Integral Sainthood


Jul 09

Recently, I have been experiencing a period of deep sadness. It is different from the crippling depressions I have experienced in the past, when it felt like I was trying to walk and think surrounded by mud; my body, mind, and emotions so weighted down that I could hardly move, think, or feel. What I am experiencing now, however, is just sadness. I can still move, think, and feel. So, bear with me as I attempt to clarify what is going on for me. And, perhaps find the gift or the light in this dark experience.

Yesterday morning when I was meditating, I felt a deep grief over the current state of our Integral Family, which naturally expanded to our entire human family. There may have been an element of depression in this, too, as I felt very unimpressed by myself as well, as if all my efforts and accomplishments have not amounted to much. Hopefully, this sadness is a precursor to my next developmental step. I have learned to trust these periods of darkness, sadness, and fallowness as a necessary part of my own personal process. It doesn’t do any good at all to try and fix them (other than to continue with my regular ongoing practices). I just need to be present, invite the feelings in, and greet them as teachers.

Let me start with our Integral world. Perhaps what sparked this grief was the public demise of Genpo Roshi, one of our Integral elders and teachers. Not that Genpo was particularly integrally informed, but his Big Mind teaching has been very influential in the formation of our Integral Weltanschauung. Since the scandal involving Genpo broke, I have heard much anger and disappointment among my young Integral friends that another elder, whom they had taken for a role model of wisdom, deep spirituality, and elderhood, had fallen, due to very self-centered and venal personal failings. What makes this especially painful and disturbing is that this was done by the apostle of Big Mind and Big Heart. It is sad and embarrassing to us as a community, movement, new evolutionary stage, or whatever the heck we are.

Another thing that bothers me is our seemingly endless turf wars and obsessions about making money. There is nothing wrong with money; money is energy and our current lingua franca in the world, along with capitalism. But we simply don’t have to be ugly about it. Again, in a healthy Integral understanding, money is oxygen―not the highest or even the best thing, but a foundational necessity to provide energy, comfort, and support to our higher aspirations. But somehow we are always getting the cart before the horse and this feels sad to me. For me, healthy capitalism is about the circulation of wealth, not merely the accumulation of wealth by those smart enough or crooked enough to win the game. (As in the Monopoly games of our youth, where the bankers were always stealing gold $500 bills and yellow $100 bills. I used to hide mine under the Monopoly board.) The bankers always seem to win and I think there is a lesson there. Healthy capitalism circulates wealth: material wealth, intellectual wealth, artistic wealth, spiritual wealth, etc. Keep the goods circulating and the body politic healthy.

I think that developmentally some of our current issues around money and our unhealthy relationship to it are because that many of us, in the mix that makes up our Integral community, have spent many years in the green meme despising $$ and capitalism. When we move into Second Tier and rediscover capitalism, orange, and money, we get obsessed. On the other hand, I think there are also many of us hanging around in Integral circles that never went through green but simply made the leap from orange, or somewhere, into Second Tier, without the prerequisite compassion and caring for all beings that healthy green attempts to bring on line. As someone said, green makes us worthy of Second Tier. SO, what I am saying is, as per normal, we have money problems, sex problems, and power problems and it hurts my heart.

Over these last few years of intense meditation and contemplative work, my personal understanding of God has become that he is the Light and the Darkness and I do see the light in this. In my own inner work, in my commitment to Integral practice, in my work with my students, in my relationship with my wife, my family, my friends, and the animals that live in my neighborhood, there is light. And, occasionally, maybe quite often, the light comes through a crack in the darkness and I can see and it is somehow all unbelievably okay. I think as we continue to commit ourselves to a life of Integral practice, or life as Integral practice, and we dedicate that practice to the indefinable, amazing something that is our greatest good, we will experience reality more as an early nascent dawn in the desert, where our darkness has lightened and we can begin to see and perceive the light more clearly. Or, perhaps it will be more in the order of experiencing an incredibly violent electrical storm at night, where the flashes of world-revealing lightning blast through at incredibly short intervals, so as to seem nearly constant. The darkness is still there but, my God, there is so much light. So, what I am seeing, I think, is this: that through our intentions to nobly dedicate our practices, intentions, projects, and relationships to that indefinable, mysterious, and ever greatest good, which is probably easier to define as Love, we will do better and, yes, perhaps save the world so that something good, noble, and deeply planted will be brought forth by our efforts for our children and their children’s children’s children (this includes monkeys and donkeys and dogs, even cats!) and all the other life forms who need our love and care and their own evolutionary space and opportunity.

Again, what am I saying? I see it more clearly as I write. What I am asking is that we recognize the need for and cultivation of, for lack of a better word, Integral Sainthood. This would mean the clarification and the purification of our desires, drives, and wants though the Holy Grail and transformational cauldron of our own hearts as we confront and accept experience and bless all of this evolutionary raw material in the deep yet ever present mystery of our own truest, deepest, and most real Self. To cultivate this philosopher’s stone, this elixir of life, we must bring forward our best and noblest intentions and our clearest attention to all of those things that will create the conditions from which the lightening storms of our full awakening will blast forth. And, these “things” include so much! Our daily sacred transformational practices that refine, polish, and tune us as instruments to be played with miraculous skill and Grace. We must honor our artists and thinkers, mystics and poets, managers and doers, lovers and shakers and cultivate all of these parts of ourselves. We must honor and cultivate our relationship with nature as emptiness made form right in front of us and all around us, ever renewing, ever blessing. The path of what I am calling Integral Sainthood is not a path of renunciation but of absolute and total embracing of all that is and all that we are―that which is not accepted is not redeemed and that which is not experienced is not transformed. Our Integral agendas and yogas include practice, art, science, literature, mysticism, nature, sports, sex, economics, technology, and politics, all held in the light of the redeemed, transformed, and evolved Holy Grail of our deepest divine hearts. The fruits of this will be greater kindness, greater wisdom, and much more skillfulness so that we can fulfill our Integral mission of being a light to the world and not an evolutionary dead end, as a bunch of inbred, infighting, and feuding Integral hillbillies, isolating ourselves as we lose it, lost in our feuds, squabbles, and turf wars. The good news is that God is everywhere, and we are it and always have been and always will be. Let’s not lose that. Let’s not forget it.

And sometimes, sometimes, often times…  I am listening to BB King. He plays a four or five note riff―so simple, so beautiful, so incredibly impossible and FLASH! Lightning strikes and I see so clearly.