I just got back a few days ago from what feels like the most incredible week of my life. I was attending and speaking at the Integral Spiritual Experience conference in Asilomar near Monterey, California.
Wow, wow, and wow.
The conference was attended by over five hundred people from 33 different countries. Unlike many conferences of its kind, it followed an evolutionary path. It traced the development from personal story: the circumstances of our birth and conditioning, to the development of personality, or what the organizers called “false self.” From there the conference moved into awakening: the shift from personality based living to the realization of our true nature as limitless, unborn, undying and the source of everything. (Guess who facilitated that part?!) And from there we moved into uncharted territories: what Ken Wilber describes as an evolutionary emergence. We explored how the more we rest in true self, in limitless consciousness, and subjectively experience emptiness, the more other people experience the flow of a unique gift.
This is the paradox. By resting in oneness we deepen our uniqueness, and in the cultivation of unique gifts we deepen oneness.
We moved into the exploration of unique self, unique gift and all of the implications of the recognition that there is a song, a dance, a poem, a unique work of art wanting to flow through you, and which will flow on its own and easily through each one of us once we step out of our own way.
The conference took place over New Years Eve and so included a bonfire celebration on the 31st. It was an exquisite delight and “gorgeous” (if you were at the conference you would understand the inside joke there) celebration in many other ways. It was a celebration of intellect, which often gets a bad rap these days. At one point someone checked out the support staff: the volunteers taking care of microphones, tissues, and logistics, and discovered that their average educational level was PhD! There was a universal quality at this conference of discernment, intelligence…what in India is called the viveka, the capacity to discriminate.
Wilber’s world is sometimes dismissed as being populated by “eggheads:” People sometimes think of the integral world as heady, conceptual, and disembodied. But I am delighted to report to you that along side this sharpness of intellect was an extraordinary openness of heart, welcoming, honesty, and intimacy, the likes of which I am hard pressed to remember. As a presenter I felt held, cradled, respected, and seen by the other teachers, the support staff, and the participants. We formed a community for five days, ate together, danced together, and practiced together.
The last wonderful element of this great even was the depth of practice that everyone brought to the gathering. As you may know Ken Wilber makes the important distinction between states and stages. We all can access peak states quite easily: moments of emptiness, moments of fullness of love, moments of inspiration or insight. But such states come and go very easily. When a state becomes a repeated and frequent place to visit, it changes from a state to a trait, and in this way we evolve through stages of evolution. You can get into a state by popping a pill, making love, or going to visit a powerful spiritual teacher. But the way to evolve through stages is practice, and this conference lets us see the fruits of a wide range of deep and committed spiritual practice. Here were people who spent years on the meditation cushion, in the Martial Arts Dojo, in the workout room.
The Integral Spiritual Experience Conference was not only a great event; It was a sign of our times. Some of the great teachers who presented including Lama Surya Das, Jean Houston, Durgananda Sally Kempton, Dianne Hamilton, and Marc Gafni. Almost every religion and spiritual tradition of the world had a voice, and so we saw that we are, in a real way, maturing as a race, from exclusive allegiance to separate religions (so often the basis of warfare and conflict), to a global and universal spirituality, which recognizes and celebrates differences of flavor but also finds its ground of being in oneness of awakening.
The next Integral Spiritual Experience Conference will be over New Years Eve a year from now. Make sure you are there!