"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

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?