are incurably promiscuous, hooking up with every other particle they meet. So you also retain a quantum bond with every loser who ever bumped into you on the street and every air molecule that ever brushed your skin. The bonds you want are overwhelmed by those you don’t. Entanglement thus foils entanglement, a process known as decoherence.

To preserve entanglement for use in, say, quantum computers, physicists use all the tactics of a parent trying to control a teenager’s love life, such as isolating the particle from its environment or chaperoning the particle and undoing any undesired entanglements. And they typically have about as much success. But if you can’t beat the environment, why not use it? “The environment can act more positively,” says physicist Vlatko Vedral of the National University of Singapore and the University of Oxford.

One approach has been suggested by Jianming Cai and Hans J. Briegel of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Innsbruck, Austria, and Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol in England. Suppose you have a V-shaped molecule you can open and close like a pair of tweezers. When the molecule closes, two electrons on the tips become entangled. If you just keep them there, the electrons will eventually decohere as particles from the environment bombard them, and you will have no way to reestablish entanglement.

The answer is to open up the molecule and, counter intuitively, leave the electrons even more exposed to the environment. In this position, decoherence resets the electrons back to a default, lowest-energy state. Then you can close the molecule again and reestablish entanglement afresh. If you open and close fast enough, it is as though the entanglement was never broken. The team calls this “dynamic entanglement,” as opposed to the static kind that endures as long as you can isolate the system from bombardment. The oscillation notwithstanding, the researchers say dynamic entanglement can do everything the static sort can.

A different approach uses a group of particles that act collectively as one. Because of the group’s internal dynamics, it can have multiple default, or equilibrium, states, corresponding to different but comparably energetic arrangements. A quantum computer can store data in these equilibrium states rather than in individual particles. This approach, first proposed a decade ago by Alexei Kitaev, then at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Russia, is known as passive error correction, because it does not require physicists to supervise the particles actively. If the group deviates from equilibrium, the environment does the work of pushing it back. Only when the temperature is high enough does the environment disrupt rather than stabilize the group. “The environment both adds errors as well as removes them,” says Michal Horodecki of the University of Gdansk in Poland.

The trick is to make sure it removes faster than it adds. Horodecki, Héctor Bombín of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and their colleagues recently devised such a setup, but for geometric reasons it would require higher spatial dimensions. Several other recent papers make do with ordinary space; instead of relying on higher geometry, they thread the system with force fields to tilt the balance toward error removal. But these systems may not be able to perform general computation.

This work suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, entanglement can persist in large, warm systems—including living organisms. “This opens the door to the possibility that entanglement could play a role in, or be a resource for, biological systems,” says Mohan Sarovar of the University of California, Berkeley, who recently found that entanglement may aid photosynthesis [see “Chlorophyll Power,” by Michael Moyer; Scientific American, September 2009]. In the magnetism-sensitive molecule that birds may use as compasses, Vedral, Elisabeth Rieper, also at Singapore, and their colleagues discovered that electrons manage to remain entangled 10 to 100 times longer than the standard formulas predict. So although we may not be electrons, living things can still take advantage of their wonderful quantumness.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Easy Go, Easy Come."

Ingenious Monkey 20 two 5 - Priming Toddlers to be Altruisitc

Cool blog, and this is an even cooler post on how we can raise children who are considerate and kind.

Priming Toddlers to be Altruisitc
Reposted from Evolved Primate
Drop a couple of pens in front of an eighteen-month-old toddler, and there is a decent chance your toddler will display a spontaneous act of altruism by picking them up for you. A recent experiment at the Max Planck Institute now shows that this kind of cooperative, altruistic behavior in toddlers can be increased by affiliative priming. Priming is a powerful tool in psychological research, and successful priming experiments usually hint that deep routed automatic and implicit mechanisms are influencing a particular behavior. For example, in 2003 a priming study related to adult affiliative priming showed that people who were primed with words such as "friend" or "together" will mimic mannerisms of a model more readily than unprimed adults.
In this very recent study, the primed subjects were eighteen-month-old toddlers, and priming was not induced by words, but by the pictures shown below.

Each of the pictures depict one priming condition, intended to help the researchers draw stronger conclusions of possible causality from their data.
After showing toddlers one of the above pictures, and them leaving them to play, the experimenters returned with six sticks, dropped them "accidentally", and then played through the following routine:
"during the first 10 s after dropping the sticks, the experimenter said nothing-she simply alternated her gaze between the fallen sticks and the infants' faces. During the next 10 s, if infants had not already begun helping, the experimenter looked toward them, called their name, and said, ‘‘My sticks, they've fallen on the floor,'' making two unsuccessful attempts to reach the sticks herself. During the next 10 s, the experimenter looked at the infants, called their name, and said, ‘‘My sticks, I need them back,'' making two more attempts to reach the sticks. During the final 10 s, the experimenter looked at the infants and said, ‘‘Please will you help me?'' while holding out her hand, palm up."
The graph below, shows the main results . . . .
Go see what happened.

Mindfulness - Two Recent Articles from Psychology Today

Mindfulness is the hottest topic in psychology these days - here are two recent articles posted on the Psychology Today blogs.

Practical Mindfulness: The New Witness Protection Program

Mindfulness: a straightforward tool to help abate depression?

by Victoria Maxwell

For about 3 hours now, I've been sitting cross legged on my green comforter, staring at the TV. Someone, a woman, with too much lipstick and over-plucked, penciled-in eyebrows squeaks and hiccups about the ‘greatest' buy shoppers could ever hope for. Something about this season's must-have girdle that sweats away fat. Oh gawd. I am watching... The Shopping Channel.

Then I notice that familiar feeling that's been sinking into my chest, dawning into my arms, and trailing into my legs. What I fear and respect most shows its edges: Depression.

But I've learned that doesn't mean I will spiral out of control, descend under its black sheet. If I gently albeit nervously invite the demons in for tea and watch them, the power they threaten to hold over me dissolves. Or at least lessens. I have learned this through the art of mindfulness.

Read the whole article.

* * * * *

Mindfulness Psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Mindfulness Psychotherapy offers a direct path for inner transformation.

by Peter Strong, Ph.D.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be defined as recurrent episodes of anxiety and panic reactions triggered by memories of a past trauma. A trauma in this context is an experience that is overwhelming at both the sensory and emotional levels to such an extent that the mind cannot process and assimilate the experience. The trauma, which is the combination of both the intense sensory memory along with associated emotional energy, becomes repressed as an emotional complex, only to reoccur in the future when the appropriate sensory triggers are activated. The basic direction in psychotherapy is, therefore, to help the client re-process and re-assimilate both the sensory and emotional memory.

One approach, which I have found particularly helpful, is a form of psychotherapy that combines mindfulness and experiential imagery, in what I call Mindfulness Meditation Therapy ( In this approach, the client is guided to form a unique relationship with the felt-sense of the emotional trauma. The felt-sense can be defined as the general feeling tone of the experience, which is quite distinct from the complex structure of an emotional reaction and does not involve thinking, but rather sensing.

Mindfulness describes a particular quality of conscious relationship with an experience, which is open and accepting. Mindfulness is being completely present with whatever is being experienced as an interested observer eager, to investigate and learn. Mindfulness is the absence of reactivity, either in the form of identification with the story line of our experience, or aversion to what we are experiencing. These qualities are invaluable in psychotherapy, because they allow the client to investigate the deep structure of his trauma, rather than staying stuck at the superficial surface structure.
Read the whole article.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jean Adeler - Shadow in Integral Theory and Practice

A second article on the shadow from last week's new posts at Integral World.

I tend to strongly disagree with her assertion that shadow is not a thing or a feeling but is, rather, a thought. Having done a couple of decades of shadow work, both in therapy and on my own, I would argue that shadow contains emotions, thoughts, and even whole subpersonalities (often exiled child parts).

She argues that parts in shadow communicate through language, which necessarily means thoughts. True but partial. Not all shadow aspects can communicate with language - some communicate through psychosomatic illness (somatoform disorders). Some communicate only through somatic sensations. For wounding that occurs at pre-verbal stages, there can be no language for the part to tell it's story.

Her training in NLP has clearly biased her toward working only with conventional self-stages, while neglecting pre-conventional and, likely, post-conventional self-stages. Too bad.

Jean Adeler, Ph.D., writes on the interconnectedness of language and consciousness. She has also reinterpreted the Enneagram of personality as a structural model, Enneagram 2.0. See her website at After becoming immersed in consciousness studies, she created Psychotropology, which is a method for interpreting psychological structures and psychological discourse. Psychotropology is one of the tools that helped her develop Enneagram 2.0. She is a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and is certified by Robert McDonald as a Destination Coach.

Shadow in Integral Theory and Practice

Jean Adeler

My contrary understanding of shadow is that it is neither thing nor feeling.

Integrating shadow, a widespread psychological therapy, is one of the four essential integral practices enumerated by Ken Wilber et al. in their book, Integral Life Practice.[1] The other three main targets of integral practice are body, mind, and spirit. The authors note that shadow work is generally omitted from other programs of transformation and warn that, without shadow work, “the transformative process tends not to stick.”

Accepting the essential nature of shadow work, we should then ensure that we make our understanding of the concept of shadow as accurate as is necessary in order that it be useful.

Integral Life Practice (ILP) presents a summary view of shadow that in many ways is good enough for the author's purposes. Yet there are a couple of potential errors that I think are worth considering.

First, what is shadow? ILP doesn't credit Jung, but the authors are probably borrowing their ideas about shadow from the heirs and popularizers of Jungian analytic psychology, so I'll start there. For Jung, shadow is one of a variety of archetypes, which are “patterns of psychic energy originating in the collective unconscious.”[2] ILP doesn't identify the collective unconscious as the source of shadow, but neither do most Jungians emphasize that distinction, as far as I can tell. Jung himself talked about shadow and archetypes in ways that may give the impression that they are formations of the individual psyche.

So I guess we'll all take a pass on that one. Perhaps it goes without saying that individual shadow crops up with some assistance from the collective.

My real issue with the integralists (and many Jungians) is that they seem to treat shadow as either a thing—an entity—or a feeling. Here are some of the ways ILP references shadow:

  • the shadow [my emphasis]
  • “the 'dark side' of the psyche—those aspects of ourselves that we've split off, rejected, denied, hidden from ourselves, projected onto others, or otherwise disowned” (p. 41) [my emphasis]
  • “the 'repressed unconscious'” (p. 41)
  • “repressed unconscious drives, feelings, needs, and potentials” (p. 43)
  • something that can be contacted (p. 44)
  • a feeling, such as anger (p. 44)
  • a quality (p. 45)
  • “the split-off self” (p. 46)
  • desire or drive (p. 47)
  • “little renegade splinters of our personality running around in our unconscious … alienated 'others'” (p. 49)

My contrary understanding of shadow is that it is neither thing nor feeling.

To support the suggestion that shadow is not a thing, I turn again to Jung. Jung did not see archetypes essentially as things. According to Carol Schreier Rupprecht, writing in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism,[3] Jung

modified and extended his concept over the many decades of his professional life, often insisting that “archetype” named a process, a perspective, and not a content, although this flexibility was lost through the codifying, nominalizing tendencies of his followers.

As a form of archetype, shadow is “a process, a perspective, and not a content.” On the other hand, some of the characterizations of shadow in ILP, such as “the shadow,” “dark side,” “split-off self,” and “others,” are of the shadow as entities. I don't know whether the authors would agree, but I do not believe that “Tony” in their third example has an image of a monster residing full-time, year-round in his mind. I would think that this shadow figure was simply a vehicle he produced during a certain period of his life to represent his dream thoughts.

I readily admit that treating shadows as anthropomorphized entities is a useful shorthand, even if it is a fiction, and that we may not want to dispense with the idea of shadow-things altogether. Dreams as well as waking life are full of archetypal representations of thoughts, and making therapeutic use of such representations is time-honored psychological practice. ILPs 3-2-1 process for integrating shadow is a case in point. The authors present this simple yet profound method for recognizing and owning shadow through creating an image of a problem and holding an imaginary dialogue with it.

But even if we decline to reject the idea of shadow-things and continue to find it useful, there is one other aspect of ILP's shadow theory that I find more troubling. That is the assumption that shadow is made up of feelings.

Recall that ILP characterizes shadow as the “repressed unconscious.” It then goes on to summarize Freud's contribution to this subject as follows: “unacceptable drives and feelings are repressed from conscious awareness, where they surreptitiously shape your life” [sic] (p. 42). Freud probably said something like this somewhere in his vast and somewhat self-contradictory writings. But the overall substance of his thinking on this topic is this: it is always a thought (“ideational representative” of the drive) that is repressed, never a feeling, or affect.[4]

Else what would be the “mechanism” by which a feeling persisted in mind as an unconscious shadow? Thoughts can be held in memory because language and the structures of discourse make it possible. Has anybody proved that feelings can be so held? Certainly, the part of emotion that consists of thinking can be retained in mind over time and repressed, but can the same be said of the part that consists of bodily response?

Many today speak and write as if affect could be repressed, so the integralists aren't alone in this belief. But is it a useful belief? think that treating shadow as thought instead of feeling produces more and better information.
Read the whole article.

Elizabeth Kolbert - Should You Eat Meat?

Interesting article from The New Yorker. It's essentially a review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals, which is a novel of the postmodern variety. Foer appears to be anti-meat for the most part, on moral grounds not ecological, but he concedes that humane meat eating is possible later in the book, at least according to the review.

Flesh of Your Flesh

Should you eat meat?

by Elizabeth Kolbert November 9, 2009

This year, Americans will consume some thirty-five million cows, a hundred and fifteen million pigs, and nine billion birds.

This year, Americans will consume some thirty-five million cows, a hundred and fifteen million pigs, and nine billion birds.

Americans love animals. Forty-six million families in the United States own at least one dog, and thirty-eight million keep cats. Thirteen million maintain freshwater aquariums in which swim a total of more than a hundred and seventy million fish. Collectively, these creatures cost Americans some forty billion dollars annually. (Seventeen billion goes to food and another twelve billion to veterinary bills.) Despite the recession, pet-related expenditures this year are expected to increase five per cent over 2008, in part owing to outlays on luxury items like avian manicures and canine bath spritz. “We have so many customers who say they’d eat macaroni and cheese before they’d cut back on their dogs,” a Colorado pet-store owner recently told the Denver Post. In a survey released this past August, more than half of all dog, cat, and bird owners reported having bought presents for their animals during the previous twelve months, often for no special occasion, just out of love. (Fish enthusiasts may bring home fewer gifts, but they spend more on each one, with the average fish gift coming to thirty-seven dollars.) A majority of owners report that one of the reasons they enjoy keeping pets is that they consider them part of the family.

Americans also love to eat animals. This year, they will cook roughly twenty-seven billion pounds of beef, sliced from some thirty-five million cows. Additionally, they will consume roughly twenty-three billion pounds of pork, or the bodies of more than a hundred and fifteen million pigs, and thirty-eight billion pounds of poultry, some nine billion birds. Most of these creatures have been raised under conditions that are, as Americans know—or, at least, by this point have no excuse not to know—barbaric. Broiler chickens, also known, depending on size, as fryers or roasters, typically spend their lives in windowless sheds, packed in with upward of thirty thousand other birds and generations of accumulated waste. The ammonia fumes thrown off by their rotting excrement lead to breast blisters, leg sores, and respiratory disease. Bred to produce the maximum amount of meat in the minimum amount of time, fryers often become so top-heavy that they can’t support their own weight. At slaughtering time, they are shackled by their feet, hung from a conveyor belt, and dipped into an electrified bath known as “the stunner.”

For pigs, conditions are little better. Shortly after birth, piglets have their tails chopped off; this discourages the bored and frustrated animals from gnawing one another’s rumps. Male piglets also have their testicles removed, a procedure performed without anesthetic. Before being butchered, hogs are typically incapacitated with a tonglike instrument designed to induce cardiac arrest. Sometimes their muscles contract so violently that they end up not just dead but with a broken back.

How is it that Americans, so solicitous of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner? The answer cannot lie in the beasts themselves. Pigs, after all, are quite companionable, and dogs are said to be delicious.

This inconsistency is the subject of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” (Little, Brown; $25.99). Unlike Foer’s two previous books, “Everything Is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” his latest is nonfiction. The task it sets itself is less to make sense of our behavior than to show how, when our stomachs are involved, it is often senseless. “Food choices are determined by many factors, but reason (even consciousness) is not generally high on the list,” Foer writes.

Foer was just nine years old when the problem of being an “eating animal” first presented itself. One evening, his parents left him and his older brother with a babysitter and a platter of chicken. The babysitter declined to join the boys for dinner.

“You know that chicken is chicken, right?” she pointed out. Foer’s older brother sniggered. Where had their parents found this moron? But Foer was shaken. That chicken was a chicken! Why had he never thought of this before? He put down his fork. Within a few years, however, he went back to eating chickens and other animals. During high school and college, he converted to vegetarianism several more times, partly to salve his conscience and partly, as he puts it, “to get closer to the breasts” of female activists. Later, he became engaged to a woman (the novelist Nicole Krauss) with a similar history of relapse. They resolved to do better, and immediately violated that resolve by serving meat at their wedding and eating it on their honeymoon. Finally, when he was about to become a father, Foer felt compelled to think about the issue more deeply, and, at the same time, to write about it. “We decided to have a child, and that was a different story that would necessitate a different story,” he says.

Foer ends up telling several stories, though all have the same horrific ending. One is about shit. Animals, he explains, produce a lot of it. Crowded into “concentrated animal feeding operations,” or CAFOs, they can produce entire cities’ worth. (The pigs processed by a single company, Smithfield Foods, generate as much excrement as all of the human residents of the states of California and Texas combined.) Unlike cities, though, CAFOs have no waste-treatment systems. The shit simply gets dumped in holding ponds. Imagine, Foer writes, if “every man, woman, and child in every city and town in all of California and all of Texas crapped and pissed in a huge open-air pit for a day. Now imagine that they don’t do this for just a day, but all year round, in perpetuity.” Not surprisingly, the shit in the ponds tends to migrate to nearby streams and rivers, causing algae blooms that kill fish and leave behind aquatic “dead zones.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some thirty-five thousand miles of American waterways have been contaminated by animal excrement.

Another of Foer’s stories is about microbes. In the U.S., Foer reports, people are prescribed about three million pounds of antibiotics a year. Livestock are fed nearly twenty-eight million pounds, according to the drug industry. By pumping cows and chickens full of antibiotics, farmers have been instrumental in producing new, resistant strains of germs—so-called superbugs. As soon as the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a class of drugs known as fluoroquinolones in chickens, for instance, the percentage of bacteria resistant to fluoroquinolones shot up. Officials at many health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, have called for an end to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics on farms, but, of course, the practice continues.

A third story is about suffering. Intuitively, we all know that animals feel pain. (This, presumably, is why we spend so much money on vet bills.) “No reader of this book would tolerate someone swinging a pickax at a dog’s face,” Foer observes. And yet, he notes, we routinely eat fish that have been killed in this way, as well as chickens who have been dragged through the stunner and pigs who have been electrocuted and cows who have had bolts shot into their heads. (In many cases, the cows are not quite killed by the bolts, and so remain conscious as they are skinned and dismembered.)

Foer relates how, one night, he sneaked onto a California turkey farm with an animal-rights activist he calls C. Most of the buildings were locked, but the two managed to slip into a shed that housed tens of thousands of turkey chicks. At first, the conditions seemed not so bad. Some of the chicks were sleeping. Others were struggling to get closer to the heat lamps that substitute for their mothers. Then Foer started noticing how many of the chicks were dead. They were covered with sores, or matted with blood, or withered like dry leaves. C spotted one chick splayed out on the floor, trembling. Its eyes were crusted over and its head was shaking back and forth. C slit its throat.

“If you stop and think about it, it’s crazy,” she later told Foer. “How would you judge an artist who mutilated animals in a gallery because it was visually arresting? How riveting would the sound of a tortured animal need to be to make you want to hear it that badly? Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.”

One day while in Berlin, Franz Kafka went to visit the city’s famous aquarium. According to his friend and biographer Max Brod, Kafka, gazing into the illuminated tanks, addressed the fish directly. “Now at last I can look at you in peace,” he told them. “I don’t eat you anymore.”

Kafka, who became what Brod calls a strenger Vegetarianer—a strict vegetarian—is one of the heroes of “Eating Animals.” So is the philosopher Jacques Derrida, and a vegan theology professor named Aaron Gross, who is working on plans for a model slaughterhouse. “This is not paradoxical or ironic,” Gross says of his slaughterhouse work.

Foer’s villains include Smithfield, Tyson Foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and—rather more surprisingly—Michael Pollan. There is perhaps no more influential critic of the factory farm than Pollan, and Foer acknowledges that he “has written as thoughtfully about food as anyone.” But when Pollan looks at animals he doesn’t feel worried or guilty or embarrassed. He feels, well, hungry.

“I have to say there is a part of me that envies the moral clarity of the vegetarian, the blamelessness of the tofu eater,” Pollan observes toward the end of his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” shortly after describing the thrill of shooting a pig. “Yet part of me pities him, too. Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on a denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris.”

Read the whole review.

Rande Howell - The Internal Dialogue: Mastering the Unseen Forces That Shape Our Destiny

Great article from Pick the Brain - we all have an internal dialogue. The real question is do we have it, or does it have us? For many of us, that voice rambles on day after day, unquestioned, making our lives much more challenging and difficult than they need be.

Identifying these voices is a key element in parts work.

The Internal Dialogue: Mastering the Unseen Forces That Shape Our Destiny

October 29th, 2009 by Rande Howell

Though a positive, successful, and engaging person, Pam avoided prolonged looks into her mirror. When she was brushing her hair or applying make-up, she stayed focused on the activity – but would intentionally not make eye contact with herself. Except sometimes. On those occasions a tirade of negative judgments erupted in her thoughts.

If she didn’t avoid the negative assessment machine in her mind by distraction or busyness, the stream of thoughts that flooded into Pam’s awareness would chide her, “Your nose is too crooked. Your skin is a mess. You’re getting wrinkles under your eyes. You’re too fat. Nobody would give you a second look. You need surgery to look better.” In these moments, Pam would cringe and feel the familiar black pit in her stomach suck the positive energy right out of her. And she would begin to doubt herself and her ability to create a rewarding life.

The strange part of this internal conversation going on in her mind was that Pam knew there was no truth to the accusations. Pam has a dancer’s body and is a highly accomplished dancer. In addition, she teaches dance to serious students. She also is a sought-after model due to her beauty and flawless complexion. Over the course of time, she has attempted to debate the negative voice and has tried thought stopping, positive affirmations, and positive thinking. And for awhile these techniques worked – then, like a thief in the middle of the night, the character assassinations would creep back into her thoughts and cast seeds of doubt in her mind.

Pam’s current stategy, common for many people, for dealing with this discomfort was to avoid the discomfort of this internal dialogue by busying herself with work, activities, or friends – anything to distract herself from listening to the critical Judge living within her.

The Internal Dialogue: You and Your Thoughts are Different From One Another

What Pam is experiencing in the example above is her internal dialogue masquerading as thoughts in her mind. This particular conversation is between a harsh critical voice and her self doubt. And like Pam, all of us have some variation of this internal struggle, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. The key is whether we identify with it as who we are.

If you have ever been conflicted about something and were of two minds about it, you have experienced the internal dialogue first hand. Most of us simply pay it no mind and believe that “it is only our thoughts running through our mind”. However, not being aware of it or not understanding it does not stop the force it exerts over your life. It drives our lives. It is like driving on a freeway while looking through binoculars. You are at the mercy of chance to see and understand the world you are attempting to negotiate.

The Internal Dialogue Goes Underground

Most of us are aware of this internal dialogue, but we push it away (much like Pam in the example above). We never mention it to others because of what they might think. This is our loss. Gaining a window into this internal dialogue is essential if we want to discover a deeper purpose, meaning, and joy for our lives. As we learn to observe the voices that lie beneath our thoughts, the transformation of body, mind, and Spirit becomes possible. Learning about these voices within the self is crucial for creating lasting transformation.

There is a lot at stake in this inner struggle going on within the internal dialogue. Staying mindless keeps Pam (and us) aimlessly drifting in the currents of life. Things happen repetitively that we do not understand. What is revealed in Pam’s internal dialogue is that the self is composed of a number of voices – some good, some bad. Let us explore this further.

Like Pam, many of us don’t even realize that an internal dialogue is happening in our mind. This is what I call “mindlessness”. To be blind to the internal dialogue of the mind is to be swept along on the unseen currents of life. Those who are swept along are blind to it – and to its power. Others hear an almost inaudible whisper that is moving too fast to comprehend. Still others hear the internal dialogue and it makes them uncomfortable and they do not understand it. So they avoid listening to it, and this limits their lives.

The Internal Dialogue Creates the Box of Our Comfort Zone

Instead they will distract themselves so that they are not aware of it. They busy themselves with work, conquest, exercise, drugs, sex, the latest toy, or whatever is necessary to distance themselves from the discomfort of getting out of their comfort zone. Others come to live in fear of the negative assessment machine in their mind and shrink their lives into a comfort zone so that they will not be noticed. The comfort zone locks them into familiar, habitual ways and they get stuck in old repeating patterns. This is called a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Very few people learn how to observe the internal dialogue, question it, and explore the design of its nature. It is through the exploration of these voices within the mind that we set ourselves free of their control over our lives and tap into the potential that lies buried within us. There are some negative aspects of the self that have to be observed and confronted, and there are some powerful parts of the self that we need to awaken. It is in awakening these empowering parts of the self that we change the historical script of our life and find new life.

We have to become aware of the war being waged in our minds. Once we grasp that thinking is simply a biological activity, a powerful question can surface – who, or what, is in control of the perception and thinking apparatus of our mind? The answer will surprise you. Thought is important, but it is the voice (or aspect of the self) that controls the thought that keeps us from becoming who we were born to be and transforming the potential of our lives.

Read the whole article to get to the good stuff.

Integral Theory Conference 2010

Registration is now open - last year it was limited to 500 people and sold out early, so don't wait if you plan to go. I'll be there - will you?

Integral Theory Conference 2010

Location: Date:
John F. Kennedy University
100 Ellinwood Way
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010 - Sunday, Aug. 01, 2010
8:00 AM - 9:00 PM

2nd Biennial
Integral Theory Conference

Enacting an Integral Future

Presented by
John F. Kennedy University
Integral Institute

July 29th-Aug 1st, 2010
John F. Kennedy University Campus
100 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Ken Wilber Guest Blog - Lexi Neale: Introducing The AQAL Cube, Part 2: The AQAL Cube in Integral Practice

Good stuff - really liked part one, which you might want to read before tackling this piece, if you haven't already read it.

Notice that Ken has to qualify the model as not fully integral . . . just saying.
Guest Blog: Introducing The AQAL Cube. Part 2: The AQAL Cube in Integral Practice (by Lexi Neale)
November 04, 2009 16:35

A Note from Ken:

The following is one possible extension of the basic AQAL framework. Lexi presents it as the fundamental framework, whereas in my opinion it is but one of several possible extensions of the simpler, more fundamental framework, anchored in the present moment. But it won’t work as the fundamental framework because it puts too much stuff in to go all the way up, all the way down, and thus actually ends up leaving out important dimensions.

The reason these types of extensions are not fundamental is that 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person are not fundamental—what is fundamental is just the inside and outside of the individual and collective—those are the four quadrants. At red altitude, we introduce 1st-person; at amber, 2nd-nd person; at orange, 3rd-person; at green, 4th person; at teal, 5th-person; at turquoise, 6th-person; and at indigo, 7th-person. Those types of things are missed by “cube” approaches, which make 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person fundamental at every level. At each of those higher levels, what is actually present is simply a variation on the inside and outside of the individual and collective, reflexively applied. Making “1st- , 2nd-, and 3rd- person” actually fundamental misses all of this; nor, in fact, do “1st- , 2nd-, and 3rd- person” go all the way down—only the inside and outside of the individual and collective go all the way down. Moreover, in making 3rd-person fundamental, the cube doesn’t even cover past orange vertically. Anyway, as I said, the “cube” approaches are certain extensions of the fundamental AQAL framework that cover a fairly narrow range of the full spectrum of all AQAL dimensions.

I’ve worked on several of these types of extensions myself, but haven’t presented them because they are, in fact, derivative of the simpler and more fundamental present-moment AQAL framework as I have presented it. Still, it is an interesting and useful extension in some ways, so it is offered here. In my mind, of course, it is definitely not Wilber-6, just a thoughtful extension of Wilber-5.

-Ken Wilber

Introducing The AQAL Cube, Part 2: The AQAL Cube in Integral Practice
by Lexi Neale

Read Part 1 here.


In Part 1, the AQAL Cube was introduced in the cold, hard terms of Integral Theory, where it was presented as a fundamental model rather than as an extension of the AQAL Square; the Square being presented instead as a reduction of the Cube. Here in Part 2, the AQAL Cube is presented in the warmer, softer terms of practical application, where it has enjoyed a long cultural history as a fundamental model for various incarnations of Enlightenment Kosmology. Both the AQAL Square and AQAL Cube are Enlightenment Kosmologies in that they map the evolution of our awareness, through the process of Integral Life Practice, back to Ultra Violet / Clear Light. The AQAL Cube reveals an added dimension of Consciousness to this process.


In “Introducing The AQAL Cube”, posted on June 12th, I showed how languages of the world conform in presenting our most fundamental consciousness perspectives, as the personal pronouns, in three sets of eight through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons. Not three squares, but three cubes, where the additional dimension was provided in differentiating the possessive from the non-possessive personal pronouns.

Ken Wilber described his initial research into the AQAL model in amassing all known categories of data. He began to find himself surrounded by four piles of paper, as four essential categories, which became the Four Quadrants. But the data he had accumulated was, by its very nature, tangible, empirical and third person, which lent itself to the four possessive quadrants (below) of the Cube. The corresponding four intangible, subtle and non-possessive categories of identity (above) remained elusive.

In its conventional use, the AQAL Square deals with the evolving structural processes we call Life. I proposed that involution, or Consciousness getting involved in gross structures as an AQAL process, is inseparable from evolution, or Life getting evolved as an AQAL process. They are two sides of the same coin, where AQAL Consciousness manifests as AQAL Life. The Life Quadrants, as gross structures and processes, are subject to death and disintegration; whereas the Consciousness Quadrants, as subtle identities inhabiting those structures, are subject to continuity and perpetuity. I subsequently proposed that the AQAL Cube is kosmologically fundamental to model the dynamic between Life and Consciousness, because the AQAL Square is a reduction or non-differentiation of that dynamic. Furthermore, I proposed that each of the three persons, each as an octave of personal pronoun perspectives, shows how that dynamic between Life and Consciousness operates in real life. In Part 2, I propose how this dynamic, as the AQAL Cube, fulfils the prerequisites of an Enlightenment Kosmology as a time-tested framework for Integral Life (/Consciousness) Practice. This now begs the question, what is Consciousness?

The AQAL Witness

To introduce the dynamic between Life and Consciousness in first-person experience, we must first understand the nature of Consciousness. Con-Sciousness, or “knowing with”, assumes a synthesis between a Knower and a Means of Knowing. There is only the One Knower, a.k.a. the Supreme Witness, or undifferentiated Knowing. In the AQAL Square the Supreme Witness resides in the Ultra Violet/Clear Light of the Upper Left Quadrant. This is a cast-in-concrete aspect of Integral Theory, which hardly lends itself to allowing the One Knower to occupy not only All Quadrants, but also All Levels of All Quadrants. But in the first person AQAL Cube, as the eight first-person possessive and non-possessive pronouns, our Con-Sciousness is “Witnessing-With” eight simultaneous perspectives. In our evolution, those eight perspectives have also transcended/included through a number of levels: Through levels of “I” to “I Am”, through levels of “Me” to “All Of Me”, through levels of “Us” to “All Of Us”, through levels of “We” to “We All”.

Fig. 1. The First Person Cube as AQAL Witness

In other words, if it is true that the Witness is our true seat of Knowing awareness, and that without the Witness there would be no awareness, then it is true that the Witness, as well as being Supreme/Ultra Violet, is also AQAL throughout the entire Spectrum of mistaken identities we have assumed in our evolution that include, but are not limited to, the Witness-as-Id, Witness-as-Ego, Witness-as-Soul and Witness-as-God on the Intuitive “I” Quadrant. All these mistaken or assumed identities are inevitable in our evolution, because an identity State results when the individual Witness, on whatever Quadrant or Level, identifies with whatever corresponding Structure it inhabits. And then that Structure enters the conspiracy by interpreting itself according to the assumed identity. For example, the Ego-as-Knower identity (Intuitive “I”) assumes that the corresponding Structure (Empirical “I”) it inhabits is its Means-of-knowing. But the Soul-as-Knower identity shifts towards Enlightenment when it realizes it also is a mere Means-of-knowing, and that the Universal Consciousness is the One True Knower. Wilber has clearly alluded to an AQAL Witness many times; but the AQAL Square, as a reduction of the AQAL Cube, was never able to differentiate and model it.

The first-person Cube maps the individual as an AQAL Witness. The second-person Cube shows how the AQAL Witness relates with other AQAL Witnesses; and the third-person Cube locates the AQAL Witness functioning in the arena of manifestation. These three octaves of Witnessing in an individual comprise an integral, evolutionary entity. Our individual progress towards Enlightenment, which is the actualization of our Integral Being and Knowing, is achieved by definition through Integral Life/Consciousness Practice. This would imply that the Enlightenment of any individual at any time in history would have been via Integral Practice (with the rare exception of spontaneous Enlightenment) usually under the guidance of an Enlightenment teacher.

Spontaneous Enlightenment and early-age Enlightenment (spiritual prodigies) cannot be explained by the AQAL Square model, but on the first-person AQAL Cube it becomes immediately clear that the Continuous Consciousness of an incarnating Witness can be mapped as a fact of Life for the reincarnating bodhisattva. If at the end of a life the “saint” is, in perpetuity, well into “Violet” in the Intuitive Quadrants, then the conscious choice of a next life could be through spiritually aware parents who can help fast-track that being’s Empirical Quadrants in the next incarnation. This is the on-going story of the Dalai Lamas. With my own Master, Prem Rawat, even by the age of three years old there is abundant archival footage of him delivering profound discourses about the need, nature and means for Enlightenment. This defies the usual timeframe of Fulcrum development in the Empirical Upper Left Quadrant, but when coupled with advanced development of the AQAL Witness in the first-person Intuitive Quadrants incarnation package, any type of precocious manifestation is immediately relatable.

Read the rest of the article.