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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
from the Writings of Ken Wilber
"Better than power over all the earth, better than going to heaven, and better than dominion over the worlds is the joy of the man who enters the river of life that leads to Non-Being." –The Dhammapada (~300 B.C.)
Keywords: equanimity (calm composure), passion, clarity, luminosity, lightness/humor, awakened mind, open heart, simplicity, compassion, awareness, emptiness, mindfulness (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness of all objects, selflessness of life)
Universal moral imperative: maximize breadth and depth of consciousness
Goal = convert these higher levels of consciousness from peak experiences to plateau to constant access / permanent realization through steady, sustained practice
Higher Consciousness Level 1: Unified Bodymind (Body/Mind/centaur level)
- Lie down on your back, arms alongside, legs slightly parted, close your eyes, breath deeply and easily
- Give direct feeling-attention to different parts of the body; feel the deep body sensations; not conceptual thinking about those parts of the body
- Draw deep breaths from the throat all the way down to the abdomen; breath = "vital force"; inhale as charging up the hara/naval-abdomen with energy; exhale as pleasure/joy radiating throughout your body and out to the entire cosmos
- "Once this cycle becomes full, then start to allow all thinking to dissolve in the exhalation and pass to infinity. Do the same with all distressful feelings, with disease, with suffering, with pain. Allow feeling-attention to pass though all present conditions and then beyond them to infinity, moment to moment to moment."
- Discover blocked areas: numbness, lack of feeling, deadness, tightness, tension, rigidity, or pain; common areas of tightness and tension: neck, eyes, anus, diaphragm, shoulders, lower back; common areas of numbness: pelvic area, genitals, heart, lower abdomen, or the extremities
- "Every block, every tension or pressure in the body, is basically a muscular holding-in of some taboo impulse or feeling."; common meanings bottom TEKW p.79, each part of the body associated with a different emotion
- "Forced relaxation" does not work, although all of these are under voluntary muscle control; give your full attention to that area and actively and consciously attempt to increase the tension; release the buried emotions associated with the tension area; remind yourself that you are actively trying to hold something in (this will usually force the release), try to increase the resistance (which will make it give way)
- "The block is released when feeling-attention can flow though that area in a full and perfectly unobstructed fashion on its way to infinity."
Buddhist Tonglen "Taking & Sending" Meditation (TEKW p.124-126)
- In meditation, picture or visualize someone you know and love who is going though much suffering.
- As you breathe in, imagine all of that person's suffering - in the form of dark, black, smokelike, tarlike, thick, and heavy clouds - entering your nostrils and traveling down into your heart. (be careful – this can make you feel sick at your stomach the first few times you do it)
- Hold that suffering in your heart.
- Then, on the out-breath, take all of your peace, freedom, health, goodness, and virtue, and send it out to the person in the form of healing, liberating light.
- Imagine they take it all in, and feel completely free, released, and happy.
- Do that for several breaths.
- Then slowly expand beyond that one person: family, social circle, town, state, country, planet, universe
Goal: undercut egoic self-concern, exchange self for other, eliminate self/other dualism, experience true Compassion, see all people as the one Self
- "You find that you stop recoiling in the face of suffering, both yours and others'. You stop running from pain, and instead find that you can begin to transform it by simply being willing to take it into yourself and then release it. The real changes start to happen in you, by the simple willingness to get your ego-protecting tendencies out of the way. You begin to relax the self/other tension, realizing that there is only one Self feeling all pain or enjoying all success. Why get envious of others, when there is only one Self enjoying the success? This is why the "positive" side of tonglen is expressed in the saying: 'I rejoice in the merit of others. It's the same as mine, in nondual awareness.' A great "equality consciousness" develops, which undercuts pride and arrogance on the one hand, and fear and envy on the other."
- For each person, find something worthy in them to admire and respect (increases humility and reduces arrogance), how are they a guide? Each is a manifestation of the Divine
Higher Consciousness Level 2: Transpersonal Witness exercise (Soul/subtle level)
"Distinguishing marks of the transcendent self: it is a center and expanse of awareness which is creatively detached from one's personal mind, body, emotions, thoughts, and feelings."; "transcend and include" your body and mind/ego
As long as you are chasing experiences, including spiritual experiences, you will never rest as the Witness. (Witness = external observation of your own ego)
- Begin with 2-3 minutes of bodymind/centaur awareness
- "Slowly begin to silently recite the following to yourself, trying to realize as vividly as possible the import of each statement:" (repeat several times)
- "I have a body, but I am not my body. I can see and feel my body, and what can be seen and felt is not the true Seer. My body may be tired or excited, sick or healthy, heavy or light, but that has nothing to do with my inward I. I have a body, but I am not my body."
- "I have desires, but I am not my desires. I can know my desires, and what can be known is not the true Knower. Desires come and go, floating through my awareness, but they do not affect my inward I. I have desires, but I am not desires."
- "I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. I can feel and sense my emotions, and what can be felt and sensed is not the true Feeler. Emotions pass through me, but they do not affect my inward I. I have emotions, but I am not emotions."
- "I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts. I can know and intuit my thoughts, and what can be known is not the true Knower. Thoughts come to me and thoughts leave me, but they do not affect my inward I. I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts."
- Affirm as concretely as possible:
- "I am what remains, a pure center of awareness, an unmoved witness of all these thoughts, emotions, feelings, and desires."
- "If you persist at such an exercise, the understanding contained in it will quicken and you might begin to notice fundamental changes in your sense of 'self.' For example, you might begin intuiting a deep inward sense of freedom, lightness, release, stability. This source, this 'center of the cyclone,' will retain its lucid stillness even amid the raging winds of anxiety and suffering that might swirl around its center. The discovery of this witnessing center is very much like diving from the calamitous waves on the surface of a stormy ocean to the quiet and secure depths of the bottom. At first you might not get more than a few feet beneath the agitated waves of emotion, but with persistence you may gain the ability to dive fathoms into the quiet depths of your soul, and lying outstretched at the bottom, gaze up in alert but detached fashion at the turmoil that once held you transfixed."
- "…dis-identify with all particular objects, mental, emotional, or physical, thereby transcending them.", inc. emotions, sensation, thought, memory, or experience; let them drop away
- "…our only concern here is to watch our particular distresses, to simply and innocently be aware of them, without judging them, avoiding them, dramatizing them, working on them, or justifying them. As a feeling or tendency arises, we witness it."; detach from your distresses
- "Choiceless awareness"
- "The mystics and sages are fond of likening this state of witnessing to a mirror. We simply reflect any sensations or thoughts that arise without clinging to them or pushing them away, just as a mirror perfectly and impartially reflects whatever passes in front of it."
- "If you are at all successful in developing this type of detached witnessing (it does take time), you will be able to look upon the events occuring in your mind-and-body with the very same impartiality that you would look upon clouds floating through the sky, water rushing in a stream, rain cascading on a roof, or any other objects in your field of awareness. In other words, your relationship to your mind-and-body becomes the same as your relationship to all other objects. Heretofore, you have been using your mind-and-body as something with which to look at the world. Thus, you became intimately attached to them and bound to their limited perspective. You became identified exclusively with them and thus you were tied and bound to their problems, pains, and distresses. But by persistently looking at them, your realize they are merely objects of awareness – in fact, objects of the transpersonal witness. 'I have a mind and body and emotions, but I am not a mind and body and emotions.'"
- To detach from your current mind, body, and ego, visualize your 'Self' 200 years ago and 200 years in the future.
- Buddhist foundation practice (Hinayana/vipassana): sit comfortably, "…one gives 'bare attention' to whatever is arising, externally and internally, without judging it, condemning it, following after it, avoiding it, or desiring it. One simply witnesses it, impartially, and then lets go. The aim of this practice is to see that the separate ego is not a real and substantial entity, but just a series of fleeting and impermanent sensations like anything else. When one realizes just how 'empty' the ego is, one ceases identifying with it, defending it, worrying about it, and this in turn releases one from the chronic suffering and unhappiness that comes from defending something that isn't there."
- Another technique: say your own name silently to yourself several times to induce detachment
- "So the first mistake is that people sabatoge the Witness by trying to make it an object that can be grasped, whereas it is simply the Seer of all objects that arise, and it is 'felt' only as a great background sense of Freedom and Release from all objects."
- "Resting in that Freedom and Emptiness – and impartially witnessing all that arises – you will notice that the separate-self (or ego) simply arises in consciousness like everything else. You can actually feel the self-contraction, just as you can feel your legs, or feel a table, or feel a rock, or feel your feet. The self-contraction is a feeling of interior tension, often localized behind the eyes, and anchored in a slight muscle tension throughout the bodymind. It is an effort and a sensation of contracting in the face of the world. It is a subtle whole-body tension. Simply notice this tension."
- Feel as if you are not moving at all (esp. driving); motionless center; scenery moves around you; choiceless awareness
- Healthy body helps; a glitch-free bodymind is easier to drop/transcend
- "Those typical spiritual practices, precisely by introducing you to subtler and subtler experiences, will inadvertently help you tire of experience altogether… The pure Witness itself is not an experience, but the opening or clearing in which all experiences come and go, and as long as you are chasing experiences, including spiritual experiences, you will never rest as the Witness, let alone fall into the ever-present ocean of One Taste."
Higher Consciousness Level 3: One Taste/Unity Consciousness/Nondual (Spirit/causal level)
- Nondual = no longer feel the subject-object distinction; no self vs. other
- Don't try to get rid of the ego or Witness (these are just manifestations of Spirit); "Don't try to see the Witness as an object, just rest in the Witness as Seer; don't try to get rid of the ego, just feel it."
- Powerful feeling of "I have become God."
- "Single, ever-present state of no-boundry awareness."
- You are all that arises (feels that way); no attention or concentration, floats freely as all that is; tiny interior tension of Witness uncoils; oneness with everything in all realms
- "The self is not made content; the self is made toast."
- "…not an idea or a concept; it is a direct realization"
- "Just this…"
- Spirit-in-Action everywhere
- "Pointing out" of One Taste: "The one thing we are always already aware of is… awareness itself. We already have basic awareness, in the form of the capacity to Witness whatever arises. As an old Zen Master used to say, "You hear the birds? You see the sun? Who is not enlightened?" None of us can even imagine a state where basic awareness is not, because we would still be aware of the imagining. Even in dreams we are aware. Moreover, these traditions maintain, there are not two different types of awareness, enlightened versus ignorant. There is only awareness. And this awareness, exactly and precisely as it is, without correction or modification at all, is itself Spirit, since there is nowhere Spirit is not. The instructions, then, are to recognize awareness, recognize the Witness, recognize the Self, and abide as that. Any attempt to get awareness is totally beside the point. 'But I still don't see Spirit!' 'You are aware of your not seeing Spirit, and that awareness is itself Spirit.'"
- Description of awareness of One Taste: copy p. 130
- "The Vajrayana is based one one uncompromising principle: There is only Spirit. As one continues to undercut the subject/object duality in all its forms, it increasingly becomes obvious that all things, high or low, sacred or profane, are fully and equally perfect manifestations or ornaments of Spirit, of Buddha-mind. The entire manifest universe is recognized as a play of one's own awareness, empty, luminous, clear, radiant, unobstructed, spontaneous. One learns not so much to seek awareness as to delight in it, play with it, since there is only awareness. Vajrayana is the path of playing with awareness, with energy, with luminosity, reflecting the perennial wisdom that the universe is a play of the Divine, and you (and all sentient beings as such) are the Divine."
- "Visualize Deity in front of you or on top of your head, and you imagine healing energy and light raining down and into you, conferring blessings and wisdom." (psychic level; communion with Deity)
- "Visualize yourself as the Deity and you repeat certain syllables or mantras that represent Divine speech." (subtle level; union with Divinity)
- "One dissolves both self and Deity in pure unmanifest emptiness, the causal level of the supreme identity. At this point, the practice no longer involves visualization or mantra recitation or concentration, but rather the realization that your own awareness, just as it is, is always already enlightened. Since all things are already Spirit, there is no way to reach Spirit. There is only Spirit in all directions, and so one simply rests in the spontaneous nature of the mind itself, effortlessly embracing all that arises as ornaments of one's own primordial experience. The unmanifest and the manifest, or emptiness and form, unite in the pure nondual play of one's own awareness – generally regarded as the ultimate state that is no state in particular."
One Taste exercise
- "Rest as the Witness, feel the self-contraction. As you do so, notice that the Witness is not the self-contraction – it is aware of it. The Witness is free of the self-contraction – and you are the Witness."
- "As the Witness, you are free of the self-contraction. Rest in that Freedom, Openness, Emptiness, Release. Feel the self-contraction, and let it be, just as you let all other sensations be. You don't try to get rid of the clouds, the trees, or the ego – just let them all be, and relax in the space of Freedom that you are."
- "From that space of Freedom – and at some unbidden point – you may notice that the feeling of Freedom has no inside and no outside, no center and no surround. Thoughts are floating in this Freedom, the sky is floating in this Freedom, the world is arising in this Freedom, and you are That. The sky is your head, the air is your breath, the earth is your skin – it is all that close, and closer. You are the world, as long as you rest in this Freedom, which is infinite Fullness."
- "This is the world of One Taste, with no inside and no outside, no subject and no object, no in here versus out there, without beginning and without end, without ways and without means, without path and without goal. And this, as Ramana said, is the final truth."
- "But even the smallest glimmer of One Taste and your world will never be the same. You will inhale galaxies with every breath and sleep as the stars all night. Suns and moons and glorious novas will rush and rumble through your veins, your heart will pulse and beat in time with the entire loving universe. And you will never move at all in this radiant display of your very own Self, for you will long ago have disappeared into the darkness of your noble night."
(vary it somewhat) – "corpse pose" on your back, very subtle, regular breathing; can do Tonglen within this exercise
- "Upon waking, or upon passing from the dream state to the waking state, look directly into the mind, inquire directly into the source of consciousness itself – inquire "Who am I?" if you like, or practice looking directly into the looker. Ask "What is this pure, empty Witness?" Upon inquiring into the self, the self disappears, dissolving back into radiant Emptiness, and consciousness rests as absolute Freedom and Fullness, unbounded and unlimited, unborn and undying, unseen and unknown.
- Within that vast Emptiness, the subtle soul arises, but you are not that. Within that vast Emptiness, the gross ego arises, but you are not that. Within that vast Emptiness, the gross body, nature, and matter all arise, but you are not those either. Your are the radiant I AMness, prior to all worlds but not other to all worlds, which you embrace with a single glance, and your grace will make the sun rise, and the moon will reflect your glory, and you will not exist at all, in this vast expanse of Emptiness, that only alone is."
- "The Witness, or pure witnessing awareness, tends to be of the causal, since there is usually a primitive trace of subject/object duality: you equanimously Witness the world as transparent and shimmering object. But with further development, the Witness itself disappears into everything that is witnessed, subject and object become One Taste, or simple Suchness, and this is the nondual estate. In short: ego to soul to pure Witness to One Taste."
- "There is no time in this estate, though time passes through it. Clouds float by in the sky, thoughts float by in the mind, waves float by in the ocean, and I am all of that. I am looking at none of it, for there is no center around which perception is organized. It is simply that everything is arising, moment to moment, and I am all of that. I do not see the sky, I am the sky, which sees itself. I do not feel the ocean, I am the ocean, which feels itself. I do not hear the birds, I am the birds, which hear themselves. There is nothing outside of me, there is nothing inside of me, because there is no me – there is simply all of this, and it has always been so. Nothing pushes me, nothing pulls me, because there is no me – there is simply all of this, and it has always been so."
- "The tone of the causal is stone. It is unmoved and unmovable; a great mountain of the unmanifest; but also a sense of vastness, freedom, spaciousness, release, liberation. Also – and this is rather hard to convey – none of those 'tones' has a sense of being an experience. Experiences come and go, but the empty Mirror is the vast space in which all experiences come and go, and is not itself experiential in the least."
- "And then the wind will be your breath, the stars the neurons in your brain, the sun the taste of the morning, the earth the way your body feels. The Heart will open to the All, the Kosmos will rush into your soul, you will arise as countless galaxies and swirl for all eternity. There is only self-existing Fullness left in all the world, there is only self seen Radiance here in Emptiness – etched on the wall of infinity, preserved for all eternity, the one and only truth: there is just this, snap your fingers, nothing more."
- Perceive your waking life as a dream, a lucid dream your higher consciousness is aware of, or as a movie watched by the Witness. "I am not in the universe. The universe is arising in my awareness/consciousness."
Ultimate result of higher level meditations
- Transcend life by living it! Find release by engagement; total liberation by complete immersion
- "Constant consciousness" through all levels of waking, sleep, and dreaming
- After you achieve this, you pour yourself back into your individual bodymind/ego; "vehicle of Spirit"
- Causes a deep and powerful engagement with Life; far higher intensity; see life as a very fun dream
- A powerful compassion flows through you; want to free your friends from their suffering
- Still must care for and develop the lower levels: body, emotions, mind, relationships, career; they are also expressions of Spirit
- "And those persons through whom the soul shines, through whom the 'soul has its way,' are not therefore weak characters, timid personalities, meek presences among us. They are personal plus, not personal minus. Precisely because they are no longer exclusively identified with the individual personality, and yet because they still preserve the personality, then through that personality flows the force and fire of the soul. They may be soft-spoken and often remain in silence, but it is a thunderous silence that veritably drowns out the egos chattering loudly all around them. Or they may be animated and very outgoing, but their dynamism is magnetic, and people are drawn somehow to their presence, fascinated. Make no mistake: these are strong characters, these souls, sometimes wildly exaggerated characters, sometimes world-historical, precisely because their personalities are plugged into a universal source that rumbles through their veins and rudely rattles those around them."
- "Indeed, the whole point is to be fully at home in the body and its desires, the mind and its ideas, the spirit and its light. To embrace them fully, evenly, simultaneously, since all are equally gestures of the One and Only Taste. To inhabit lust and watch it play; to enter ideas and follow their brilliance; to be swallowed by Spirit and awaken to a glory that time forgot to name. Body and mind and spirit, all contained, equally contained, in the ever-present awareness that grounds the entire display."
- "In the stillness of the night, the Goddess whispers. In the brightness of the day, dear God roars. Life pulses, mind imagines, emotions wave, thoughts wander. What are all these but the endless movements of One Taste, forever at play with its own gestures, whispering quietly to all who would listen: is this not you yourself? When the thunder roars, do you not hear your Self? When the lightning cracks, do you not see your Self? When clouds float quietly across the sky, is this not your very own limitless Being, waving back at you?"
- "...this great emancipatory tradition: it involved 'a number of extraordinarily and diversely gifted individuals whose influence… had been tremendous. Their common denominator was an intense desire to acquire, to advance, and to disseminate knowledge – a wish to improve the lot as well as the administration of humankind, an assumption of responsibility and a passion, no tamer word will do, for truth.' "
- "As your consciousness grows and evolves into global and worldcentric modes, you can no longer be truly happy without at least the thought of extending this happiness and joy to all others. You become idealistic in the best sense of the word, wishing to relieve the suffering of - and extend happiness to - all people – not just your family, or your friends, or your tribe, your religion, your nation (those are all sociocentric and ethnocentric), but rather to all peoples, regardless of race or sex or creed. At least to some degree, you realize that you are not deeply and truly happy if somebody, somewhere, is suffering. The thought of others suffering starts to disturb your awareness, just a little at first, then a lot - a nagging thought that rains on your parade and keeps you from rejoicing, and you begin to act, to whatever degree you are moved, to try to better the lot of humankind, with whatever talents and resources you have. Your happiness is not truly happy until all others can share in that joy."
- "When a person is fairly enlightened, they can transmit – actually transmit – that enlightened awareness through a touch, a look, a gesture, or even through the written word. It's not as weird as it sounds. We are all 'transmitting' our present state to each other all the time. If you are depressed, it can be 'contagious,' depressing others around you. When you are happy, others tend to get happy. Just so with the higher states. In the presence of a psychic-level yogi, you tend to feel power. In the presence of a subtle-level saint, you tend to feel great peace. In the presence of a causal-level sage, you tend to feel massive equanimity (calm composure). In the presence of a nondual siddha – these are often very ordinary people – you simply find yourself smiling a lot."
Last updated March 2002. Source material with more details: "The Essential Ken Wilber" (TEKW) p.130, "A Theory of Everything" p.140; "One Taste" p.35, 52, 55-57, 64-68, 80-82, 116-117, 170-171, 188-190, 255-258, 262-263, 277-279, 280-281, 301; "Eye of Spirit" p.286.