On the weekend of March 3rd and 4th, 2012, I attended the first in the series of workshops, Encountering the Beloved, with Terry Patten (and Deborah Boyar). When I arrived, Michael Pergola – whose Integral Alignment organization put on the workshop series – was speaking in a visionary tone. He said that only when we’re open to the emergent, receptive feminine are we ready to open to action. He spoke about how we’re all refugees, seeking, and how with unprecedented access to world culture, we can learn to re-wire ourselves. He told the story of Rumi and Shams – Shams was a wild holy man who prayed for someone who could bear his company. Rumi was the fulfillment of that prayer and the two struck up a legendary relationship. Shams found he could share his true essence with Rumi, and the two shared true exchange. Michael set the stage with questions, such as how do each of us tap the deepest yearnings of our unique souls? In answer he turned over the floor to Terry Patten, saying our consciousness needs to expand to be free.
Terry brought us all to the moment with “This life. Oh my God! It’s hard to be present to the greatness of God and Grace, and our own vulnerability.” He then introduced himself as one who is taking part in multiple conversations – the integral (clarifying), the evolutionary (about where we are, the Great Yes, a phase-change is afoot), as well as a few others including the political.
Encountering the Beloved – it happens in nature, and in philosophy. It happens in a first-person way (invoke the quadrants of AQAL) in terms of awareness (Power of Now), but when we look at it in a second-person way – well, these days we have a more complicated relationship to Spirit in the second person. Why is this? Why is addressing that Great Mystery as “You” so complicated these days? Terry did a very effective quick trace of how we (intellectuals, I presume) now (generally) bristle at the thought of a mythic God, one to whom we need to give our obedience. Praying and the authority structure got conflated somewhere along the line, and we thought we had to give up intimacy with God to have sovereignty. Who or what is God anyway? An invisible friend? A subtle self? We’re social beings, built to tune in, and the otherness of God is a problem for people in our culture. It’s almost passé to have a relationship with God, it seems, in our intellectual and even Integral circles. Terry posed the question – “Could we show up and could the Beloved show up in a new way?” And in answer he cried, “We have to try!” He encouraged us to be present to something new; as evolutionaries and integralists we know that even Spirit must be evolving.
Terry teaches something called Integral Spirituality. He stated that we can only create this together. And that we’re all already always practicing. We know what contracting feels like, and therefore we know something of this “attractive principle.” We already have some kind of relationship with this thing, and we can’t practice without it. Life is asking us questions we don’t have answers for. Some of these questions we need to answer separately and some we have to answer together. In the critical moment of now, we’re called by life to have a healthy response. In the same way that reptiles began (through evolution) to fly, we’re being called to be antennae, to be available to co-tune in, to create something together, even while people still compete with each other. What is it to break through and not be atomized? We’re called to be about the reaching out, even as we annoy each other. Every moment is a practice.
Terry spoke about how in community we can go deeper – as community provides a place to hold pain. We fall into types within typologies, and we all have blocks. Terry said this needs to be an invitation to deal with what’s in the way and that a real live field tenderly holds cracks and sutures rifts. So we set about an exploration of the subtle context of what divides us from ourselves.
Terry introduced Deborah, who led us through a set of experiential exercises designed to ground us, including one in which we silently looked around the room, allowing our attention to be drawn to whatever draws it, and to see what sensations arise within us. We felt into how this simple activity helped to ground and relax us, and to get us back into our bodies. We paired up to do partner exercises. The instruction was to ask your partner for support on some part of your body. I noted that it felt selfish to receive and although I wanted to say more, it was not as easy as I might have thought to ask for support through touch from a stranger. Back in the group, we talked about the primary ways we’re regulated as infants – through being touched and listened to, and how the feelings of early deprivation can get in the way of being present. The exercises were followed by a satsang. Michael Stern made a comment about skin being both the thing that separates us and also connects us to the world around us. The sharing showed that people found value in the exercises.
We then did a voice dialogue exercise (much like Big Mind) meant to bring internal unity. Terry invoked and spoke to “the controller,” “the skeptic,” “the innocent child,” “the protector,” “the one who was not wanted.” He spoke to “the one who is a stand for love,” among others, and to “the voice of healthy practice.” Finally “the controller” spoke again. For each voice, Terry asked “To whom am I speaking?” and we’d answer in unison with the name of the voice. Then he’d ask questions like “What’s your job?” or “What only comes from you?” Then individual voices would call out replies, ranging from poignant and touching to very funny. As a group we took a journey through these voices, these parts, and heard some of the inner thought patterns playing within each of us and through our common psyche.
Terry summarized saying we’d spent the day getting into a “we-space,” forming a group, and exploring what it takes to be ourselves. Our awareness has to be big to be with all aspects of ourselves. I felt that we did have a good group feeling as we left the room.
On Sunday Morning, we started up again. Saturday had been the “warm up” and on this day we were going to make the encounter more palpable and enter into Practice. Very early in the day the Beloved was defined as the “ground of being.” We did a wake-up series of exercises that Terry had put together that felt inspired from worshiping movements, like kneeling, and raising the arms – Terry talked about inviting a visitation of that-which-is-always-already-here. The day already had more energy of intent, of encounter. Terry told us that the art of trans-rational prayer needs to be recreated. Old ways rooted in the address to God that seemed to know who that is don’t satisfy us now. Once we’ve liberated ourselves from the mythic God, that’s not our truth anymore. What is it to enter into conversation with the universal Beloved? First we must break through to the one-who-is-always-already-here. Who was with us when we were a star, the one who was there before and who will be there, after. At this moment, Terry began to address Spirit, or The Beloved in the second person: “You who are the soul of the heart-beat.” Just addressing this “You” seemed to draw him into prayer. He said, (if my notes are accurate) “May I be of service to all persons and patterns of things liberating all into this and every moment.” We had a 10-minute meditation and a Quaker-like sangha meeting, followed by a silent break.
We broke into groups of five sitting in close circles. We asked each other “What is my sacred opportunity in life?” and then in another round, “What’s my sacred obligation?” We went around the circle and finished the sentence “What’s coming up for me hearing THAT is….” We dropped deeper into rapport and communion with our fellow circle-mates. We asked them “Please…” and filled in some action they could do to support us, and finally “What I want to say before we break is….” The description is deceptively simple here. In my group we felt bonded together, supportive, and perhaps like champions of each other’s inner selves. I don’t think we were alone – the small groups formed “we’s” and spoke with one voice. Terry’s questions really felt like natural next steps in our little circle.
There was a discussion of the mystery that is available to us… how Rumi had his heart broken by Shams, both the presence and the potential for loss. Being in love fully. How the group support opens access to this mystery and how we-space is powerful.
Sitting back in a big circle we did a little exercise suggested by Sharona about G.O.D. – we all voiced words that started with G, that were inspired by the word God, then O, then D – it was deep, funny, and sweet. After that we had a brief discussion of what happens when we go home. There was a group of five or so who traveled together from Washington DC, who had great energy and spoke about maintaining community. We spoke about longing, and how that’s a relationship, too; Terry played us Qawaali music, and the discussion was lively and full of heart. Someone said you can’t prolong the moment of clarity you can only re-discover it. You can’t remember God you can only discover God, in each and every moment. To be in Love is to be open to Discovery, like a falling cat, getting your paws under you, coming alive in that moment, to do that thing that really is true, that’s practicing, it’s always in the moment. We’re always in anguish. We think, “I remember being connected, I don’t feel connected, I want to feel connected.” In your practice you presume non-separation. You’re taking part as an Other.
After lunch we were told it was time to make commitments and go deeper in Spirit. Terry talked about how he had a devotional life – a life in which all things found expression, service and submission in devotion. He was a follower of Adi Das. He found devotion to be a reason to get out of bed. I believe he said that life as a devotee relieved him of the need to figure it all out himself, and felt freeing that way. He could focus on what he could do –“how can I love better?” and realized that all the little ways he could love better really mattered. He had to focus on all the little decisions; do I care for this virtue more, or that one? He said, you need an iterative approach, and that’s practice. Doing it every day matters. But our structures need to be able to breathe, and practice has to be done with the understanding that I have no control over the outcome but I do have control over my way of being, the one that puts me in touch with the state of potency where I feel I am the expression of this Force….
I felt Terry to be at his best yet – he went on to say: Even if God is not strictly an “other,” we are social creatures built to relate. We’re other-oriented from day one, we’re relationship machines. If all our spirituality were first and third person most of who I am wouldn’t be ENERGIZED, if I don’t have a relationship to a YOU, I’m not able to exercise my faculties to what I love most…. And I loved this point – Terry said to the degree that this “I” is real, there is a “You” to whom I might pray. There is an interiority to the reality that is Kosmos – it has soul qualities. You’ve never been alone – there’s an imprint even of your inner life – God hears your thoughts, witnesses. It’s as if there’s always been an intimate Other. Terry said it’s the call not to avert one’s gaze – and face the sense of astonished awe, the force of 1000 suns. To turn to that One, it asks more and more of Me. To do it, to turn towards, you have to really do it in the moment. And in moments when we realize, “Oh! But I turn to an image or an Idea of You – we have to again re-discover that which we’re turning towards.” Praying has to take the form of common things. Prayer really takes the form of “thank you,” “please” and “please help.” We pray to authenticate our existence and also to say, “I’m sorry.” Repentance is a move to say forgive me, and there’s a YES, there’s a realization that there is obligation, a realization that I have to give to be sacred and a realization of the opportunity to relate. All of that comes online when we address God in the second person. Prayers are of the moment, too.
Then, Terry did something unexpected. He asked us to pray in front of others. In front of each other. We broke into small groups and did just that. We addressed the Beloved directly, witnessed by our circle-mates. We made commitments to this Beloved, to in some way do something we know we should do – and we agreed to provide support for each other in 2 weeks by reaching out and checking up or talking about the commitments. This was a powerful little exercise. For me it felt quite unusual to have a dialogue unveiling my personal relationship with that all-attractive always-present soul in front of others, and out loud.
We got back into the big circle and shared with each other. Someone mentioned how great it was to be able to say, “I love God” and have that be ok in a group. Someone else mentioned that they felt an alchemical process happening turning matter into God, and someone else flipped it and said she felt us turning God into Matter – and this is key, because it might just save the world. There was a great energy in the group. There was a lot of excited talk and exchanging of contact information as well as hugging and goodbyes at the end of the workshop.
I felt that Terry’s after-lunch talk, from his experience of life as a devotee to saying the relationship with that Other must always be fresh in the moment, was the thing I’d come for. That and the wonderfully warm and open group. I was reminded of what Charles Eisenstein had said to Integral NY, a few weeks earlier – “Enlightenment is a group process.” It felt that we at least had come together and shared some form of brightness, encountered something larger than ourselves, and were leaving inspired.
The next workshop on March 17 – 18, 2012, was the Integral Relationships: Experiential Workshop and Gathering with Martin Ucik. I made the mistake of not attending the Friday night portion, thinking it was more for attracting new people to the workshop instead of a part of the program, so I missed the Theory portion of the presentation. So on Saturday, I experienced Martin Ucik for the first time. He has studied with Eckhart Tolle, and he exuded a quiet and delicate presence. Much of the morning was spent building up a “we space.” We did exercises such as eye gazing, and Martin read certain statements as we did so, intensifying and moulding the experience. The statements were heartfelt sentences such as “I care about you” (although I can’t recall specifically if that was actually one of them). We broke into pairs and did an exercise learning about our partner from the perspective of each of the quadrants, which was quite a clever, personal, and engaging experience – we’d chunked out the entire floor of the room into the quadrants, and with our partners we’d spend time in one quadrant or the other, perhaps talking in the first about their beliefs, in the third about their family culture, etc. Then, after some time and much one-on-one sharing, the listener would introduce their partner to the group, stepping through the quadrants, and re-telling the story of the other for the group.
We spent time on the first day discussing what is hardwired and what is learned – i.e. sex/nature vs. gender/nurture for each of the sexes. We did this divided by men and women, in separate areas of the room, and then we came together and shared our results. It was interesting how the men’s group and the women’s group discussed and listed what turned out to be very similar points. Personally, I was impressed by the articulate organized list that the men had recorded, and the delicacy with which some of them were phrased. The exercise resulted in general agreement over broad strokes, but a sense of blurring of what is really nature vs. nurture. I didn’t come out of the exercise with revelation, but rather with the feeling that the act of doing it had been valuable, more than just a thought experiment. The individuals at the workshop participated fully, and perhaps due to Martin’s leadership, delicately and quietly.
My notes are sketchy on the Ucik workshop, because I wasn’t planning ahead on writing about it, but Sunday we did an exercise in which we were asked to pair up and draw a picture of a family dinner from our childhood – and the picture was used to talk about patterns from childhood, and how we shaped our perspectives in our family constellations. We did some exercises designed to get under the surface layer of emotion to some of the deeper layers. We asked each other “What is a Man/Woman?” We discussed briefly, “Love Languages” saying that people each have different ways of feeling/expressing love – for example some might value quality time, or others might value receiving gifts or acts of service and unconsciously need these specific things (which may differ from those our partners need or employ) to feel loved. My favorite exercise was one where the men sat in the center and the women circled around them, sort of holding the larger space, and the men proceeded to discuss amongst themselves what’s hard for them about women, and what they like. The women were witnesses and did not speak, while the men shared in a “male space” about their lives and experiences, and then we switched – women in the center talking, men around the periphery. Again, this exercise did not yield revelation, but was well worth doing, for the experience, the sharing, group sense, and the feel of the subtle differences in the way the groups interacted, and how it felt to be in each position.
Perhaps because I missed the Theory portion, or perhaps because of some other reason, I didn’t really assemble Ucik’s workshop into a clear message or take-away. I am not sure what I’ve brought with me into the world from the weekend, but the time spent was sweet and the group’s positive coherent feeling was, again, quite intense.
On Passover/Easter Weekend, (April 6, 7- 8, 2012) I attended the Thomas Hübl workshop, Transparency, Transcendence and the New We – Contemporary Spirituality in the Marketplace of Life (and this time including the Friday night portion). Hübl is the most experienced of the leaders in this series at running workshops and delivering his particular message, and was the most polished. He had a small support staff there to assist in answering questions and running the workshop. His teachings have been covered previously in Notes from the Field, quite nicely by Michael Stern, but this was my first encounter with him. I was struck by his deep integrity – he really seemed to walk his talk. I struggled a little, debating with myself if it is possible that he really is delivering something new, and yet I came away feeling that he is on the sharp edge of evolution. His teaching also seems timeless and everlasting – he’s describing the availability of a kind of intuition, or attunement to parts of the present we may normally overlook – an openness to a new way of being aware that seems to be more available now (and perhaps that more people are able to hold this kind of awareness is really the thing that is new).
He introduced the work saying it was about two competencies – The Competency of Silence and The Competency of Movement. He stated that “hurt” doesn’t exist, but when we don’t want to feel an intensity of feeling we contract and experience suffering (which is the resistance to discomfort). He stressed the difference between response (done with awareness) and reaction. When we contract or resist, it’s something that we do moment to moment, and we would benefit from owning this activity rather than speaking as if we’re the victim. An example he used was about back pain – saying “My back hurts” puts us at the mercy of the thing called “back” but understanding that we contract those muscles without knowing how not to, brings it back to being under our control. He said that fear is a vacuum of power, which we create when we hold back from experience.
Hübl uses a digital-age metaphor – saying that we can download information (as if it were a webpage) about people in the moment. He developed some simple exercises that we did to reinforce this ability within ourselves. Here is the main one that stands out for me: We were to circulate among the 80 or so people there, finding someone we didn’t know, and stop before that person and tell them something that struck us, that we’d like to know more about that aspect or impression of the person – like for me, with the first person I worked with, I wondered, for no apparent reason, if he’d lost a parent when he was young, and how that had impacted him. The instruction was that once we had such a curiosity, we’d not ask our partner, but tell them the curiosity, and then tell them what we imagine we sense about them. They would tell us if they felt seen or not seen by our statement. Sure enough when I told my partner that I wondered about his parents, and if he had lost a parent when he was young, and the impact it had on him. He indicated that yes, it was true, and he felt seen by me in that moment. I was a bit stunned; the remaining interactions were not quite that seemingly uncanny.
The workshop included mostly exercises of this kind and long satsangs, in which Thomas would speak in response to questions, sometimes very personally to the one who asked, and the group would listen. I was struck by how often someone I’d spoken to at length would ask a question and Thomas would start to reply and hint at things that the person had told me but not revealed in the question – it was as if Thomas was in the flow of the person’s being, and was addressing that person very deeply, touching on things he couldn’t have known through conversation.
Thomas teaches a deeper or richer awareness that seems to spring from the depth of his integrity – that is, he teaches that if we have an intuition to take a right turn, and we keep walking straight ignoring the hunch for whatever reason, we compromise our integrity and by doing so we lose it bit by bit. He’s teaching us to attend to these inner urges and to learn to distinguish them from other inner chatter. In other words, if we don’t live according to our inner guidance, we produce tensions, and these are brought to the world and experienced by those around us. Community is important in terms of practice and reinforcing these abilities, and he encouraged practice groups. He speaks of this time as a jump from individual to collective understanding, partly spurred by the outer environment of the new digital age. He said logic is old-school and thinking in fields and processes is more of what’s arriving. Instead of thinking “about you” I want to “think you directly.” This quantum leap will mean “at-once processing.”
He spoke of intimacy as the “joining of movement” of another – understanding how a person sees the world and how he or she “works.” The idea of “joining of movement” really resonated, and became much more than joining the movement of another person; it became joining the movement of evolution, of the creative force in the universe. (When our will becomes Thy will.) Hübl said that updates to the Traditions can’t come from a non-enlightened person, but someone who really understands the tradition’s teaching deeply and has the zeitgeist of Now – someone who can fold now into the timeless truths, recasting Truth with the new information in ways that we will understand but that will also stand up to changing times. He distinguished between healing and awakening, saying these are not the same thing. He also said that intimacy isn’t time dependent, and if you’re fully “here” you’re always intimate. He does make that believable – just by watching him talk to the workshop attendees, it’s clear that he holds each person in an intimate way, and it’s received well by those held.
The final set of exercises were done sitting in groups of three. We spoke one by one about how we feel our lives and our potential line up – are our spirits, bodies, emotions and minds aligned? Our witnesses then gave feedback to us about their views on our potential. It was refreshing to have candid feedback from partners who listened carefully and took their impressions and intuitions into consideration. For me, and I think each of us in my group, it was a call to continue to become more myself – to listen to that creative force pushing through this person, myself, and find ways to allow its flow to become ever more unimpeded.
About the Author
Julia Fischer is an active member of the New York integral community and a member of the Integral New York leadership team. During the day, she works out of her home in Brooklyn as a consultant on large scale web projects. She has a background in sculpture and has worked for artists doing fabrication, and also as a welder. Julia grew up in a geodesic dome in CT. With a passion for nature and the nature of reality, she has a sharp eye for finding four leaf clovers and loves hiking, surfing, biking, and chanting (kirtan).