Notes from the Field: 2nd Integral Conference in Moscow: “Potential and Prospects of the Integral Approach”

August 2011 / Notes from the Field

2nd Integral Conference in Moscow: “Potential and Prospects of the Integral Approach”

Victor Shiryaev

The Integral wave is vast and diverse, though it is mostly associated with the Northern American community, as well as some integral salons scattered around the world. While it is true that almost all of the juicy integral stuff is going on in the West, it seems important to recognize the trans-cultural nature of the integral worldview, and be regularly updated on the major integral events carried out in other parts of the world. It is especially important for the sustainable development of the integral culture and the future of the integral enterprise. So, what follows is such an update.

On June 25-26, 2011, the Moscow Integral Club (a local integral salon that has been functioning for a few years) organized the Moscow Integral Conference (MIC). This event was held for the second time in Russia. Two vibrant weekend days were filled with around 30 participants, among whom were psychologists, journalists, coaches, medical workers, business people, yoga instructors, IT developers, catholic theologians, accountants, and so on.

The whole conference was video-streamed live online, so there were integral friends from other parts of Russia (from cities such as Izhevsk and Nizhniy Novgorod), as well as Ukraine (Odessa, Kharkov), who could participate real-time in discussions and ask questions over the web.

I had a pleasure of both participating in the conference, and co-organizing it with Alina Chumakova from the Moscow Integral Club, who was also hosting the whole conference. Since I live in Shanghai, China, every visit to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg provides a unique opportunity to share an inter-personal space of rare depth, so when I first told my integral friends I was going to visit Russia in the end of June, we decided to organize a small get-together; I would not want to miss the opportunity to meet all of the most active integral leaders of the post-Soviet space. Thus I served as a karmic cause for the conference to occur, and I am very happy this friendly get-together turned out to be a successful two-day event that is to be continued.

The First Day

At the beginning of the first day, after a brief collective tuning meditation, Eugene Pustoshkin (St. Petersburg) grounded all of us in the Unknowing, laying a foundation for the two subsequent days of intellectual discussions and integral brawl.

Then Dinara Badaeva (a host of the Moscow Integral Club) offered a presentation “Self-System and Its Development,” a perspective on development, integrating Susanne Cook-Greuter’s developmental model and the Wilberian approach with transactional analysis. The overall presentation was fresh and thorough; the printed hand-outs were awesome. We hope Dinara writes an article soon to introduce her model to a wider international integral public.

Finally, by the end of the first day we had a presentation by  Ivan Vyrypaev, a well-known Russian playwright, theatrical and movie director awarded with many international prizes for both his plays and movies, including the special prize of the 63rd Venice International Film Festival. On his spiritual and artistic path Ivan became quite interested in the integral approach, so he was willing to participate in our conference, giving an open-ending intriguing talk “On modernity.” He offered an up to date perspective on the development of theater and encouraged a collective discussion on what form theater can take in the integral age. Among other things, Ivan told us that he gave lots of public lectures to students in Western Europe, always asking them if they knew who Ken Wilber was, and no one seemed to know. From discussions with Ivan at local integral salon gatherings we also know that his wife, Polish actress Karolina Gruszka, read Ken Wilber in Polish and discussed his ideas with famous movie director David Lynch (she acted in his 2006 movie “Inland Empire”). Karolina and Ivan participated in the Moscow Integral Club a few times. Last year Ivan also spoke at the 17th International Transpersonal Conference which was held in Moscow.

There was another presenter scheduled for the first day, but Anatoly Balyaev (from Nizhniy Novgorod) could not make it for the conference, so we missed both his warm presence and his presentation on “Integral NLP”.

The Second Day

The second day was opened with the “Analysis of the AQAL model” by Sergey Badaev (of the Moscow Integral Club), who offered some rationalistic critique of the model, exclusively based on Russian translations of Wilber’s works (the following Wilber’s books were published in Russian: The Integral Vision, Integral Psychology, The Eye of Spirit, One Taste, A Brief History of Everything, The Atman Project, Grace and Grit, and No Boundary). He addressed what he sees as some of the major inconsistencies and contradictions within the model, as well as some of the places Wilber left unclear. Although the overall critique was rational and academic in flavor, it did highlight some of the problematic zones of the AQAL framework from the perspective of the rational level.

Then Alexander Stahl, a theologian and seminary teacher originally coming from the Polish Catholic tradition, gave a talk on “Integral understanding of religion,” where he highlighted some of the  most difficult and urgent issues within the Western Church (e.g. the tension between academic theology and mystical experiences). He also showed us some of Wilber’s books translated into Polish, including Boomeritis (which is already translated into Russian but not yet published). In general, it seems like publishing integral books in Poland is on a greater level than in today’s Russia.

It is important to mention here that at the end of the first day we had an offstage meeting with Hegumen Evmeny, an Eastern Orthodox Church mystic and public figure (he is a host of a TV talk-show “Essence and Presence” on Psychology 21 cable channel). Thus, the weekend seemed quite complete with both major branches of the Church present.

So, back to the second day presenters, after the lunch break Dmitry Baranov (Ipraktik Project, Moscow) made a presentation of his Ipraktik software application, which is planned to be a useful and cutting edge Integral Life Practice organizer with built-in social utility for the practitioners of the integral life, soon available for the iPhone users as well as the other smartphone platforms.

Following Dmirty’s presentation, Nickolay Zharov (an integral coach from Izhevsk, Russia) offered a lively and informative lecture on Integral Coaching, its history, foundational tenets, main ideas, and application specifics, based on materials from the Integral Coaching Canada and personal practice. His presentation was important in many ways, since coaching in general, and integral coaching in particular, are quite new to Russia, and Nickolay provided a very clear and vibrant perspective.

Finally, making a circle and closing the conference with grounding in the Unknowing, Victor Shiryaev (a student of the John F. Kennedy University M. A. program in Integral Theory) hosted a discussion on the issue of the “Mythologization of the Integral Worldspace,” with its main question being what Integral as a worldview is, and how it is different from Integral as an approach.

For me personally this was not only a successful conference, but also the opportunity to hold a shared integral inter-personal space with Russian flavor, and I perceive this conference mostly as a necessary stepping stone in the process of the Russian-speaking integral community emergence and development, rather than academic achievement, although many of the presentations were thoughtful, important, and refreshingly cutting-edge. Subjectively, it feels like everything began happening faster on the Russian integral scene after this event, with many inter-personal connections enacted, and with many fresh Kosmic grooves emerging; we have various exciting projects both online and offline, involving many integral friends from all over the world. The conference was highly successful, interesting, live, and important, so we anticipate to hold another one next year, this time on an international scale.

I am grateful to Eugene Marshinsky, the owner and general manager of the “White Clouds” club, for his genuine interest in the Integral Approach. I am also cordially grateful to Eugene Manzyrev, art manager of the “White Clouds” club and active participant of the Moscow Integral Club, for his help in organizing this beautiful event. Also, a very important part of the job was done by Vladimir Smirnov, who helped to make videos of all of the presentations. Finally, there would be no conference without Alina Chumakova, who did everything to organize it.

About the Author

Victor Shiryaev

Victor Shiryaev is a student of John F. Kennedy University Master’s program in Integral Theory. He lives and works in China. He can be reached at v.v.shiryaev@gmail.com