Lillian Enyang Oyama
Integral Life practice (ILP), as the name implies entails a conscious performance of deliberately chosen activities aimed at enhancing one’s life in a more profound, meaningful, and fulfilling way. These activities/practices are specifically targeted at the four primary dimensions of the individual being or whole person – body, mind, spirit, and shadow. It has been said that
“The idea of the whole person goes back at least to the ancient Greeks. Most Greek thought, in fact, was informed by a sense of the wholeness of things, a sense sometimes quite lost in the increasingly specialized, fragmented modern world. Mind has been cut away from body, the mental from the material realm. In most of our current education, mind is enshrined, body is often neglected, heart is ignored, and the soul is assigned to other venues” [i].
Again an author writes: Rather than focus on merely one aspect of the self, Integral Life Practice brings a whole and balanced approach to realizing the full spectrum of your being[ii]. There is little wonder why our world today is experiencing the chaos we are enduring – climate change, environmental degradation, conflicts, gender inequalities, underdevelopment, un-fulfilment, broken relationships, inefficiency, moral decadence, poverty, etc. These issues have become of great concern to more and more of us, and are evident in the various protocols arising from international conventions held by world leaders. We all desire a better world and wish the situation were different from what we are faced with. Many scholars express that
“like the human heart, the world points beyond itself to something greater and more beautiful than its present condition; that something attracts us all, in different ways, and leads many to seek transformation. As we grow in love and strength, we become vehicles for the world’s growth. We bring new joys to our friends and new light to our places of work. We enhance the physical things around us, and the earth itself” [iii].
These, and many more are the by – products of Integral Life Practice. This paper seeks to motivate us as leaders, as integral practitioners who are tired of the way things are and desire to see change and sustainable development in our world and continent, to imbibe the principle of Integral Life Practice. This would require conscious effort and absolute commitment to evaluate and adjust our modern lifestyle – now. A writer in this field, Roger Walsh, best describes our times by stating that:
the 21st century is becoming an increasingly bizarre time, when a significant portion of humanity seems to be conducting a massive, unprecedented, world-wide lifestyle experiment. People are spending more and more time indoors in artificial, nature free environments, with low-level artificial lighting. We are eating high calorie and nutrient-poor diets, and tend to get very little exercise compared to previous generations. We are completely and totally immersed in the online multimedia world, and exist as parts of huge, largely impersonal, often anonymous communities like Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter. Regrettably, this lifestyle has negative impact on us and human beings are only just beginning to realize this. While there are certainly numerous benefits to our hyper-modernized world, it is clear that there are some detrimental effects as well—depression, anxiety, illness, etc.[iv].
This indeed is a clarion call – Integral Life Practice is the way to go, our existence depends on it.
Engaging in Integral Life Practice, helps us to grow in horizontal health (becoming as healthy and full and functional as we can at our current level of development), vertical health (growing to higher or deeper levels of development more quickly), and essential health (becoming more consistently aware of and alive to essence, or ever-present suchness)[v]. As a working mother of three, it used to be an uphill task getting my life organised amidst the pressures and numerous demands on my time. Through Integral Life Practice, I’m gradually learning to find a place for everything – this gives me inner peace, and fulfilment.
Meaning of Integral Life Practice (ILP)
Ken Wilber, the world’s foremost Integral theorist, is the chief architect of Integral Life Practice. His work on ILP represents the leading edge of approaches to well-being, awareness, personal growth and transformation. Integral Life Practice as defined by Morelli and colleagues, is
a whole and balanced approach to practicing for life – our individual lives, the lives of others, even the life of the planet[vi]. It is an integrated practice that will help you grow and develop to your fullest capacities – to your ultimate Freedom and greatest Fullness in the world at large(in relationships, in work, in spirituality, in career, in play, in life itself) [vii]. Furthermore, the essence of ILP is simple, and it embodies the intention of authentic practice in every context, ancient or modern: to be true, real, and whole – to wake up in all directions and dimensions of our being[viii].
It’s been adjudged, “a 21st – Century blueprint for physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening”[ix]. From the above, it is obvious that, the secret to solving the numerous challenges of our time lies in Integral Life Practice.
Integral Life Practice (ILP) Modules
The entire human nature consists of the body, spirit, mind, and shadow dimensions of our being, and the Integral Life Practice modules contain practices that are targeted at these dimensions to enhance human growth as well as transform and balance our lives. These four primary dimensions of our being are the universal starting points for ILP because they don’t require anything or anyone else but you. If you consistently engage practices in each of these four areas, you’ll empower and turbocharge your overall development. You will be better able to function inwardly and outwardly, through multiple perspectives with greater clarity, presence, and vitality in any particular area of your life. Accordingly, ILP contains specific practices within a general framework that holds them together. The practices ensure that you’re actually ‘doing something’, not just thinking about it[x]. Thus, the framework ‘makes sense’ of what you’re doing, giving everything a place[xi]. For any of these practices to be considered integral, they must be “integrally – informed”, which means engaged within the context of the AQAL framework as applied to your life and consciousness. The AQAL is a conceptual map (which stands for “All Quadrants, All Levels”); it’s a theory of everything, a way of comprehending life and reality in very broad and yet precise terms[xii]. An integral framework is all you need to succeed in ILP, it will help you make sense of the many options available to you, providing ultimate flexibility and inclusiveness, so that, you can most fully and deeply honour your intentions and fulfil your potentials as a practitioner.
Fig 1.The AQAL Framework (A place for everything)
The practices below were specifically designed through a period of over 30 years by people also living within the pressurized schedules and fast-paced professional lifestyle of our time. You are welcome to choose from the various options what practices best suit your unique purpose and lifestyle. Practices can range from as little as one minute to up to one hour or more depending on your motivation, time and choice. In order to achieve results and experience desired transformation, these practices should as a matter of fact be done wisely and as recommended.
The Body Module
The body requires adequate exercise and nutrition in order to function effectively. Experts in this field show that there is no doubt that:
becoming physically fit has profound and lasting effects on us– improving health, mood, longevity, and overall wellbeing[xiii].
To live is to move. Even when seemingly motionless in sleep, the body is increasingly moving. We share a silent pulsing of heart, blood vessels, glands, diaphragm, lungs – the busy intercourse among a hundred trillion cells – with many other organisms. When we consciously move through space, we can’t help but affirm what is both unique and universal about our species[xiv].
There is profound wisdom in the body, in the pulsing of the blood, the rhythm of the breath, the turning of the joints. Once we are aware of its subtle power, the body becomes a sensitive antenna for turning into nature and other people, if we pay attention[xv].
An integral approach to bodily practice aims both to establish a baseline of health and well – being and to open up potentials for extraordinary health – so we’re not merely surviving, but thriving with intelligent vitality[xvi] .
Therefore, any practice that focuses on the embodied aspects of your life can be considered a Body module practice[xvii].
The body module is divided into Physical Exercise and Nutrition (for the physical body), and Energy Workout (for the subtle and Causal bodies). Below is an inexhaustive list of exercises that you can benefit from: walking, gardening/farming, sweeping, aerobics, swimming, running, yoga, jogging, sports (skiing, basketball, tennis, volleyball, Frisbee, soccer, etc), cycling, dance, push-ups, squats, crunches, weightlifting, etc. In addition to exercising, nutrition plays a key role in our body/health practice. Eating right and wisely is a practice that can have an especially dramatic positive impact on all aspects of our life. “The ILP nutrition philosophy is that no one diet is right for everyone. Diet is individual and requires self – knowledge and self- responsibility”[xviii]. The ILP diet first points to the many scientifically validated approaches to diet that, advocate paying attention to your proportions of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Second, it suggests that a healthy, balanced diet involves eating the good versions of these three nutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrate[xix]. Rewards of engaging the body module include: healthily enlarged and strengthened heart muscle, increased cardiac output, increased maximum oxygen uptake, improved circulation, decreased blood pressure, decreased degeneration of joints and ligaments, increased muscular strength, increased reaction time, strengthened immune system, improved resistance to cancer, increased “good cholesterol” (HDL); less ”bad cholesterol” (LDL), among others.
The Shadow Module
The human psyche can get bruised and cramped and injured in many different ways at each stage of human development. And we also naturally contract and close in the face of existence itself. Each kind of wound or contraction results in a unique and distinct kind of shadow or neurosis[xx]. The term “shadow” refers to the “dark side” of the psyche – those aspects of ourselves that we’ve split off, rejected, denied, hidden from ourselves, projected unto others, or otherwise disowned. The fact that we are not conscious or aware of the shadow does not mean it has no effect: it just expresses itself through distorted and unhealthy means – or what are typically called “neuroses”. The purpose of shadow work, and of the shadow module, is to undo this repression and reintegrate the shadow in order to improve our psychological health and clarity[xxi].
The shadow module contains practices that enable you to shed light on, and integrate emotions, feelings, or thoughts that are usually hidden from sight. Examples of such practices include journaling on your thoughts and feelings in the day, counseling, the 3-2-1 process, and dream reflection. Engaging in shadow practice benefits the other core modules (Body, Mind, and Spirit) – as well as virtually every other area of life, from relationship and sex, to emotions and vitality, to work and personal finances. Shadow practice also frees up energy that would otherwise be spent shadowboxing within ourselves so we can use that energy for our growth and transformation[xxii]. Life is much better when you constructively confront and address psychological and emotional issues by engaging in shadow practice.
The Spirit Module
The spirit module of ILP focuses on what we might call “essential spirituality”, which is to say, the core teachings, injunctions, and practices derived from the ancient wisdom traditions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Shamanism, etc) – plus the insights offered by modernity, and the AQAL framework[xxiii]. Spirit is often used interchangeably with words like “God”, “consciousness”, “Suchness”, “Is-ness”, “the Self”, or the “ever-present”. Used in this way, Spirit refers to the ultimate identity of all things, the source or ground of being. The spirit module focuses on any practice that connects you with the DIVINE which is beyond yourself, or that allows you to let go in deep relaxation. Some recommended exercises include: prayer, meditation (mind rest), devotional worship, speaking in tongues, heartfelt service to others, etc. The spirit module helps you surrender to God’s work in your life, allows you to let go of the minor ups and down, brings inner peace with yourself and others. It’s amazing how things turnout each time I engage in spirit practice. It’s most convenient for me in the morning to take some time alone to practice before the rest of the family rises. This indeed makes the day enjoyable.
The Mind Module
The Mind Module contains practices that offer you meaning, improve your intellectual capacity or helps you to expand your understanding of people and the world. Practices may include reading books, travelling, learning a new language, talking to new people, listening to speeches & music, and experiencing art. The major focus of this module is to help you to see more perspectives from everything. As a practitioner, hold the awareness that every perspective is both true and partial, including your own. Thus, try to be less defensive of your point of view and more curious about and open to new ways of seeing things. A developed mind allows you to take multiple perspectives and make better choices when designing your practice, dealing with challenges, and waking up to new realizations. A mature mental intelligence allows us to emerge not just as an expression of universal oneness, but distinctly, as who we each are – the unique self[xxiv]. Other benefits include the fact that it promotes learning, gives meaning and context to your circumstance, and enables thoughts to guide your action towards your goal. There exist so many answers and secrets hidden in pages of books, that can only be discovered when we open and read them. The mind only produces what it is fed with, when we engage in the practices listed above, we will not only experience personal transformation, but our world will be better for it.
Integral Life Practice (ILP) is not just a new approach to self-development and higher awareness, but a way of making sense of—and making the best use of—the full spectrum of insights, methods, and teachings for cultivating a more open, balanced, and integrated life. It is the preferred lifestyle. Importantly, the dynamic characteristics of ILP make it practicable for everyone to enjoyably practice. ILP is Customizable to your individual lifestyle; Scalable that is, adjusting to however much – or little – time you have, down to the 1-minute Module; Distilled, boiling down the essence of traditional practices – without the cultural or religious baggage – to provide a highly concentrated and effective form of practice for post – modern life; Integral, based on AQAL technology; and the Ultimate in Cross – Training, working synergistically on body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature[xxv].
ILP enhances the balance in the manifestations and single identity that is unique to each and every one of us represented in the four core dimensions of our being – body, mind, spirit, and shadow. This uniqueness is revealed in our DNA, fingerprints, voice – print, brain wave pattern, scent, and handwriting, your way of moving and being are central to ILP. To change one of these aspects is, to some degree, to change all. To ignore or downgrade one is to create an unbalanced practice, an unbalanced life[xxvi].
The benefits of Integral Life Practice cannot be overemphasized, give it a try and you won’t regret it. Consult your doctor and join the train today!
About the Author
Lillian Enyang Oyama is one of the Leading From Within graduates. She has been working with the World Bank since 2009 and has even created her own NGO.She is the initiator of Second Chance Initiative (SCI), an NGO working with teenage girls who have been displaced in school and socially because of unplanned pregnancy. SCI works to give these teenagers a second chance to live a fulfilling life. SCI is engaged in finding solutions to the challenges this situation poses to these vulnerable girls. In her own words, “our program is about offering these girls a second chance to live a fulfilling life”. Having been in leadership positions for some time, she has transformed her self-identity: According to her “Leadership used to mean occupying a position of authority that empowers the leader to direct the affairs of a group of people. Due to the Leading From Within Program, I now understand leadership to mean a collaboration/partnership with all stakeholders, to achieve mutual goals.” Lillian continues to explain her own leadership development thus “when the mindset/perception is transformed to see and do things differently, we experience transformation within our individual selves, culture/ society and systems.” Such a transformation has not only led her to develop her leadership skills, but also to aspire to expand her care and concern, as her “passion to care for others particularly the poor, and the environment/planet was stirred like never before.” Before coming into the program, Lillian was a secondary school teacher from where she moved to become a State Coordinator in a World Bank project. For her future line of development she desires “to serve as integral gender expert/consultant on achievement of millennium development goals.”