Five days in the Incubator: Integral Boulder
by Gary Hawke
In 2009 at the Integral Leadership in Action conference, I was a panel member on the pre-conference discussion “The Frothy Edge of Integral Leadership”. The consensus of the panel was that we have made the 50,000-foot altitude now we need to begin the work of actualising an Integral World.
What better way for me to define how I want to take this challenge on than to spend 5 days at Boulder Integral in the Integral Incubator?
Within this field report I am going to give you a sense of what it was like to enter the Incubator, and boy this is going to be a challenge, 5 days with 22 unique individuals all with wonderful projects, ideas and energies and 6 inspiring coaches helping to support and stabilise higher stages of functioning and of course a meeting with Ken Wilber.
Thanks must go out to Jeff Salzman who not only had a grand vision to create Boulder Integral but also to provide within the magnificent space, The Integral Incubator.
Let me offer, as this is the easiest to deal with, the structure of the 5 days. Each day began at 8.00 am with a practice, first a meditation led by Jeff, but rather than just offer a formless meditation Jeff took the opportunity to lead us, over the week, through 1st 2nd and 3rd person perspective meditations. This was a great way of anchoring perspective taking.
Daune Greene who led the group through beautifully constructed physical workouts picked up the flow from the meditations.
After the morning practice, you felt open and fully connected to the day’s work.
Next we moved into a group meeting again led by Jeff, this was a chance for the whole group to come together to debrief about the day before and deepen our awareness of AQAL theory as a both a personal application and a business application, then we moved off into the workspaces.
Three workspaces had been set up, a meditation space, an office workspace and a salon/coffee area. The structure of the workspace was integral to the day’s work. You could contemplate your project in the meditation space, share your ideas in the salon/coffee area and detail your project on your laptop in the office space. The Workspaces were used from 11.00 until 12.30, 2 until 3.30 4.00 until 5.30.
During the workspace time the coaches Sue Brightman, Bert Parlee, Jason Lange, Huy Lam, Nomali Perera, Ross Hostetter and of course Jeff provided one-to-one private sessions, along with Bert offering a session on polarities.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend as I was on a Core Integral Training conference call with Ken Wilber (and I can highly recommend the Core Integral Training). Jason offered an integral perspective on Social Media, (I now have a twitter and Face book account) and Sue offered a workshop and a follow up group coaching session on creating your Elevator Speech (something that I will come back to later on in this report).
3.30 until 4.00 had everyone at the compulsory group dance, which was a space to let your hair down. Then back to work. After dinner at 7 pm we all came back for a shorter group check-in before closing at around 9ish, over 12 hours a day of deep Integral work.
Packed days, intensive days, days full of wonder and company, stimulating and challenging and then there was the Elevator Speech.
The Elevator Speech was for me the ritual part of the Incubator. Sue invited the inquiry “how you want to show up” and how would you communicate your intention in a one-minute speech, which gives an accurate but quick overview of your project and inspires the people you are speaking to.
Distilling down your project into no more than 250 words was a great way of focusing the work over the week. It was important to recognise that we needed to avoid any technical jargon and just to “keep it simple” whilst at the same time put across our passion. If you have never tried the exercise I highly recommend it.
On Thursday evening as we prepared to give our speeches, the tension in the air was palpable. There was much support of each other, with both Sue and Jeff providing a strong container. However, we were still nervous, (did I mention that the speeches were to be filmed and made available to the first group of incubates).
The group bond that we had created over the week—a truly magical We space—meant that we wanted to speak, we wanted to be witnessed, and we wanted to ignite others with our words and our passions.
Moreover, you know, I think there was one main reason why we were so fired up, so ready to spring our projects into an Integral World. To feel empowered to offer our ideas and ourselves—
we had met Ken Wilber.
I have blogged elsewhere about my feelings on meeting Ken and perhaps it might be worth offering you some of the words I wrote soon after meeting Ken.
So I have met and spoken with Ken Wilber…and what are my impressions, the man’s mind is a wonder as each question was asked it was amazing to see how he was able to link things together. He could find patterns within patterns, and all the time he had a wonderful clarity about his speech. There were moments where I just let myself fall into the rhythm and texture of his words.
From questions about the afterlife to the myth of the given as it relates to the work of Byron Katie to a very vibrant explanation of social poesies—he spun, twisted, dove, jumped and landed each argument, each point of view, and each perspective, with a power and intention that I knew I was witness to spirit in action.
He was always graceful—from signing books to accepting manuscripts to read to offering support.
He was a welcoming host into his home.
But I was also shocked. He looked frail and unstead. His body did not have the power he once held. What I saw was not the ripped athlete, but an old man. He was more Yoda than Jesus, I do not mean this as disrespect. I want to highlight how Ken is still pushing into new areas of consciousness. He is still the great pioneer, leading the way but now more than ever he needs the support of the people around him and not just organisational support but health care support.
And this is what makes my time with Ken all the more wonderful—he gave of himself, all of himself, to ensure that we got the chance to speak with, meet and call Ken Wilber a friend.
Ken is not the guru. There is no teaching, no message to give, just an open willingness to communicate, an almost vulnerable quality to speak and to speak to any topic. At times I got a sense that Ken did not know what he was about to say; there was a joy and wonder as he witnessed his thoughts arising and the words communicated. For me this vulnerable quality offered the group inspiration to find their voice and stand up to be witnessed.
And witness people did, with a depth and passion and joy. For a moment as each person offered their speech I was lit up as they lit up, I felt alive as they felt alive.
Then slowly the incubator came to a close. Over Friday we made our connections. We said our goodbyes. We started to go back home. Nevertheless, this time was with a purpose that was clear and concise.
What did 5 days in the Incubator reveal for me? I realised that I need to make connection. I need to have a strong community that keeps challenging me to offer my best, not because I want to be the best but because I want to help others to grow. I realised that the project I am working on is me.
“How I project out into the world what IT is I do to help others to grow so that WE can all move closer to actualising an Integral World”.
So I am home now, writing this field report, still with tears and smiles and heartfelt thanks to the people that made it all possible. I would like to thank one person in particular. Thanks Nomali for listening to my shadow and me. You are golden.
The Integral Incubator is life changing and the place to be if you are looking to clarify your next Integral Step.
Please do give it a go.
About the Author
Gary Hawke is an Institute for Learning licensed teacher and UK Health Professions Council Dramatherapist based in London. He has worked as a teacher and therapist for 20 years and currently works in the field of psychospiritual education with prisoners and young children. For the past 2 years he has run the morning ILP sessions for ILiA.
With Confluent Living Gary leads the London Integral Life Practice group and has run a variety of ILP workshops, including facilitating ILP work with Terry Patten at the Enlighten Next centre in London. Gary is also a partner in the Integral Wisdom Movement being directed through Whole Life Whole World.