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 Permalink Technorati Tags: advaita vedanta, hiking, integral practice, integral praxis, open practice, weight training, yoga