Saturday, January 8, 2011

Integral Spiritual Experience 2--return

Diane and I returned from ISE2 on Monday.  I am still digesting the experience.  If you are curious about it, Goggle "Integral Spiritual Experience 2" and browse the web.  The full program was recorded and should be available sometime from Integral Life.

About 500 people attended this second in a promised five-year series of events.  The best way to describe it is an ecumenical gathering of people from many spiritual traditions, and of many from no particular tradition, most of whom have some familiarity with Ken Wilber's integral philosophic approach to truth claims and some of whom are complete Wilber wonks.  Diane Musho Hamilton, my amazing partner, along with Rabbi Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton, f.k.a. Swami Durgananda, are the design team.  My take on the events is that they are creating a container within which people with spiritual interests (whatever you take "spiritual" to mean) and strong cognitive inclinations can come together and be exposed to an eclectic mix of teachings and practices from an incredible range of traditions and non-traditions.  As a consequence, all leave with a broader appreciation of other approaches to teachings and practices, and a clearer view of our own. The result necessarily is a more sophisticated and more whole view of our small "self" and of its relation to all that is.

The range I personally experienced ran from being in a session where a talented pianist would invite anyone who wanted to noodle on the piano to come forward and then together would produce both an  amazing "holding" experience for the one accompanied and a stunning listening experience for the audience (Willie, our son, played with her to greater effect than I), to listening to translator Coleman Barks read the Sufi poet Rumi accompanied by a Grammy Award winning cellist, and then sitting with him far into the night discussing his mystical experiences, poetry, and our common Presbyterian upbringing, to sitting early morning silent zazen, to participating in a discussion of the ways each of us in our seeking must be alert to the ethical issues raised by our encounter with the personal characteristics of those who would be our teachers, to listening to a Jesuit with a Ph.D. in psychology discuss St. Ignatius of Loyola's personal meditation methods, to hearing Depak Chopra describe the elaborate conceptualization of the non-dual as taught in the Advaita Vedanta strain of Hinduism.   That is only a small sampling of the offerings.  And it went on for five days.

For anyone interested in taking a perspective on their perspectives, I highly recommend the event.  Both the attendees and the teachers are an amazing collection of talents, the atmosphere is open, friendly, and completely supportive, and the location--Asilomar conference center in Monterey, California--a stunningly beautiful spot on the coast.  Whatever the goals of the organizers, the event itself is developing its own momentum.  I have a very strong feeling that this commodious container is an essentially new development in American spirituality, indeed in world spirituality.  (The gathering had attendees from over 30 countries.)  A place for Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and non-sectarians of all stripes who are interested in the interior life and its manifold manifestations to come together and discuss and experience both the exteriors and interiors of each others' teachings and practices.  The whole leading edge of Western spirituality will be affected by this series of events in powerful ways that cannot help but lead to a deepening of individual traditions and an expansion of their horizons.

Not a bad way to spend a week between Christmas and New Years!

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