Yoga, Awakening and the
Emerging Integral Comsciousness
Integrating Science, Spirituality and Practice
in Personal and Societal Transformation
Arlington, MA 02474
12 Themes for Awakening and Yoga
for Guidance and Reflection
(with deep appreciation to Thomas Berry)
1. Spirituality and Science meet in the Non-Dual Vision
2. Unfolding of Integral Spiritual Wisdom
3. Unfolding of Integral Scientific Wisdom
4. Mindfulness is the foundational yoga practice
5. Breath, prana or chi is the energy of transformation
6. Movement and Posture are the yogic vehicles of transformation
7. Finding1st person roots of embodied self in gravity/aliveness
8. Emergence and growth require 2nd person relationships
9. Healthy 3rd person perspectives uncover shadows
10. Teaching Awakening and Transformation
11. Sociology and the evolution of cultural values
12. Quantum Coherence and Society: A Vision of the Future
The First Trinity:
Our Historical Moment
"Throughout the course of human history, societies have used stories and myths to help align the psychic and physical energies of the human endeavors with the energies of the the Divine and it's manifest expression in the natural world."
Joseph Campbell: Transformations of Myth Through Time
"Its all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story."
Thomas Berry: The Dream of the Earth
"Om puurnamadah puurnamidam puurnaat puurnamudacyate
Puurnasya puurnamadaya puurnamevaavashisyate"
That (the unseen or absolute, as unfolded in spiritual enquiry) is wholeness, this (the seen or relative, as unfolded in scientific enquiry) is wholeness. Wholeness emerges from wholeness. Wholeness subtracted from wholeness, wholeness added to wholeness, wholeness alone remains.
the introduction to the Isavasya Upanishad
1. Evolutionary Awakening: The unfolding story of our time is the meeting of spirituality and science in a Non-Dual vision of wholeness and flow.
The core theme of our new story is the cross-pollinating and integrating of the two major wisdom traditions that have emerged in human culture over the milennia; the radical emptiness perspective of Spirituality and the evolution/entropy perspective of Science. Although this non-dual integration has been around for many generations in the teachings of Vedanta from India, Zen from China, Japan and the Far East and Dzog-chen from Tibet, never has the scientific perspective been so incredibly rich and deep as it is today. The power of this emerging understanding of the astounding intelligence of the cosmic process of evolution is that it provides a unifying trans-cultural vision so necessary on a deeply divided planet.
We are living in a time when human societies and the living planet earth, nested in the emergent fields of the solar system, galaxy and universe, are undergoing an escalating, macro phase or geological level evolutionary change. Because of the accelerating development of technology, modern human societies have access to energies unimaginable just a few generations ago. Unfortunately the psychic and archetypal belief structures that shape the expression of these energies have become dysfunctional. Thomas Berry describes the modern human societies as having macro-phase power with mico-phase intelligence. We need to awaken to a new understanding of the interwoven wholeness of the Human, the Divine, and the Natural World, finding our place and role in the Universe through conscious participation in the 14 billion year old evolutionary journey unfolding within us and without us.
Therefore, it is crucial for us to study and embody the universal laws that govern the functioning and evolution of the cosmos, for if we are to participate in the healing of the planet, the ecosystems and societies that inhabit it, our actions must be integral to the functioning cosmos at all levels of reality. These universal laws are revealed through both scientific enquiry and spiritual enquiry, involve hierarchies of developmental unfolding within the context of an all encompassing wholeness and completeness, and manifest in the human as what we will call awakening.
In the earlier phases of human cultural development, science and spirituality were inextricably intertwined, although most spirituality was concerned with forms of worship, such as rites, rituals and prayers, and dogmatic belief structures, rather than radical emptiness we are describing here. Over the past several centuries, the religious/spiritual traditions and the scientific/rational traditions have split into two often oppositional camps. (See Ken Wilber's "A Theory of Everything", chapter 4 for a detailed discussion of this.)
As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, the wisdom / spiritual traditions and the scientific traditions are entering a new phase of communicating and cross-pollinating, giving birth to newly synthesized and dynamic modes of exploring and expressing the human condition and its relationship to the natural world and the cosmos as a whole. There is concurrently an emergent awakening in many other healing modalities including Chinese medicine, energy medicine, various somatic healing modalities, psychotherapy, interpersonal neurobiology, western medicine and more.
The deeply felt inter-relatedness of the sacred and the profane, of the formless and the world of form, of the absolute and the relative, is known as non-dual vision and is the core of the new story and this course. It requires an on-going exploration of both modes of knowing with an interweaving of insights and revelations to provide balance, stability and flow. We will begin with the unfolding of the spiritual wisdom to provide a context for the emergence of the scientific unfolding.
2. The Unfolding of Integral Spiritual Wisdom: Awakening to Radical Emptiness
The urge for transcendence, for a more intimate relationship with the Divine has been part of the human endeavor from time immemorial. The maturing of this spiritual quest unfolds the truth of the Self, of the subjective or 'I Am" reality, equating this with absolute consciousness, with pure awareness. Also known as the Ground of All Being, Ultimate Reality, the Formless or Absolute, one's True Nature and many other names, this independent*, subjective reality is beyond words, (which belong to the world of form), but is immediately, instantaneously available to anyone at any time.
The dawning of an integral spiritual wisdom leads to realization of non-duality, that the Absolute (subjective, formless) and the relative (objective, world of forms) are not two separate realms or realities, but a unity. This non-dual realization of unity is the fundamental teaching of Vedanta, Zen and Dzog-chen, but this realization also often takes time to mature and stabilize. Its unfolding uncovers the nature of happiness, of virtue, of truth, describes the essence of being, and provides the context of values for the human community to utilize the revelations of science in sustaining a harmonious relationship with the natural world.
This is the paradoxical nature of spiritual awakening: the Absolute is always present, but the vehicles through which the manifest possibilities of absolute come into being in the world of form, namely the body-mind-sense complex in the human, are constantly changing. Out of confusion or delusion, we try to find wholeness by grasping and resisting inherently transient phenomena. By studying these tendencies and recognizing the skillful means available when the power of attention is cultivated we begin to step outside the drama of delusion and just be.
The possibility of awakening exists at all times for all people, but the vehicles through which this awakening manifests in the world definitely evolve from less conscious to more conscious levels. The contemporary teacher of awakening, Adyashanti, refers to the states of unabiding awakening ( it arises, but doesn't last) and the abiding awakening described by Patanjali in sutra I-3. Twenty five hundred years ago, Krishna described 'stable (non-dual) wisdom', sthitha prajna, as he unfolded the divine teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.
We will use the direct writings, teachings and practices that arise from the non-dual state as our guides, and these will include the classical teachings of the Bhagavad Gita from India, and the Hsin Hsin Ming from the Chinese Zen tradition, as well as contemporary teachings of Gempo Roshii, Lama Surya Das, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. Of course, feel free to pursue any of the other integral spiritual teachers that nourish your awakening and there will be an extensive list in the Intergral Spirituality chapter.
3. The Unfolding of Integral Scientific Wisdom, including: exploring the evolutionary drive and the emergence, sustenance and dissolution of forms:
the dynamics of the universe:
self organizing systems and coherence:
the quantum coherent organism.
In general terms, science engages in an exploring creative enquiry into the nature of objective reality, but does not, on its own, necessarily provide a value system or context to explore why things are as they are. With an integral or non-dual scientific perspective, we include meaning and values by probing more deeply into just how the universe is able to express such awesome creativity and learning how to nurture and actually participate in the creative process on a moment by moment basis. This differentiates integral science, or Contemplative Science (see book of same name by B. Alan Wallace) from scientism or fundamentalist science.
As yoga is the vehicle of our exploration, we will highlight the science that underlies the human being and its functioning. An integral understanding of creation must begin with the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. The sudden emergence of matter, energy, and governing laws poured into being all of the infinite possibilities of creation and transformation. An extremely important capacity to emerge was self-organization as simple forms can combine with other, acquire energy from the environment and complexify. When the conditions are just right, self-organization evolves into the emergence of life. Over the course of time, along with life arises the nervous system, the human body and the human mind, all part of a continuum from the beginning, all integral to the whole at all moments in time.
A useful approach to understanding the process of creation is to see this as the flow of energies and information, through the many layers of form, the holons, (atoms, molecules...stars and galaxies, etc) throughout space and time. The moment to moment balancing of two fundamental drives seem to govern this flow. These are known as evolution and entropy. Evolution is the drive to increase complexity and entropy is the drive to break down complexity.The ancient Taoist model from China also describes two fundamental principles that govern the flow and functioning of the universe. These are yin (earth, cooling, condensing) and yang (space, heating, expanding). Sub topics will include:
matter, energy, and governing laws
'The Powers of the Universe" by Brian Swimme
macrophase coherence as galactic, stellar and planetary dynamics
microphase coherence as quantum, subatomic, atomic and molecular dynamics
sound give shape to matter
evolution and entropy
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God... John, 1:1
In the beginning was sound, vibration, om, implicate patterns of coherence waiting to unfold, to bring into being, when proper conditions arise, higher orders of complexity. quantum coherence
Self-organizing systems, Systems theory
"The Self-Organizing Universe" by Erich Jantsch
the emergence of life.
Science of Yoga: Fluids, Tissues,
mesophase coherence as expressed in life, aliveness, the organism
"The Rainbow and the Worm" by Mae-Wan Ho
the nervous system,
Science of Yoga: Resonance, Neural-Integration, Neural Science
"i of the Vortex" by Rodolfo Llinas
the human mind,
1st, 2nd and 3rd person perspectives
Maps of the layers and levels of form
"The Developing Mind" and 'The Mindful Brain" by Dan Siegel
Upayas, ways and means of spiritual practice
The Second Trinity:
Integrating Mind, Breath and Body:
The Core Principles of Yogic Practice
4. Mindful attention is the foundation of embodied yoga;
Meditation/Mindfulness develops the skill whereby one learns to attend to anything that arises in the mindfield with Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. (COAL). In maturing in this process we learn to become a parent to ourselves and continue the process of deeper self-regulation and integration. This self-regulating, self-integrating capacity is the key to spiritual development. A competent teacher/guru/roshii and ultimately one's own healthy self-sense serves as a surrogate parent in the refining of the nervous systems' capacity for self regulation and the healing of the dysfunctional voices.
As we explore the integration of embodiment through fluid movement and posture, many layers of emotions and memories arise, and thus mindful awareness serves as the foundational practice to help us process our experience. Otherwise, it becomes purely physical exercise and an imposition of will onto the body, rather than an awakening of the innate wisdom of the body
5. Breathing: Finding Flow
Health, Healing and the Physiological Level of Yoga
Breathing is the one physiological process that we can directly access in conscious awareness and as such is the link for the mind to recognize our fundamental aliveness, (chi in Chinese, ki in Japanese, prana in Sanskrit.). This fundamental aliveness is expresed as cellular activity, organ activity, organ system activity and finally our way of being in the world.
The digestive system or gut tube (absorption-elimination) is the oldest living system, followed by the heart/circulatory system, the musculo-skeletal system, and finally the nervous system. (see vayus) The digestive/eliminative and circulatory systems will not further complexify through time in the human organism. In other words, they do not need to be taught or educated in their functioning. Hatha yoga practice and ayurveda define the root of health and healing as bringing balance and harmony to the digestive / eliminative and heart/circulatory system. Gravity, leverage and movement are the tools of hatha yoga practice. The dynamic balancing of tension and compression (tensegrity) throughout the matrix, from skin surface to cellular interior, throughout all organs and organ systems, from moment to moment, is the on-going goal. Different poses and sequences manipulate the tension/compression gradient to move fluids in and out of specific regions, organ systems, and organs of the body and to adjust the baseline elastic tone of the matrix.
6. Asana and Neuro-Plasticity: Exploring the Musculo-Skeletal and Nervous Systems,
The musculo-skeletal and nervous systems do not arise fully formed, but must be cultivated and integrated through the time and practice of direct experience in relationship to other humans, other beings and the natural world. Healthy parenting, mentoring, and teaching allows the natural self-integrating systems to awaken and begin to develop. Unfortunately, but quite normally, our early childhood experiences are complex combinations of healthy and unhealthy experiences and thus we often get stuck in patterns of thought, realtionship and behavior that inhibit further growth and integration. These dysfunctional habits can be found in the fundamental organizing patterns for perception, movement and posture that emerge in infancy, are complexified through childhood, and carry into adulthood. Mindfulness based yoga practice can empower ourselves to unfold the dysfunctionality and carefully reintegrate the energies and information stuck there. We can become parents to ourselves and learn to self- nurture, self-integrate and mature throughout all the years of life.
The human nervous system is the most recent evolute of divine expression and is thus is the primary carrier of change, transformation, integration and awakening. The nervous system is based upon movement and prediction and its evolution is inextricably intertwined with the inherent sensitivity of the 'living matrix' of fluids and connective tissue that is the core of a living being.
Gravity/earth and heaven/space
the development of the Vestibular sense, proprioception
The Third Trinity:
Three Perspectives on
the Nature of Awakening and Spiritual Practice
7. The self as organismic, embodied cosmic intelligence: 1st Person, subjectivity, gravity, exploring one's own embodied, interior depth, the 'living matrix", awakening the feminine, bottom up information processing, role of water in facilitating coherence
We all have an inborn self sense, an "I " sense that serves as an organizing center (or often, centers!) for all of our actions and relationships. "Know thyself" said the ancient Greeks philosophers. The yogic journey uses the body, an amazingly complex self-organizing system, a living manifestation of an integral system and universe activity, to anchor our investigation of self in the cellular intelligence that gives birth to the self. Our embodiment is how the divine, the universe uniquely expresses itself through our actions. To exclude the body from spirituality is to exclude life itself . It is nonsense, meaningless. Although embodiment manifests as form, it is never separate from the Absolute and the cellular intelligence knows this at its core. The human mind must connect with and integrate this knowing.
By adulthood, the self-sense often exists in the form of a constellation of sub-personalities or voices that arise in differing combinations, in response to the demands of differing life circumstances. Each of these voices has their own narrative story, likes, dislikes, fears and insecurities. Some of these sub-personalities or voices are fundamentally insecure and experience the world as “other” to the self. Parenting, nurturing, mentoring and psychotherapy are ways to help integrate these "selves" into a holistic self sense through an integrated narrative story. Other voices are rooted in the experience of the universe as self, self as whole and complete, and are thus inherently secure. These are the voices of an awakened self-sense and must be nurtured, developed and stabilized and integrated into our narrative through mindful parenting, spiritual transmission, spiritual practice, spiritual mentoring and the support of an awakened community or sangha.
Using embryology and neurobiology and the emerging studies in attachment theory, we will unfold the origins of the self sense, including:
Limitations of languaging in embodiment
Evolution of the Nervous System,
Bottom up processing and inhibiting top down noise
What is 'the core'? Organizing core, cellular core, structural core, movement core, stabilizing core,
Body as 5 elements:
Earth - solid matter, weight, density, resistance, inertia
Water - fluid weight, shape changing, powerful, intelligent,
Fire - transforming, passion, heat, movement
Air - perception, expansion, breath
Akasha - spaciousness, inclusiveness, nested energetic fields
The Living Matrix
Origin of somatic, Greek somat, the body
The yoga/meditation tradition offers a well articulated and yet open series of practices to embody this cross-pollinating exploration the human condition. Other spiritual practices with a strong somatic foundation such as tai chi have evolved to facilitate the unfolding of the inherent possibilities of the organism and to help them operate at a very high level of coherence and integration. For human evolution to continue to grow and flourish, all of the organic systems, in their historical and evolutionary emergence must be integrated into the healthy functioning of the organism as a whole.
Life is whole, holistic. Although it is useful and convenient to be able to differentiate and articulate the various organs, organ systems, cells and structures, these are all intertwined, integrated and express wholeness through the living matrix, a fluid/fascial continuity that serves not only to provide structure, but also to provide a continuous flow of energy and information exchange throughout the organism. The fascial tissue which composes the bulk of the matrix, has smooth muscle tissue features, i.e., it can contract over long periods of time, sustain tone, and relax. The tonic or fundamental energetic pattern upon which all others are based is rhythm of expanding and condensing.
8. Awakening is a Relational Process: 2nd Person, Communion, Attunement, Resonance, Empathy, Emotion as Integration, relating to oneself:
Our first expeience of the need for attachment and relationship begins as the conceptus attaches to the uterine wall so it may begin to grow nourished by the mother. After birth, the nervous system in the infant human needs attuned resonance with other more mature nervous systems, (known as attachment relationships) in order for the infant/child to navigate the complex autonomic rhythms of arousal and settling and to develop a skill known as self - regulation. The most common strategies of the attachment figures are thus transmitted to the child. Defects, pathologies and various survival skills, as well as curiosity, confidence, compassion and wisdom are passed on from generation to generation in the process of socialization. A healthy self sense emerges when the attachment process is a skillful one.
Culture is relational and reflects the degree to which the organismic dynamics are integral to the macro and microphase dynamics of the universe
The role of relationships in building and sustaining a organizing core as unfolded in the modern attachment theories.
attunement and rupture: how to repair ruptures in attunement
Integrating Perception and Action in the Development of Attunement and Attachment Relationships. We are always in community.
We are hard-wired to connect to other brains, other beings, other minds, social brain, relational mind
With the emergence of the human nervous system arises a self -sense or sense of personal identity that emerges from the on-going relationships the infant has with the many dimensions of life, including its own interior experience.
9: Integrating the 3rd Person Shadow and
The Maturing of the Self-Sense: Differentiation, Honoring and appreciating difference, embracing other, integrating other cultures through common denominators
The key component in suffering is the sense of 'other", something separate from me. In first and second person perspectives, there is always inclusion. The third person excludes. This perspective is natural and not the least bit surprising as it is the voice of the immune system. However 'other' does not have to be threatening. but can evoke a sense of awe, of gratitude, of delight. It allows us to value our own uniqueness and also the uniqueness of others. We must cultivate practices that allow us to examine how we experience "other" and how we can transform any fear, anxiety and anger that arises into more creative, coherent, and inclusive choices of action in the world.
The Urge for Complexity Through Self Expression:
The Integration of Perception and Action in the Development of Self Regulation and the Emergence of a Healthy Self- Sense. We are all unique individuals. The emergence of other, who or what is not allowed into our 'we space'.
to differentiate from psychological sense of self, ideas of one's self persona: relative self plus unexamined shadow
actual self: relative self plus conscious shadow
true self: atman, pure consciousness
The Fourth Trinity:
Awakening and Social Change
10. Teachers are Students of the Awakening Process
Hiranyagharba, the first teachers,
Gurus, Student-Teacher Relationships, Projections, Sanghas, Collective Awakening , Holding levels of complexity in awareness, Structures of Consciousness, States of Consciousness (Waking, Sleeping Deep Sleep, Turiya) deepening levels of vastness
11. Meta-Sanghas, Relationships, Self-Realization and Social Change:
Spiral Dynamics, Spiral Wizards, Cross-Pollinating Turquoise Communities and Beyond: Bringing the transcendent to all levels of development, Social Structures and Social Values, Keeping the Shadow in sight, Pre- and Post Rational perspectives and cultural confusion, Bringing the Spiritual/Scientific integration into culture
This process of self-integration and the obstacles to its realization are well described in both Buddhist/yogic literatures as well as in modern psychological theory. The highest levels of integration are found only in the spiritual teachings, but many of the developmental stages and relevant obstacles necessary to achieve the higher levels are well studied in modern field of neuro-psycho-biology. Social change cannot come about unless and until enough individuals awaken to the dynamics of the relational process and begin to apply them to the gulfs that currently divide the many societies of the planet.
12. Quantum Coherence and Society:
An Integral Vision of the Future
"As humans begin to take seriously the planetary dimension of conscious self awareness, we will become the 'homo'nized version of natural selection so that we will begin to make decisions with the larger scale dynamics of the planet in mind." Brian Swimme
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