Integral Life Practice or ILP is a comprehensive and holistic approach to leader self-transformation rooted in integral theory, developed by U.S. philosopher and writer, Kenneth Wilber II (born 1949). Wilber born in Oklahoma City, currently resides in Denver, CO, where he continues to study, write, and present his work primarily through the Internet and Colorado-based outlets, albeit on a limited basis due to a severe and chronic illness. He is the author of more than 30 books and countless articles on consciousness, mysticism, psychology, science, religion, and his integral theory, a comprehensive synthesis of Eastern and Western knowledge.
Wilber refers to his version of integral theory as AQAL, the abbreviated acronym for all quadrants, all levels (all lines, all states, all types, etc.). The elements of quadrants and levels refer to the key explanatory principles Wilber uses to examine the development of individual mind, body, soul, and spirit in self, culture, community, and nature. The four quadrants include the Upper Left or individual interior, the Upper Right or individual exterior, the Lower Left or collective interior, and the Lower Right or collective exterior (see Figure). Wilber further simplifies the four quadrants with the “three basic domains” of I, we, and it.
Figure: Integral Theory and AQAL
ILP, informed by Wilber’s AQAL, is an approach to enhanced personal wellness, development, self-actualization, and spiritual awakening. ILP addresses the whole person and all of life through four basic modules of practice and five auxiliary modules. The four foundational modules are body, mind, spirit, and shadow. The five auxiliary models are ethics, work, emotions, relationships, and soul (see Table).
An ILP approach to self-transformation does not include core practices per se. Rather, the ILP framework invites adherents to select at least one practice from each of the four core modules and to add practices from the auxiliary modules, as highlighted in the Table above. The practices listed in the matrix offer example practices for each module; however, options are not limited to those listed. Developers of the ILP approach outline five principles on which it builds:
· The Ultimate in Cross-Training, working synergistically in body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.
· Modular, allowing you to mix and match practices in specific areas or modules.
· Scalable, adjusting to however much—or little—time you have, down to 1-Minute Modules.
· Customizable to your lifestyle: you design a program that works for you and adapt it on an as-needed basis.
· Integral, based on AQAL technology, an All Quadrant, All Level framework for mapping the many capacities inherent in human beings (See Integral Life Practice by Wilber, Patten, Leonard, & Morelli, 2008).
Furthermore, all modules include Gold Star Practices, recommended as “distillations of traditional practices minus the religious and cultural baggage” (Wilber, Leonard, & Morelli, 2008). Also, quick versions of the Gold Star Practices, 1-Minute Modules, are offered for times when practitioners are pressed for time.
Table. Integral Life Practice Matrix
Source: The Integral Life Practice Matrix, by K. Wilber, 2007, retrieved from http://www.kenwilber.com/personal/ILP/MyILP.html
Integral Life Practice along with the Fourth Way, and Psychosynthesis (see previous essays) represent three different contemporary and universal systems of self-transformation. Mindfulness meditation, the transformative practice I focused on in my 2015 research and highlighted in Chapters 3 and 4 (of my book, Ten Developmental Themes of Mindful Leaders), is part of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism as well as an element of a growing body of secular Western approaches to stress management (e.g., Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), and psychotherapy (e.g., Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy). While a primary purpose of this essay and my book is to inspire and support readers in embarking upon the inner journey of self-transformation, doing so is not without risks. Thus, I offer words of caution in my book and will also do so in a future blog essay.
As the rate of change continues to increase exponentially and our lives become more interdependent, complex, and uncertain, humanity needs holistic or integrative frameworks to better understand and respond to the unprecedented demands of the 21st century. These unparalleled demands include threats to our very survival as a species from pressures of climate change, terrorism, water scarcity, food insecurity, poverty and social inequality, political corruption, and economic instability.
Consequently, U.S. philosopher Ken Wilber proposed that any truly integrative or integral view of human and social phenomenon must minimally include the individual subjective/interior, the individual behavioral/exterior, the collective intersubjective/interior, and the collective interobjective/exterior. Borrowing from Wilber’s All Quadrant All Level or AQAL framework, an integrative approach to leader development addresses the individual internal and individual external dimensions while acknowledging the larger context of leadership development and leadership. Thus, in this more expansive context, an integrative leader-development framework must first consider human existence and well-being from a holistic perspective, as well as the insights and learnings from adult-development theory.
Given that leaders are first and foremost human, the foundation of this integrative leader-development framework is a comprehensive view of human existence and well-being or wellness. Wellness is a holistic and proactive view of health that regards humans as beings with physical bodies, mental bodies, emotional bodies, and spiritual bodies embedded in social and natural environments and dependent on a vibrant planet Earth. Wellness also emphasizes the overall quality of life and not solely the absence of disease. Wellness is highly significant to leader development because general wellness supports full and consistent access to current developmental capacities and provides the “fertile ground” necessary for ongoing self-development. Although various models of wellness exist, a general framework includes physical, mental-emotional, financial or material, spiritual, social, and environmental dimensions.
Physical well-being is a core dimension of wellness and generally refers to the capacity to meet the demands and potential crises of ordinary life. When physical health and vitality are compromised, it is more difficult to be one’s best self or tend to other areas of wellness. Physical wellness includes regular exercise or body movement, healthy weight, strength and flexibility, rest and relaxation, and sleep. It also includes one’s food and beverage choices and how they affect one’s overall well-being, including general health, vitality, energy, mood, weight, body-mass index (BMI), and stamina.
Mental-emotional wellness refers to awareness, constructive expression, and healthy integration of thoughts and feelings. Thus, mental-emotional wellness includes numerous areas that are highly relevant to an integrative approach to leader development such as mental attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, thoughts, feelings, personality, shadow, identity, motivation, will, self-awareness, perceptions, and self-regulation. Financial or material wellness refers to having adequate financial or material resources to meet essential basic human needs (e.g., food, potable water, clothing, and shelter) and support the fulfillment of higher needs (e.g., self-actualization).
Spiritual wellness refers to a sense of interconnectedness or relationship to and with all life/Life (immanent and transcendent), as well as a sense of awe and appreciation for the mysteries of life/Life. Furthermore, spiritual (or existential) wellness relates to the meaning and purpose derived from contributing to ideals or causes beyond the self (e.g., justice, peace, and sustainability). Social wellness refers to one’s ability to have and maintain healthy adult relationships in all areas of life (e.g., intimate, family, work, and community). Also, social wellness refers to a sense of belonging in the world as well as the capacity to engage in authentic, skillful, and constructive self-expression and communication. Environmental wellness refers to the overall quality and stability of one’s social and natural environments.
Furthermore, as highlighted in Wilber’s Integral Theory, the physical body can be viewed as three bodies, not one, which is also highly significant in an integrative leader-development framework. The three bodies are the gross body, the subtle body, and the causal body. The gross body or actual physical body includes all aspects of the body we typically think about—our skin, bones, muscles, systems, organs, tissues, cells, blood, etc.
The subtle body includes energies of the life force associated with human existence. Wilber’s AQAL associates the subtle body with dream states where earthly laws disintegrate. However, the energies of the subtle body are not limited to sleeping states. They are activated and alive in times of vision, inspiration, and creativity. Thus, although still not formally recognized by Western physiology, growing appreciation for and acceptance of subtle energies enlivens our being, as found in Eastern healing and religious traditions such as tai chi, yoga, and Hinduism. Furthermore, as other leadership writers have emphasized (e.g., Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, 2005 and Bruce Schneider, 2008), leaders who understand the role of subtle body energies will increase their potential for effectiveness, especially in the turbulent times of the 21st century.
The third body, the causal body aligns with deep sleep and an infinite openness, stillness, and formlessness or the Ground of Being. This is the body or state that the great mystics of the ages speak of, as expressed in the poem, “Expands His Being,” by Meister Eckhart (1260–1328):
All beings are words of God,—In Love Poems from God (Ladinsky, 2002)
His music, His art.
Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps in our souls.
Every act reveals God and expands His Being.
I know that may be hard to comprehend.
All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent for a while,
worlds are forming in my heart.
Thus, the three human bodies—gross, subtle, and causal—are highly relevant to this integrative leader-development framework, as addressed further throughout this book.
Note: This essay is an excerpt from my book, “Ten Developmental Themes of Mindful Leaders” available on Amazon. An audiobook version is also available on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.
Following a dynamic U.S. mid-term election that continues to unfold, the heart-breaking destruction and death from the worst wildfires the state of California has ever experienced, and the ongoing madness of the US national political scene, I read a news headline that prompted me to ask myself, “how can we free ourselves from the either/or thinking that has us trapped in a downward free fall?”
While an excellent article on the political landscape for Democrats in the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election, the headline, Midterm elections return Democrats to a debate over their 2020 presidential choice: Passion or pragmatism? (Matt Viser, November 10, 2018), illuminates the either/or thinking trap that limits humanity’s capacity to respond to the challenges of our times creatively.
We, Americans and all peoples, live in a complex and interconnected world. We face unprecedented challenges to our quality of life and the lives of future generations such as climate change, natural resource depletion, political corruption, growing inequality, mass extinction of species, global terrorism and numerous economic challenges, war, and world hunger.
Given the scale of our challenges, it is essential that we all join hands to address our collective problems. Unfortunately, America’s current political climate and tone are divisive and regressive. How can we overcome the toxic and dark forces to effectively respond to our challenges and usher in a positive future? Our religious traditions have called humanity to live in unity throughout the ages. For example:
- Christianity: God hath made of one blood all nations of men.
- Judaism: Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
- Islam: All creatures are the family of God, and he is the most beloved of God who does most good unto His family.
- Hinduism: Human beings all are as head, arms, trunk, and legs unto one another.
And, in Taoism, the theme of unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, represented in the religious symbol itself, is fundamental.
With all this encouragement for unity from our religious traditions, where might we start to begin to unify? The American Heritage Dictionary defines unity as the arrangement of parts into a whole. Thus, to unify as a people and solve our most pressing global problems, we must first unify our thinking.
We cannot solve problems at the same level of thinking that created them. We must learn to see the world anew. Albert Einstein
Unified thinking requires us to move from either/or thinking to both/and thinking. Actualizing this third way of thinking about and responding to the challenges before us – shifting from fragmented parts to an interconnected whole – -is the evolutionary imperative of the 21 Century, which does not mean everything is equal. It is not. Both/and thinking requires discernment of breadth and depth. How inclusive and how deep?
Much has been written about this urgent need to move from either/or to both/and thinking (i.e., from fragmented parts to wholes)- thereby expanding our thinking and creating comprehensive frameworks to guide our lives. A few such authors include Hazel Henderson, Fritjof Capra, Buckminster Fuller, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Duane Elgin, and Ken Wilbur.
Ken Wilbur, one of the most widely read and influential American philosophers of our time, has written over a dozen books, including, A Spectrum of Consciousness; A Brief History of Everything; and Up from Eden. He developed a unified field theory of consciousness, a synthesis, and interpretation of the world’s great psychological, philosophical, and spiritual traditions. Wilbur refers to his approach as Integral which is synonymous with the concept of unified thinking. In his Integral Theory, he identifies four essential quadrants of reality and argues that we must integrate the truths of all four quadrants to solve our most urgent social problems and fulfill our potential. In other words, each quadrant is only a part of the whole. Standing alone, each quadrant is incomplete.
The essential message is that we face unprecedented and complex challenges to our quality of lives and the lives of future generations. We will not and cannot successfully overcome these challenges with the same fragmented thinking that created them. Starting with our own lives, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to help lead the essential shift from either/or to both/and thinking at every level of society. Three areas that beg for unified thinking are reason and faith; the economy and the natural environment, and the individual and the common good (To be continued).
After the recent (September 2018) United States Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to a full Senate vote, Senator Kamala Harris from California declared that Republican senators relied on “raw power” to push the nomination forward. While Kavanaugh ended up securing the Senate votes needed to fill the US Supreme Court seat, the degree of concurrence with this assessment of Senate Republicans (and Kavanaugh himself) indicate that change is in the air.
Change is in the air because this type of raw power or power over has been the norm of Western Civilization for eons. This history of power over includes the domination and objectification of women which was clearly on full display in the Kavanaugh drama as well. It was deeply painful for many women and men to witness this public display and “victory” of power over leadership. After all, haven’t Americans evolved as a people? How could this and so many other blatant displays of power over leadership succeed in 2018?
I admit to periodic despair and dismay over these failings of leadership. However, a growing number of people are rejecting power over leadership for a new way—leadership as power to and with. Power to and with occurs when individuals claim what the Native peoples of the American continents, according to anthropologist, author, and educator, Angeles Arrien (1940 -2014) refer to as “original medicine” or their unique authentic inner power.
As we claim our authentic inner power, we free and fuel ourselves to genuinely express our deepest yearnings not only for ourselves but also for our world. We are then able to move into power with relationships as we join in cooperative partnerships with others for a more equitable, inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable world for all.
For example, the current “Me Too Movement” which is bringing growing awareness of and action on sexual harassment and sexual assault against women, began in 2006 when Tarana Burke, an American community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” to bring attention to the severity of these social ills. Burke’s power to authentically self-express ignited a spark within American actress Alyssa Milano, who then used the term on the social media platform Twitter in 2017.
These two women claimed their power to authentic self-expression which has inspired thousands of women and men, celebrities and noncelebrities, to express power with one another to build an impactful movement. For example, the Me Too Movement has resulted in change within various sectors of American society, particularly the corporate media sector (e.g., firing and/or legal action against film producer and Miramax cofounder, Harvey Weinstein; CBS Corp. Chairman and CEO Les Moonves; NBC “The Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer, and CBS anchor Charlie Rose).
Further indications of this emerging new way of leading can also be seen in a growing body of academic and popular literature on this power to and with orientation such as feminine leadership, compassionate leadership, and participatory leadership. In addition, my 2015 doctoral research, which I highlight in my newly released book, Ten Developmental Themes of Mindful Leaders, identified integrated or balanced leadership as the primary developmental theme of mindful leaders. Integrative/balanced leadership is the term I chose to describe their shift from heavily weighted traditional masculine expressions of leadership to more balanced expressions of traditional feminine and masculine qualities.
Consequently, despite the darkness of our times and the onslaught of gross displays of raw power spued from high places, there are countless people, women, and men, across the globe building a new way of leading from power over to power to and with. You too can contribute to this emerging expression of leading by engaging in a personal transformative journey that connects you with your authentic inner power and fosters an expansion of consciousness and heart our nations, world, and planet Earth so desperately needs.
You can also learn more about my book, Ten Developmental Themes of Mindful Leaders on my WhizBuzz page.
For fellow bloggers interested in mindful leadership, leader development, and self-transformation, I invite you to check out my new book, “Ten Developmental Themes of Mindful Leaders” now available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions.
As I write this blog essay, I realize it is my first one since the 2017 United States Presidential Elections. Over these last few months, I have reflected deeply about many aspects of my life to include my dreams for our country and world. I have also reflected deeply about how I need to respond to the outcome that had me in despair for over two weeks following the election results and continues to challenge me at every level of my being. This is so for me not because I dislike Mr. Trump (I do not know him obviously), but because, thus far, the actions of the Trump Administration contradict many things I believe to be good and true for our collective future (Americans and humanity in general).
Reputable scholars from across the disciplines (e.g., Johan Rockström, Will Steffen, Jeffrey Sachs, and Lester Brown) continue to inform us that we have crossed (e.g., concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere, genetic diversity) and are in danger of crossing multiple planetary boundaries (e.g., acidic levels of our oceans, land-system change). Reputable scholars and scientists also continue to tell us that crossing these boundaries have broad reaching adverse consequences, and crossing several or all planetary boundaries certainly will not bode well for humanity’s collective future. However, the Trump Administration appears to be either unaware of or unconcerned about crossing planetary boundaries. For example, the Administration chose to nominate Scott Pruitt for the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Pruitt has a long public record of fighting environmental regulations to protect our air, water, land, and climate. Furthermore, the Trump Administration has already started repealing current environmental protections while also releasing a national budget that reduces EPA funding by over 30%.
These actions and numerous other similar such actions contradict the evolutionary imperative before us to live more lightly on our planet while the population continues to soar and more countries strive for a Western standard of living. Consequently, the times may require a complete reimagining of what it means to be a sustainability leader in the age of Trumpism. For me, this inquiry has resulted in being engaged on a level in which I have not been engaged before in my life. I am reevaluating priorities; taking more time to call, tweet, and petition my elected officials; joining marches and rallies, and rethinking the causes in which I donate time and money.
However, more than any of these actions, I realize that a daily routine of a transformative life practice (i.e., multiple complementary practices that nurture body, mind, soul, & spirit) is the most important action I can take at this time in human history because ultimately, we are ones here on Earth now. For good or ill that means those of us that yearn for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world have the evolutionary responsibility to choose love and unity over fear and separation. I know I cannot consistently do that in our current political environment without a transformative life practice which includes daily meditation. While this may seem naïve and “soft” to some of my fellow sustainability leaders in the Age of Trumpism, how we show up, is as important as showing up.