"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Integral Life of Pi Movie Review

Because  reading "Life of Pi" affected me deeply when I was just getting to know Integral, I approached the movie with longing and dread -- both of which were fulfilled. Where many critics saw a sea adventure with a "tacked on introduction," I saw a magnificent example of integration in the life of a small boy in India -- with a tacked on sea adventure for an ending.

The movie does better justice than I might have expected to the boy's attraction to three religions. It even hints at the attractions of each: Hinduism for its lush sensuality of color, incense  and dance; Islam for the physicality of its prayer and daily practice, and Christianity for its love. But what most people see in these scenes is a bland commercial for interfaith tolerance. Whereas I see an integration of beauty, truth, and goodness. In the book, for me, Pi is not just absorbing every belief system he comes in contact with. Fueled by his mystical experiences (not in movie), he is instinctively integrating polarities by ignoring beliefs. Here he is, for example, being attracted to Christianity by the warmth of a missionary priest who takes time to sit with him each day.

The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it's God's Son who pays the price? ... What a downright weird story. What peculiar psychology. 
I asked for another story, one that I might find more satisfying. But Father Martin made me understand that the stories that came before it were simply prologue to the Christians... 
That a god should put up with adversity I could understand. The gods of Hinduism face their shares of bullies, kidnappers and usurpers. What is the Ramayana but the account of one long bad day for Rama. Adversity, yes. Treachery, yes. But humiliation? Death? Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to the mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect? 
Love. That was Father Martin's answer.

The boy's quest to integrate is immune from both his family's insistence that only science can save modern India, and from the objections of  the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian clerics who tell him he must choose among religions. Indeed, the movie drops what for me was the climactic scene of the clerics fighting for Pi's soul. Perhaps the director considered it too incendiary--especially post Benghazi.  But it was that scene in the book that fused itself with my personal experience like honey on a host  (early Catholic childhood analogy alert) such that I couldn't tell where Pi began and I left off.

I was reading  "Life of Pi"  in 2004 as I was having my own re-introduction to Christianity from a bishop who seemed to cross boundaries of love and firmness in ways that seemed impossible (as recounted in my book, The Bishop and the Seeker.) And just as I was introduced to Islam by an Imam who crusades for applying reason to the ancient stories of his faith (as this post).

As my husband read that scene of interfaith tug-of-war to me in my hospital room following a surgery, I laughed and cried--clutching a pillow to keep my stitches from popping--with that sense of SOMEBODY UNDERSTANDS WHAT I'M GOING THROUGH.

So I have always wanted to enact that scene, and now that the movie has expurgated it, I plan to produce it  at a gathering of friends. We'll discuss the movie Dec 8 at a swank club off Dupont Circle  which is co-owned by a friend of mine who teaches mythology at Georgetown University. Contact me if you'd like an invite or a re-enactment at your own gathering.

And please tell us below how Life of Pi affected you.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Integral Fashion Consulting

My niece Lynn, front, with her sister Peg,
several years before gastric bypass surgery
When my dear niece Lynn had lost over 150 pounds following gastric bypass, her sister Peg decided to do the surgery as well. Unfortunately, Peg died from complications the day after the surgery. So Lynn had more than the usual reasons to delay seeking a new look for her hard-won new physique.  I wanted to gift Lynn with the services of a style consultant, but who to choose?  When my friend James Jones--a senior Integral consultant and one of the wisest people I know--said that his daughter Zoe Jones is a consultant for Style for Hire, I knew she was the one. Not only was she trained by Stacy London (of TV's "What Not to Wear"), but she grew up with dinner table discussions of the broadest possible perspectives. "I knew Myers Briggs personality types by the time I was five," she told me. Mommy look, that man's a "J."

Initial Appointment

I called Zoe and set up a four-hour appointment at a rate of $50 an hour.  Zoe told me that normally, the most efficient process is to do a closet audit at the client's home, then let Zoe pre-shop, and then do a shopping trip with the client. But because Lynn lives almost two hours from Zoe's  territory in Baltimore, it would be more efficient to try to do it all in one appointment. Zoe warned me that might not be feasible.

In the initial interview the following week, Lynn told Zoe that her work environment as an administrator is very casual, but she is getting opportunities to meet with higher level people and could use a couple outfits appropriate to that.

Closet Audit
Raised as a military brat, Lynn had her clothes neatly arranged in two closets--one for tops and the other for her one skirt and several pairs of black pants. The tops were arranged by color, from warm to cool to black and white.  "You've done half my work for me, Zoe said, asking Lynn to start by trying on all the pants.

"Mom always said black is slimming," Lynn said.

"Yes," said Zoe, "but slimming is more about fit than color. You and I have similar build and coloring, and for us navy sometimes works better than black."  She approved the fit of several of the pants and recommended that Lynn "release" the rest.

"Yes, Maam" said Lynn. In fact, over the next hour, Lynn easily released everything Zoe recommended, even things she had recently bought. "You're the expert," she said, as I imagined myself hemming and hawing in the same situation.

What's in your closet?

Find that waist
As we moved to the tops, Lynn tried on several with her one skirt. Zoe recommended that she wear the skirt a bit higher, at her slimmest point, to emphasize her womanly shape.  This is a signal recommendation of the Style for Hire approach. And indeed, pulling up the bright, southwestern print skirt by an inch from where Lynn normally wore it caused me to say, "Wow, what a difference."

Zoe recommended Lynn release several tops that were too large but keep most of them, saying Lynn has a good eye for fit and color. "Actually, most of these were chosen for me by my 16-year old niece," Lynn said, referring to her sister Peg's "adopted" granddaughter Tia.

Gaps to Fill
At the end, Zoe pronounced that Lynn had a good solid basis to work from. She needed a business suit, a little jacket that could dress up her tops, a couple more skirts including possibly a pencil skirt, and accessories. Because of Lynn's organization and willingness, Zoe said we finished the closet audit in near record time, so we would have time to go shopping on this same appointment.

Lynn lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, near the famous regional mall Potomac Mills. So we had lots of places to choose from. She normally shops at budget stores, but she told Zoe she was prepared to spend in the range of $500 for this upgrade. "We can do that easily," Zoe said. "Let's start at Kohls."

At the large, well-lit, and pleasantly arranged Kohls, we split up, meeting back at the dressing room for Lynn to try on items that both she and Zoe approved of.  A skirt I found was pronounced a keeper--a short, slim, light nylon with a print similar to the one Lynn already owned, but in muted camel tones and with a flounce at the bottom.

Finding the dress, finding Lynn
The high point of the day came next as Lynn tried on two dresses Zoe selected, both form-fitting, one teal and one wine colored. I don't think I'd have given the dresses a second look on the rack. But as Lynn saw herself in the wine one, tears came to her eyes. There she was. The high waist, low V neck, and gently drape fit her perfectly, and revealed the beautiful shape she had sacrificed so much to achieve. I blinked my eyes, feeling almost as if I were meeting a new person. Zoe led her off to find the perfect necklace.

Lynn in her new dress

We fanned out again at Nordstroms Rack, its tightly packed rows of overstock items much more challenging to navigate, but with hidden treasures awaiting. Zoe found a black suit with a short jacket Lynn could also wear with pants. She also found a jacket I actively disliked on the rack, a short denim blue with a bit of a boucle print and a little Channel-style fringe. But when Lynn put it on in the dressing room, wow. It was both professional and fun at the same time. A real statement. But it was too small. So Zoe sent me back out into the jungle as she and Lynn continued to try things. And Eureka, I found it--half way across the store from where Zoe had found the smaller size.

And a jacket to wear with everything

We put the Nordstrom's items on hold to make one last stop at Bannana Republic. Zoe said she would prefer a grey or neutral color suit for Lynn, and Banna Republic can be excellent for items that are professional but fashonable, she said. And indeed, she did find two grey suits that were almost right. But the darts didn't fall in the perfect spots, so back to Nordstroms we went to claim our booty.  Zoe added a green print scarf she said Lynn could wear with many of her looks.

Putting it all together
I couldn't believe we still had a half hour left of our scheduled four hours. We zipped back to the house where Zoe showed Lynn how to put together outfits using the few new items we'd bought. In just a few tries, Lynn could tie her scarf like a pro.  And if the Integral vision is about bringing together truth, beauty, and goodness, I felt like I'd just had an Integral day.

Zoe Jones teaches my niece Lynn to tie a scarf.

At work the next day in the skirt I suggeted

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Roadtrip: Terry Patten's Encountering the Beloved

More daring than group sex, a chance to pray aloud was the highlight of a Terry Patten  workshop on "Encountering the Beloved" in NYC this past weekend. Patten is a hero of mine for pushing Integral theory into embrace of the three faces of God and for his emphasis on daily practice.

Terry Patten
 Attendees at this workshop were mostly experienced seekers for whom the first day's session was high quality versions of things we'd done before: authentic dialogue in small groups, voice dialogue, and even a chance to dance. What made these extraordinary was Terry's presence and his street-smart, siren call to  bring our connection with the Divine into our daily life. (The day also featured lovely listening and touch exercises by Terry's wife Deborah Boyer.)

Michael Pergola
The workshop was opened by Michael Pergola whose booming, eloquent, anthem to the evolutionary impulse called us to integrate masculine and feminine energies in this time of unprecedented crisis and opportunity. By contrast, Terry's opening sentences were a raw, immediate, plea to authentically acknowledge that most of us must do so while struggling with shadow baggage that leaves us like "bloated bags of protoplasm fiercely struggling to keep our noses above water" in a sea of change. And thus, "Our own 20 watts cannot solve the problems we face," he said. Even though we know there is no God out there in the metaphysical sense we used to believe, we still must find a way to pull down help from the unlimited Divine source.  The vulnerability in his tone landed for me like a shepherd's call. I heard his voice; and I was riveted for the remainder of the weekend.

Deborah Boyer left, as Terry and Malcolm encounter the Beloved.

The workshop was held at the lovely TAI Center near Madison Square Garden.

Post-Mythical Prayer
On the second day we did a glorious version of the three body workout which Terry is now calling the 3D workout: stretching our bodies, our sensing souls, and our spirits to the inner, intimate, and infinite faces of God. And then we prayed. Patten does a magnificent job of re-envisioning prayer in a way that opens the possibility of it again for those of us who have left behind the mythical God of our childhood. (The only other person I know with a comparably deft approach to "post-atheist prayer" is Brian McLaren, as I report at Does Mature Conscious Prayer Get Better Results?)

Lurching to Freedom
We broke into groups of three, and I was lucky to have as my partners two beautiful young men who had helped to organize the weekend: Michael Stern and Armando Davila. Going first, I decided NOT to use my comfortable and beloved format: affirmative prayer from New Thought. Instead I lurched and stumbled my way through two minutes of out-loud prayer, trying out several approaches. Next came Armando who said his communion with the Divine often takes him to ecstatic states. His prayer had a simple, direct, quiet, purposefulness. Then came Michael, who spends an hour a day in prayer and meditation. In deep and sonorous tones like the tolling of a cathedral's bell, he called forth the energy of God to share with the world.

Unlike earlier exercises, we didn't share much about ourselves, and yet I felt a strong connection and love among the three of us. And THAT confirmed something I'd been sensing. The quality of "we space" that develops in the two conditions--personal sharing and group prayer-- is completely different and not interchangeable. I need both! I want both! I intend to create both! (I also felt simultaneously grateful for the structure of affirmative prayer, and freed to experiment with other formats.)

My only regret is that I didn't get to hear from every person  their experience of that exercise. We did each  get a chance to say a final word at the end of the workshop. And in that round, I heard from those who were unmoved by the prayer exercise, as well as from those like my normally quiet homie Bennett Crawford--who radiated a starburst of joy as he told of feeling liberated to pray (see video clip below). Picking up that theme, the next fellow said, "My name is Dan, and I love God," getting a laugh.  DC's  newest member Jonathan Pratt said that if the world was like the workshop, we'd all live in heaven.

Bennett Crawford shares his experience at the end of the workshop

In Love with My Integral Possee
Taking the workshop with members of my practice group from DC doubled the richness of the adventure. I drove up with six fellow members of the DC Integral Emergence Meetup: Coordinators Malcolm Pettus and Anita Conner, Barbara Kinney, Bennett Crawford, and intrepid newbie Jonathan Pratt. We used the car ride up and back to get to know each other at deeper levels, developing a bond of love we didn't want to break at the end of the ride back home.

 DC Integral Emergence Coordinators Malcolm Pettus and Anita Conner
drive us to Terry Patten workshop in NYC. Take us out, Mr. Zulu.

DC crew at Tryp Hotel  from left: Teri Murphy, Anita Conner, Bennett Crawford,
Barbara Kinney, Jonathan Pratt, and Malcolm Pettus, with our new friend Nomi,
a Pakastani American interested in development within Islam and currently in
One Spirit's Integral Mentoring and Ministry program.
The DC crew at a great Thai restaurant around the corner from the Tryp on 9th Ave.
 More to Come
The workshop was the first in a series organized by volunteers from the new organizations Integral Alignment  and Universal Consciousness. We'll be back.

DC crew packs up for home.
UP Next: tomorrow on my other blog, I will report on my meeting later today with the head of the DC Meetup on Emerging Christianity. Crossover?