Since childhood I have been fascinated by “consciousness”. What is it? What does it mean to be conscious? It is more than thinking. More than having heart. More than spirit. What is it? Pursuing answers as we humans are want to do, I read and read and read. And asked question after question in pursuit of “the” answer. I took apart a television looking for the “truth” inside . . . I wanted to meet the people I was seeing and hearing. Reassembly proved a huge challenge. That did not go over well with my parents.
My father being an Irish Catholic, raised his children in the Catholic Church, so I have that perspective. My mother, a Methodist, added to my religious perspective. Then when I was 12, my parents gave me a book entitled “The Wisdom of China and India”. The tales in that book led me deeply into an Eastern journey through eastern perspectives and I have spent my life weaving together the strands of the wisdom traditions.
Through “conversations” with many, many masters both living and dead I ended up at the Integral Consciousness doorstep on May 7, 2014 at the First European Conference on Integral Consciousness in Budapest, Hungary. Many people attended. Many people presented. They arrived at the conference steeped in their respective perspectives and disciplines.
I arrived with my friend, Kellie Lindstrom, an energy healer with her perspective and training and me with my questions, about to meet a mountain of answers all in one place.
Approaching the conference venue in Buda from Pest (Budapest is actually two cities connected by lovely bridges) Kellie and I were mesmerized by the elaborate architecture of the buildings along the Danube river. Once off the tram we walked to Millennium Park. As we were about to step onto a bridge leading across a small pond to the venue; I grabbed Kellie’s hand and said, “crossing into consciousness”. We laughed and a man, Michael Wolff, walking behind us, caught up and began talking and the three of us “crossed to consciousness” together. We are now entertaining an alliance but that is another story for another time.
Once inside the conference space, I noticed that the energy levels were extremely high. I could feel the excitement, the anticipation. People were psyched. Europe was about to unfold the integral movement within its own borders something that had begun in 2006 with the founding of the Integral Academy in Budapest, Hungary. The academy’s mission is to teach integral theory and practice in a deep and structured manner while supporting individual personal growth. There were people from Russia, the Ukraine, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US, Scotland, England, Italy, and on and on it went. The age range was stunning. The continuum of age included young people in their twenties all the way to elders in their eighties.
Languages swirled round me like bees busily pollinating flowers. Kellie and I oriented ourselves to the conference logistics and joined everyone for the opening discussion. The next four days sped by engulfing us in new friendships, thoughts, approaches and at one point chewing me up and spitting me out in total overload mode.
Our hosts Bence Gánti (Hungary) and Dennis Wittrock (Germany) were marvelous. Enthusiastic and open, promoting ever-widening circles of love, care and compassion.
Ken Wilber, considered by many as the father of integral theory, opened the conference via video conferencing as he could not attend. Ken defines integral theory as “an all-inclusive framework that draws on the key insights of the world’s greatest knowledge traditions. The awareness gained from drawing on all truths and perspectives allows the Integral thinker to bring new depth, clarity and compassion to every level of human endeavor — from unlocking individual potential to finding new approaches to global-scale problems.”
I shy aware from anything being “all-inclusive” at this point in human evolution. We are still revealing the “elephant”, but this model is a good “jumping-off” point.
As with any theory, integral consciousness has become a means for many people to build new approaches to existing disciplines in business, psychotherapy, economics, education, and health. It promotes authentic and healing relational ‘we-space’ practices with the aim of helping people to transform into more refined, aware, compassionate and subtle human beings. I reiterate, as a model it is a wonderful starting point from which to launch oneself into a new way of being and thinking.
It is a theory that promotes communication and action across multiple perspectives. It lends itself to a rhizometic way of communicating . . . energy flowing horizontally like the roots of plants that have a rhizome system. Deals are done face to face. Relationships flow laterally. People come together with their own ideas and agendas while maintaining a common goal. As opposed to strict, top-down pyramid-style communication. In short, it is inclusive rather than exclusive.
The conference energy stayed high and constructive the entire time. Each day keynote speakers set the day’s context then gave way to individual workshops in psychology, education, political renewal, leadership/organization development, transformational community, gender, coaching, and health.
The unique aspect of this conference is that ways have been set up so that people can continue to communicate and work with one another across physical distances. People at the conference have explored and continue to explore technologies that allow them to work together on specific projects once they return to their respective countries.
A highlight of the conference for me was being bused out of the city to the countryside into a huge open space surrounded by mountains. Bonfires had been built, musicians invited, traditional stews were cooking in huge cauldrons over open fires, and we were outside. It was glorious. After the sun set, the musicians started and the fires lit. Suddenly the night air filled with flames, sparks, music, voices raised in song and bodies dancing. Oh how we danced! People joined hands and formed huge circles within circles within circles and danced round the fire. We learned traditional Hungarian folk dances and songs and sang them loudly in English and Hungarian. Young and old, joined hands and celebrated being alive. The next morning got off to a bumpy start as late-night
revellers wandered back into the conference exhilarated and a bit exhausted. By late morning we were back on track.
The people at the conference who resonated most with me are:
Thomas Hübl (Germany/Israel), is actively using the model to bring back wisdom and insight into a marketplace challenged to evolve. Thomas is also actively living and teaching the “contemporary marriage between inner and outer sciences” seeing that marriage as an implicit task of our time.
László Ervin (Hungary), has written much about a fundamentally different concept of the nature of the cosmos and consciousness as a “whole system”, instantly entangled in non-local cosmos. Supported by quantum physics and quantum neuroscience he maintains that new institutions and systems of wholeness and integrality are re-emerging in the contemporary world.
John Dupuy (USA), is “on the ground” working with recovering addicts using the integral model and whole system insights with increasing long-term success.
Roger Walsh, MD (Australia / USA), is exploring ways to move the integral vision from the province of what sociologists call a “cognitive minority” into the mainstream.
Kellie Lindstrom (Australia / France), not at all familiar with the model, but actively pursuing energy healing in individuals and institutions. She has a huge heart and “infinite love”. A master at setting intention for herself and helping others to do so as well, she is a stunning example of someone who fearlessly leads from her heart.
Michael Wolff (Scotland), integrating the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual into ways of working with people across the globe. The quote on one of his websites best explains Michael’s journey to now. “Work is not what it was, inside or outside the organization. The paradox of time combines with the changing nature of work, to force us to rethink what we mean by the whole idea of work and time – when we work, where we work, how we work and why we work”.
~ The Empty Raincoat – Making Sense of the Future ~ Charles Handy 1994
The challenge for people promoting the Integral Model / Movement is using the energy and insight provided to actually develop more effective ways of being in the world with one another. Moving from the theoretical into practical, real-world application. Significant change is difficult and the integral model is fraught with opportunities for spiritual materialism, egocentric misuse of ideas, complacency (I/we have “the” answer), meta-pathologies and meta-defenses and failure to engage people in the mainstream.
At its best the integral consciousness model can give us a starting point to define and activate truly humane, compassionate, integrated, meaningful, effective ways of being with one another on this planet.
The conference was a fascinating and informative mixture of people and ideas and I came away with renewed hope for humanity.