Friday, August 14, 2009

My Integral Praxis emphasizes the three-fold practice of transparency, choice, and accountability

My Integral Practice Daniel O'Connor Integral Ventures, LLC
In the context of personal development, an Integral Practice may be defined as an integrated set of developmental practices designed to enhance one's experience of life and support one's contribution to the world.

I first encountered the idea of an Integral Practice in 1993, in the final chapter of a veritable encyclopedia of human potential: The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature by Michael Murphy. Based on a breathtaking variety of research accumulated over the years, Murphy outlined in considerable detail about a dozen different types of metanormal human capacities that appear to be latent in us all, awaiting development through various transformative practices. With these metanormal capacities in mind and evidently drawing inspiration from Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, Murphy proposed a contemporary approach to personal development that would integrate physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual practices into what he called Integral Practices, flexibly self-designed to gradually awaken one's latent human potential.

This idea of Integral Practice and the research behind it was particularly appealing to me because, in 1993 at the age of 27, I had just completed an intensive wilderness sabbatical in which I engaged in my own self-designed Integral Practice of solo backpacking and mountaineering, journaling and reading in psychology and philosophy, and sitting and walking meditation. In fact, I could trace my experience with various approaches to Integral Practice all the way back to the age of 14, when I began training in Shaolin Kung Fu, one of the oldest forms of body-mind-spirit cultivation. Murphy's book gave me a language to describe what I had figured out for myself through a combination of intuition and experimentation. I have since then been engaged to varying degrees from one year to the next, during the many ups and downs of my life, in a slowly evolving Integral Practice that supports all my work in the world. For whatever it might be worth to those who read this article, I would like to share a general outline of the core components of my Integral Practice.

My Integral Practice
In one sense, my whole life is an Integral Practice, simply because there is no aspect of my life that I do not consider to be a field of practice or an opportunity for personal development. Nevertheless, what really matters in this context are those relatively few personal practices that are essential to my development as a whole person in every aspect of my life. [...]

In plain English, Yoga is a whole lot more than isometrics and stretching. It is a comprehensive practice of personal transformation and self-realization with enough diversity in specific techniques to suit the personal diversity of countless spiritual aspirants. In fact, it may just be the original Integral Practice, as my wife Karen so provocatively proposed in this wonderful introductory article.

While I have been inspired since 1994 by the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the first teachings of which came to me through The Life Divine, I have found myself in need of far more body-mind Yoga discipline than Aurobindo might have required or desired. My first experience with the now-ubiquitous body-mind Yoga known as Hatha, was when Karen taught me some postures in 1995, when I was 29. I took to it rather easily and have practiced it regularly and intensively, meaning just about every day for nearly an hour, for roughly 7 of the past 14 years, and for about 15 minutes every day during all but a few of the remaining years. My experience with the more philosophical and spiritual dimensions of Yoga has been much the same, waxing and waning in multi-year periods, while always remaining in the background of my mind, as if it belongs there. Every time I return to intensive daily practice after some multi-year partial hiatus, I discover a new level of depth to this amazing discipline. [...]

With the gradual emergence of the real-time social web currently being led by Twitter and Facebook, the potential for world-wide, collaborative, experiential learning about a great variety of Integral Practices seems significant, to say the least. If nothing else, we may find that the increased Transparency, Choice, and Accountability of such Open Integral Practices helps each one of us maintain our respective commitments to ourselves while inspiring others to make and keep their own. It is in this spirit that I am beginning to open my own Integral Practice.

Post-Script: Further Reading on Integral Practice
Those of you who would like to explore the idea of Integral Practice might consult Murphy's The Future of the Body, particularly if you have some skepticism about the very prospect of metanormal human potential. Those looking for more practical guidance on the design of their own Integral Practices might appreciate the follow-up book Murphy co-authored with George Leonard, The Life We are Given: A Long-Term Program for Realizing the Potential of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul, in which they present a trademarked approach called Integral Transformative PracticeTM. More recently, Ken Wilber and his colleagues at Integral Institute designed their own trademarked approach called Integral Life PracticeTM, which can be explored through the book Integral Life Practice: A 21st Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening, co-authored by Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, Adam Leonard, and Marco Morelli. Posted by Daniel O'Connor on August 13, 2009 Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Health & Healing in Yoga

Techniques for Health [pranayama] - words from the Mother...
Posted by kalpana on August 9, 2009 at 8:56pm View kalpana's blog

The Mother and Sri Aurobindo never endorsed any particular techniques, as They did not wish their Yoga to become a rigid system, or for their disciples to promote any techniques in particular. They prefered to discuss questions of health on an individual basis, oe within the system of Ashram Education.

However, with this caution in mind, if one reads carefully, widely and deeply, one will find some practical suggestions for physical health and how to train mind/body. Of course with techniques such as pranyama, a qualified teacher is important. Having said that, calm, slow deep breathing does steady the mind and boost the health.

There is an excellent little book called Health & Healing in Yoga, compilation of the Mothers answers to particular questions related to health, the consciousness of the body, ways of relaxation etc. Tags: cautions, mother, pranyama, satprem, suggestions

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

A horse and a crocodile

Although we often refer to our brains as a single, solid unit, it is clear that this is not an accurate description. Rather, our brains consist of a conglomerate of various sub-brains and sections, all interconnected. Dr. Pau! D. MacLean, a prominent brain researcher, has developed a model of brain structure which he calls the "triune brain." In other words, humans have not one brain but three. (Actually, even this is an oversimplification; but this model has the adVantage of displaying our evolutionary heritage.) MacLean states that the human brain amounts to three interconnected biological computers," with each biocomputer having its own special intelligence, its own subjectivity, its own sense of time and space its own memory, motor, and other functions." Each of the three brains corresponds to a major evolutionary development and are categorized as follows: the reptilian brain the old mammalian brain and the new mammalian brain. MacLean illustrates this point facetiously when he points out that when a psychiatrist asks his patient to lie down on the couch he is asking him to stretch alongside a horse and a crocodile.

According to the triune model of the brain, evolution has simply added new sub-brains to preexisting ones like a man who keeps building additional structures onto an old house However, to continue with the analogy, with each new addition to the house the physical structure of the older components were altered or modified to some extent. In other words the reptile brain m humans is not exactly the same as the brain of a lizard. That is not to say we haven t retained any reptilian functions in our brains; we most certainly have. MacLean has shown that our reptile brains play a major role in our aggressive behavior, territoriality ritual and social hierarchies.

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Thinking Animal Thoughts - TIME One medical theorist. Dr. Paul D. MacLean, has suggested that when a man lies down on a psychiatrist's couch, a horse and a crocodile lie down beside him. People, according to MacLean's theory, have not one but three brains: neomammalian (the human), paleomammalian (the horse) and reptilian (the crocodile). Certain primitive tribesmen make no distinction between human and animal life but assume that all life is roughly the same. It simply takes up residence in different forms, different bodies. Higher cultures do not make that organic assumption; they are haunted by the animal in man, by the idea of animals as their lower nature, the fallen part, the mortal. The clear blue intelligence of civilization, they think, is imprisoned in the same cell, the body, with its Caliban, the brute undermind.

That assumption is a bit of a slander upon the animal kingdom, of course. It arises from an egocentric and spiritually complicated habit of mankind. People use animals not only for food and clothing and scientific experiment and decoration and companionship, but also, most profoundly, for furnishing the human mind with its myths. Victor Hugo wrote, "Animals are nothing but the forms of our virtues and vices, wandering before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls." We become those elaborately varied creatures, we take their forms. Odysseus' companions were transformed into swine, but in the metamorphosis, their intelligence remained human, unaffected. In reality, when men are transformed into beasts, for whatever reason (anger, greed, lust, drugs), their intelligence is usually very much affected, for the worse. Unlike Odysseus' men, they keep their human forms but assume the character of beasts.