Dec 17th I will be hosting the second in a multi-part discussion on Integral Ethics. My invite is below. For more details and to join us look here: http://www.meetup.com/kenwilber-58
Integral Ethics Series
Integral Theory helps us hold multiple perspective; still, decisions must be made and actions taken. In that regard, one question remains largely unanswered, “does an integral worldview impose any moral imperatives?” Postmodernity, taken to the extreme, makes all perspectives equal. Integral includes honoring the relative truth of all perspectives but also reintroduces ranking. An integral perspective does not pretend that all actions are equally loving and good for the kosmos. No matter how many perspectives we honor in theory, we end up embodying the ones that we find ethical and act accordingly. The question is whether or not integral consciousness will tend to foster certain behaviors over others. Does integral have normative potential?
This Months Topic
This month we will look at how holding an integral perspective impacts our relationship to money. Throughout the ages money has been imbued with all manner of value. We live in a world where money is required for the vast majority of our activities and endeavors. From basic survival to the utmost luxury very little happens without an exchange of money. Inescapably money has become the most coveted of all acquisitions and the most condemned of all evils. Some have gone as far as to call it ”the root of all evil.
A more nuanced approach to money ethics might point out that money, in and of itself, is value neutral. It is the thoughts, feelings, actions, products, and services that are done in the name of money that can be considered as more or less loving, more or less damaging, and more or less ethical. Moreover each of us in the modern world can be said to have two primary relationships with money: how we earn it and how we spend it. An integral approach to money ethics should explore both. There may well come a time when our entire monetary system is replaced, but for now and as long as money remains the universal way in which the we quantify exchanges, any attempts to live with more integrity must include an honest and rigorous evaluation of our relationship to it.
Has learning integral theory caused you to re-evaluate your work? Has attempting to embody the concepts that Ken Wilber and others expound changed the ways that you spend your hard earned money? And should it? These are but the beginnings of a deep exploration into the Integral Ethics of Money.
If you read this blog than you likely know that the scientifically proven benefits of meditation are many. I wrote recently about a study showing how just 8 weeks of training can effect a lasting reduction in stress and anxiety. Studies that look at the impact on individuals in a testing environment are becoming increasingly common. Less common are attempts to look at how meditation effects people inside a work environment. Can meditation really help us at work?
The authors of a March, 2005 study published in the Journal of Social Behavior & Personality were looking to see if meditation could have an impact on occupational stress. Numerous studies have determined that when workers are experiencing stress there is a significant and measurable cost added to doing business. A highly stressed employee might be pictured as a car driving with its breaks on, stress being the breaks. As the authors of this study note, “when researchers look at compensation claims, reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, added health insurance costs, and direct medical expenses for related diseases such as ulcers, high blood pressure and heart attacks…The costs of stress are variously estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars annually, or 12% of U.S. GNP”. Clearly any business looking to reduce costs should be interested in inexpensive means of reducing occupational stress.
Practicing meditation is free, but can it be show to reduce job site stress? The authors of this paper note that it has previously been shown in studies that Transcendental Meditation (TM) produces a “unique state of restful alertness that is not achieved during ordinary eyes-closed rest.” TM has also been shown to improve cognitive performance and increase self confidence in clinical settings. These studies certainly imply that stress would be reduced in a testing environment, but what about in an office?
Researchers went to a South African marketing research consultancy firm of 80 people. They measured stress levels in employee using both psychological symptoms such as employees self-reported incidence of nervousness, irritability and headaches as well as objective measures such as blood pressure and heart rate. In addition to the impact on individuals the study aimed to investigate the consequences of individuals stress levels on the business as a whole by analyzing metrics such as staff turnover rates, perceptions of company climate and some measures of company wide productivity. Researchers described the atmosphere at this firm as being one of “frenetic activity attendant on frequent deadlines and the need to coordinate hundreds of part time field workers.” Sound familiar?
Employees were told that their superiors wished to evaluate to two potential approaches to stress reduction, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and TM. Participation was voluntary and about 85% of employees opted to take part. 61% of these (49 people) eventually learned TM. They received 1.5-2 hours of instruction on 4 consecutive days with follow-up at 2 and 6 weeks and 3 and 5 months for a total of 16 hours of training. The results?
Employees trained in Transcendental Meditation techniques did show a significant measured decrease in occupational stress symptoms. The major reduction started about 2 weeks after beginning training. Participants also showed a significant decrease in blood pressure (BP). A few participants who were in the hypertensive BP range at the start were later measured to be in the normotensive range, a significant health improvement. The authors reported that, “The blood pressure findings of this study are consistent with blood pressure findings previously reported in well-controlled randomized clinical trials.” What is perhaps more hopeful is the fact that there was also a measurable reduction in the stress levels of those who did not receive training in either technique. This supports the hypothesis that having trained meditators in a work environment can have a positive impact on the stress levels of all employees. Calm people may soothe an environment much the way that a hysterical person can disrupt it.
Looking at company wide financial figures there was a net gain of 9.2% while “sales growth rate doubled from 6% before the intervention to 12% after.” With adjustments for inflation this amounted to “double the average real growth rate for the seven years prior to the
A common question is whether meditation is any more useful than simply resting. As these authors report, “a meta-analysis of 32 studies has found that the physiological effects of the TM technique are significantly greater than ordinary eyes-closed resting for the same period of time.” In other words, there is more happening in meditation than simple rest. While putting aside time to be still is profound in and of itself, the techniques do appear to offer other benefits above and beyond what the untrained person will likely access without training. Looking at my experience, and those of my clients, I would say that this difference that meditation can make is profound.
If the thought of shifting your life seems both exciting and daunting, I would love to support you on your unique transformative path. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching program can kickstart your journey.
Have you ever had a daily practice? I consider a morning practice to be the ultimate Trim Tab. If you are looking to drastically shift your life towards purpose and fulfillment then it is worth developing a daily practice. I suggest a bare minimum of starting your day with 20 minutes of purposeful daily practice. Consider including the following:
Dream Journaling – I have always had a very hard time remembering my dreams. The exception to this is when I place a pen and paper next to my bed at night with the intention of writing down anything I can remember from my dreams first thing upon waking. Within a few days I get fragments, then scenes and then entire stories down on paper. A few times I have become lucid while dreaming. We spend a third of our life asleep. Remembering your dreams is the first step towards deeply rewarding practices such as lucid dreaming, dream yoga and dream analysis.
Meditation – Learning to meditate will change your life. Techniques and approaches to meditation are numerous, but the benefits that meditation can provide are even greater. Whether you begin to realize enlightenment, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase concentration, reduce tension or understand the nature of reality, meditation will offer you as much in return as you can invest. I could not possibly say enough about it here.
Exercise – Most of us live abnormally sedentary lives. We did not evolve sitting in office chairs using our brains far more than our bodies. Bringing all of our energy into our minds at the expense of our bodies leads to everything from hypertension to obesity to depression and erectile dysfunction. If I had to pick the two most transformational practices they would be strength training and meditation. Combined their benefits multiply.
Prayer/Incantations – There is immense power in our minds. Our lives are shaped by the thoughts that we embody. When was the last time you attempted to reprogram your thinking? Have you ever attempted to consciously choose your beliefs? Do you think it is possible to choose the mood that you wake up in? Studies show that smiling in a mirror can be as effective as prozac to cure depression. Combine those smiles with words that feel sacred, uplifting or even a bit silly and your mood will shift even more. To combat depression I started waking up every morning, forcing myself to smile and say one or two sentences about each day being better than the last and growing wiser and happier each day. At first I felt ridiculous. Before long both the smiles and the positive thoughts started happening on their own. Our thoughts are programmed by every bit of information we ingest, why not be one of the authors of your thoughts?
Breathing Exercises – I might actually recommend these over meditation. I have written about breathing exercises before. If meditation seems daunting, consider learning some simple breathing exercises. Along with all of the other benefits they also end up being a stealth concentration practice. More on this in my next Insight.
Journaling – At times I like to journal at night, almost last thing, before I go to sleep. I find that even something as brief as 5-10 minutes of putting the days thoughts and events down on paper can have an incredibly positive effect on both my sleep and the mood that I wake up in. It is far too easy to lay down and close my eyes still wrapped up in the days events not even realizing that I am still ruminating over events that ended hours ago. Journaling allows me to honor what has happened, process my feelings about it and then let go and drift off peacefully to sleep.
Sacred Reading – Whether you choose ancient texts or more modern books on faith and spirituality setting aside time daily to immerse yourself in others wisdom is an uplifting and expansive practice.
Yoga – David Deida once described yoga as ‘moving just beyond your range of comfort so that in the future you will have a greater range of comfort.’ (paraphrase). Most Americans are familiar with the physical positions or asanas that yoga includes. While this but scratches the surface of a true yoga practice, if you dedicate yourself to something as simple as 5 sun salutations daily I am certain your days will be different. Creating space in your body creates space in your mind. Yoga is designed to facilitate this process.
Singing/Chanting – More primal than talking, there is a reason that most religions include some form of singing or chanting. Whether you sing folk songs or repeat a sacred phrase the simple act of using your voice with focus and purpose can be a deeply transformative practice. This was both one of the hardest and most rewarding practices for me during my year on the mountain.
Whatever you choose, the simple act of committing to putting aside time every day to focus on taking care of yourself, being present in the moment, and connecting deeply with an experience will reward you in ways you can’t know without having a daily practice.
This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
Please take all that follows with a grain of salt. I certainly am not an MD. None the less I do take health and nutrition very seriously. I stake much of my professional advice and personal well being on my opinions. What I write below is in response to the paper: LDL Cholesterol: “Bad” Cholesterol, or Bad Science? published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
I will say upfront that my long standing bias is towards whole foods and away from pharmaceuticals. ‘Let thy medicine be thy food and thy food be thy medicine’ is a time tested philosophy I put a lot of stock in. At the same time, I have been doing a lot of reading lately of peer-reviewed medical journals to understand the actual science behind public and medical opinion. The ‘truth’ that scientists report is actually far removed from public opinion, media reporting and medical prescribing. Statins are the biggest money maker in pharmaceuticals right now. This is an incontrovertible fact. The scary thing is that this does not appear to be based on a comprehensive understanding of available data. For the first time in history we have scientists doing meta-analysis of many years of research and assumption. Finally they are able to take a step back from all of the studies and get a bigger perspective than any one scientist could in the past. The results of this are the most educated guesses current science has to offer. The results of this also point towards statins as being a dangerous gamble that the average American is being advised to take part in. Currently it appears to be a gamble which, like most casino games, is not set up to support the gambler. Profits do appear to be seriously clouding the picture.
The claim is that cholesterol levels are an accurate measure of the risk of heart disease and therefore lowering cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease. More recently we have been led to believe that LDL cholesterol is the culprit. According to this paper (and its 99 citations), the science does not point to a direct correlation between lowering LDL cholesterol levels and the reducing risk of heart disease. The problem appears to have more to do with oxidized cholesterol and their contribution to plaque. Even this is a guess based on a vague understanding of complicated processes. LDL cholesterol may actually be a part of the bodies attempts to manage an unbalanced situation. In other words, LDL likely correlates with plaque/heart disease the way that antibodies correlate with bacteria and viruses. Lowering LDL does not prevent heart attacks just as removing antibodies does not cure a disease. Just the opposite may be true. LDL may be a part of our bodies immune response.
More importantly and more clearly, statin drugs appear to increase the risk of a number of illnesses including Alzheimer’s and diabetes. The only thing we know for certain is that statins exert a vast number of biochemical effects that we know very little about. The ongoing trend of labeling certain minimally understood naturally occurring substances in the body ‘bad’ or ‘good’ has been repeatedly proven ill-advised. Largely the science does not point to such absolutes, it is the public and media glamorization that does so. Unfortunately, the research in any given year is far too much for any one doctor to follow and thus popular beliefs do influence even doctors.
In the end I always come to the same conclusion. The body is still far more complex than any model science has developed. What we do know is that organic whole foods are good for the body. We have spent millions of years evolving to digest and absorb them. The problem with the American diet is a move towards refined/processed foods. Few dispute this. I would add that drugs are the most refined food of all. If all food is a drug and all drugs are food, playing with the most refined foods possible (not high-fructose corn syrup, but drugs such as statins) is a gamble that most doctors writing prescriptions clearly don’t understand enough about. I don’t intend to be judgmental. I offer my voice only to provide some degree of corrective balancing to the current trends. The medical system provides very little in the way of nutritional education. “Medical students received an average of 19.6 contact hours of nutrition instruction.” (AAFP) The only thing we really know is that both nutritional and pharmaceutical science are in their infancy. I’m suggesting that we take a step back from the high stakes tables and simply earn our health the old fashioned way, slowly; making careful decisions on a moment to moment basis, trusting the earth and our bodies to know the most.
If the thought of shifting your life, including your diet, seems both exciting and daunting, I would love to support you on your unique transformative path. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
We have both walked back and forth inside our minds. Rarely do we notice the traverse. Even less do we acknowledge the self. It is at the apex of these pendulum swings that the ego grasps and tries to hold. The utter impossibility of anchoring oneself in the sky is ignored in the hope, the seeming need, to associate with an extreme as our true self. It is this one sidedness of feeling to which the mind most easily can relate. To grasp the arc as a never ending process, the natural movement of maya, is a step in the right direction. To step back farther still and recognize the unchanging, unborn witness to this game may be closer still. Truth be told it is only when we dissolve into it all, observer and observed, that we can relax in absolute Oneness. None the less, for now it is the back and forth, the grasping and releasing that I want to discuss.
I have been watching an oscillation between us, from arrogance to unworthiness. I recognize it in myself and I feel you polarizing me in near perfection. It is a joy to behold from afar, but from within it pummels my heart. In moments I feel better than you and you feel me this way too. In others I am certain that you must leave me for someone greater and you wonder about this as well. I do not propose that we effort to stop this cycle. I only want to bring more consciousness to how getting lost within it has the potential to distract our relaxation as God together.
Yesterday I reached a point of frustration in my art. What a ridiculous phrase to relate. I found myself turning bowls on the lathe and once again things were not as I wished. A problem with the machine had me frustrated and problem solving. I hate frustration. I love problem solving. What a joyous place to be. Driving off in my car to search for what I hoped might be the much needed replacement part for the lathe a smile drew itself across my mind. A column of unbending light shown vertically through my core connecting to the earth below and the heavens above. From this place of stillness I watched the game of challenge and achievement playing out all around me. Everything became energy moving for my entertainment. My body laughed. In that moment I associated with none of it and all of it. I recognized myself as the unwavering still point bearing witness to it all while simultaneously laughing that I am both the victory and defeat happening around me as well. It all became a game, something to do with all this energy, where being ‘solved’ or not merely determines whether or not this game will have another inning or a new game will begin.
We often leave that place of stillness and only relate with the movement. Will the future bring us closer? Have our pasts been similar enough? Will this decision create a gap between us? This achievement make one of us more worthy? Will this realization allow one of us to see beyond the other?
Of course there are also the glorious moments when we our oscillations align. It is funny how it doesn’t seem to matter where in the cycle they do align. I can resonate with you in sadness or in exaltation. Fearless vulnerability is the key. Quite often it is right in the middle of the storm, where there is no movement at all, just stillness and peace, that I feel the most connected with you. It is in this place that I see us growing together, where one and one become One. It is because of this simple truth that I write. For the Truth is that this place exists in all of the other moments as well. In our highest highs and our lowest lows, whether feeling aligned or in polarity, this space of stillness persists. This place of stillness, silently witnessing while screaming along, both separate from and merged with all that arises, is the place I vow to remain anchored both for and through you. I will be your anchor to this repose as you so often are for me.
But in order to set anchors in this place we must resist the urge to identify with the the myriad perspectives that create a separation or polarity that minimizes the other. I do not mean to suggest that the oscillations will stop. Likely they will increase, flying ever farther from the center. What I suggest is that we become better at recognizing them for what they are, temporary, reversible; better at noticing the movements when they are small, and better at giving away our grandiose estimations of self as investments in the other. Let us be better at sparing one another unnecessary degrees of pain from being on the bottom side of a fleeting polarity for longer than is helpful. The wakeup call must come freely from both sides of the equation, from feeling power and from feeling lack. The call to meet in a divine unquantifiable embrace is courageous from either side of the equation.
My truth lies comfortably in the unknown. It is when feeling the boundless potential of true uncertainty that I most appreciate having your hand to hold, your heart to call home. It is then that the warmth flowing between our bodies makes me feel the most alive, the most certain that I have more to give this world. It is with you that I want to serve all others. Recognizing this play between us is but one way that our relationship will teach us how to better serve others. Our connection can act as a template from which to relate with all.
I say let the arrogance come. Let the fear and doubt flow. A healthy relationship may well minimize them both in time, but it certainly must be a container which is ready to hold them first. Through it all I vow to remain anchored in the unchanging creator of it all whom we both truly are. As Her we will plant the seeds of our relationship. On this fertile land I will lay with you watching the beautiful mess that grows out all around us, as us.
– I offer this to you. I truly do. But it was drawn forth by my love for Hana. I wrote her this letter while I was living on a mountain for a year. My desire to let my highest love be the template for all relationships called me to share this with you. I post this today in celebration of becoming a Certified Integral Relationships Professional. If you sense that there is room for more love in your relationships I would love to work with you. Contact me any time for a free consultation.
Once again, scientists are showing that meditation is great for you. This time we get to see how even a short, 8 week course, can have a lasting impact on how people are effected by emotionally challenging stimulus.
A study recently published in the neuroscience journal Frontiers finds that participating in an 8-week meditation course can have lasting effects on the brain. This is not the first study to use neuroimaging to measure changes in the brains of meditators, but it is unique. Many studies have tracked changes in the brain during meditation. Being in a meditative state has been shown to have measurable correlations with an increased ability to focus, reduced anxiety, relief from depression, stress and a general decrease in emotional triggering to external stimulus. There have also been documented increased immune responses measured during meditation. What makes this study unique is that the scientists attempted to look not for changes during meditation, but for lasting changes that continue after meditation has ceased. This study was designed to explore “the possibility that meditation training leads to enduring changes in brain function, even outside meditation sessions.”
The scientists involved asked if “meditation training may induce learning that is not stimulus- or task-specific, but process-specific, and thereby may result in enduring changes in mental function.” Researchers looked at fMRI data before and after the 8 week meditation course to see what lasting changes even this brief training may offer.
All participants were new to meditation. “Healthy adults with no prior meditation experience took part in 8 weeks of either Mindful Attention Training (MAT), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT; a program based on Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation practices), or an active control intervention.” The control group participated in an 8 week health education course without any meditative training. (Frontiers)
This study looked specifically at a part of the brain called the amygdala, “which has been shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory and emotional reactions.” (wikipedia)
3 weeks prior to the training and 3 weeks after the training all participants were shown a series of images intended to elicit a positive, negative or neutral emotional response. This is a widely used technique in many areas of consciousness research that allows the researchers to monitor the brains activity in a variety of situations using brain imaging techniques such as fMRI. What these researches found is that those who took part in the 8-week meditation programs showed significant changes in how their brains reacted to emotionally charged imagery that subjects in the 8-week health education course did not show.
The participants in the mindfulness group showed a decrease in right amygdala response to all three types of images. This supports the hypothesis that mindfulness meditation can improve emotional stability and response to stress. Essentially, meditation appears to help one to cultivate emotional resilience.
The participants in the compassion meditation group also showed a decrease in right amygdala response to positive and neutral images but not to negatively emotional images. The participants who reported engaging compassion practices the most in their own time outside the class showed an increase in response to negative images. These are images depicting human suffering. Participants trained in compassion resonated more with others suffering. This is perhaps no surprise. The curious thing is that the ability to resonate with others suffering actually correlates with a decrease in our own suffering. Anyone who has volunteered their time to help those in need is likely familiar with this phenomenon. Resonating with those in need feels good. Empathy is a rewarding experience. Apparently meditating on compassion increases this capacity with some degree of permanence.
Perhaps this is why serious meditators can seem so blissed out. It may also help to explain why over a decade of meditation has led me to become a life coach. I truly do love being of service.
If the thought of shifting your life seems both exciting and daunting, I would love to support you on your unique transformative path. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching program can kickstart your journey.
Does change feel hard? It can be easy. Find your TrimTab!
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man can do. Think of the Queen Mary-the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said call me Trim Tab.” – Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller talked about how an individual, the smallest piece of humanity, can be like a trim tab. One person can have an immense impact on the whole of society. Bucky and his students then applied this metaphor to all types of endeavors. No matter how big the task, look for the trim tab and let both leverage and inertia be your friends.
The same is true within your own life. Quite often changing the course of your whole life has more to do with making small precise adjustments than with massive upheaval. When you find just the right area of your life to tweak you tap into enormous leverage and the whole ship swings around. If you try to steer a ship by placing a rudder in the water in front of it nothing happens. You could invest immense amounts of energy in trying to steer a ship from the front and little or nothing will happen. Adjust a tiny flap on a rudder on the back of the ship and watch as the rudder moves and then the whole ship with it. You tap into immense power with just the smallest effort. Youmay have tried to make a change in your life that felt like this. Perhaps you tried to change your diet, exercise more or change what time you wake up and no matter how hard you tried it felt like it was costing you more energy than it was worth. It likely felt like all of the inertia you had built up was pulling your life in a direction opposite the way you were trying to shift it. This is just like trying to steer a ship from the front. You don’t need to work harder, but you may need to work smarter. You need to find your Trim Tab and use inertia to your advantage.
Some people change their diet and their whole life shifts. Their body changes. Their mood shifts. Their outlook broadens. They fall in love. They start a new job. Life has a new meaning. For other people everything changes when they quit an old job. They find the time for a hobby or to work out. They start cooking more. They reconnect with loved ones. They develop a spiritual practice. Life has a new meaning. For some their trim tab is their faith. When I developed a morning ritual of self care and connection to a higher power everything revolved around this. For some committing to getting enough sleep every night starts a personal revolution. Suddenly they have new energy. Often everything shifts when we end a limiting relationship or start a new one. Any aspect of your life can be a fulcrum, a pivot or a trim tab. One little change can play a central role in catalyzing a cascade of events that changes your life forever. Often times with surprisingly little effort.
Clients come to me looking to find their vocation, to hear their calling and live a life that is full of meaning. This will necessarily include finding work that you love. However, it is very likely that the shift will not start there. If you wait until you know the perfect work to make any change in your life than it is quite likely that nothing will ever change. You may be attempting to change the ships course by pushing on its side or sticking your foot in the water out front. Attempting to shift everything at once will seem undoable because it is.
I ask clients to be gentle with themselves and simply look a bit deeper at the patterns at work. All things are connected. All of your current lifestyle choices support one another. Completely changing one aspect of your life will, without fail, cause a chain reaction in the rest of your life. The key is to look for the lifestyle adjustments that require the least amount of effort, but will have the biggest impact on everything else. Let one small change be the first of many incremental steps along your path of growth and transformation.
Maybe you can’t change your job, your health or your relationships today. It is good to be honest about this. None the less, there is something that you can commit to changing right now. Take a look at your patterns and make a promise to yourself that you will improve one aspect of your life. Let it be as big or small as you can handle right now. Choose what feels sustainable and let momentum build from there. Let me know what you come up with.
Consider the following:
Eat a great breakfast
Cut out all alcohol for a month
Learn breathing exercises.
Learn to meditate
Wakeup and immediately go outside for a walk
Prioritize sleep above all else
No TV for a month
End a damaging relationship
Join a club or group
Take a class
Start your day with an incantation
Nurture a relationship that is struggling
Remove caffeine from your diet
Move to a 4 day work week
Volunteer once a week
Learn to cook something new