Category Archives: Meditation Practices

Three Faces of Spirit (G!d)

“The Three Faces of Spirit is one of the most important insights that Integral theory offers to the field of spirituality. All human approaches to spiritual practice and mystical realization can be seen to fall into three broad categories — First-Person Spirituality, Second-Person Spirituality, and Third-Person Spirituality.

The Mystery of existence, the matter of ultimate concern, is the ultimate profundity. No perspective can possibly capture it. By its very nature, Spirit itself, the great Mystery, transcends all perspectives.

But human nervous systems are perspective-making machines. We can’t help taking perspectives. And thus, since the most ancient times, our spirituality, and our descriptions of it, always make use of our fundamental perspectives. The structure of language gives us a hint to the deep structure of our perspectives and our spirituality — we organize our speech in three broad categories.

The first-person. There is “I” or “me” the first-person perspective; from this vantage-point I can explore the rich depths of interior experience, of what it’s like inside me, of my consciousness, my intuitions, my thoughts, my experiences, and my feelings. In language, the first-person is the one speaking.

The second-person. When I am able to connect with someone, that one goes from being (for me) an “it” to becoming “you.” We connect. There is at least the most basic kind of communion. We are able to understand each other, reach mutual agreements, and a culture can arise. And in any kind of inter-subjective connection, a “we” arises. In language, the second-person is the one spoken to.

The third-person. When I contemplate anything or anyone, or when I act upon anything or anyone in my world, whatever I contemplate or act upon is the object of my attention or action. I can see it, observe it, examine it, sense it, and affect it. This is the domain of objective information and experience. Herein lies all objective knowledge, including all our sciences. In language, the third-person is the one spoken about.

Based on the distinctions between the first, second, and third person perspectives, we can see three distinct “families” of spiritual experience and practice. We’ll consider third-person spirituality first, then first-person spirituality, and finally second-person spirituality.

Third-person spirituality often involves contemplating the mystery of existence (“looking at it.”) This can take a wide variety of forms; two of the most important and familiar expressions of third-person spirituality are (1) nature mysticism, and (2) philosophy or theology. Nature mysticism is found in all spiritual traditions, and it is important in the lives of most post-postmodern practitioners. It involves contemplating the natural landscape, light, sky, sun, moon, stars, and creatures, seeing them, in a sense, as the body of the Mystery of existence. In reading, writing, or discussing philosophy, we contemplate existence, noticing the abstract patterns that connect and underlie our world and experience. Philosophy and nature mysticism are entirely different undertakings, but they both involve “contemplating it,” looking at aspects of the Mystery, and letting that process transform us. In Integral Life Practice, the core third-person spiritual practice is called Kosmic Contemplation.

First-person spirituality involves awakening to the unchanging IAMness that is always present as the still and silent Witness of experience. This IAMness is the pure consciousness that is present during every experience, every sound, sight, smell, taste, sensation, thought, or feeling, however pleasant or unpleasant. Such pure consciousness is often described as the ultimate realization, the goal of Eastern mystical paths. It is experienced when eyes open after meditation, and there is an experience of Oneness with all existence, of Union, of non-separation. And long before we achieve any ultimate nirvana, we can experience a glimpse of IAMness (also called Suchness) via meditation, inspiring conversation with a spiritual teacher, or spontaneously, as a graceful accident. The paths that focus on first-person spirituality usually focus on meditation, on transcending our “monkey mind” tendency to be absorbed in our constant stream of thoughts, and on the open field of consciousness that naturally arises when the mind relaxes. In Integral Life Practice, the core first-person spiritual practice is called Integral Inquiry or Integral Awakening.

Educated post-postmodern Westerners tend to feel a natural openness to both of these forms of spirituality. Modern science questions the idea of personal identity and validates the inherent oneness of the cosmos. Both first-person and third-person spirituality make sense to a contemporary worldview. The Western discovery of Eastern spirituality has primarily sparked trans-rational explorations of first-person, and to a lesser degree, third-person spirituality.

Second-person spirituality involves communion with the Mystery of existence as one’s universal beloved intimate. It is a direct relationship between the individual “I” with the “you” of Spirit, turning directly into feeling-contact with the universal beloved. It can be expressed through prayer, and through a devotional life of worship, service, and celebration. Second-person paths usually begin with insight, the acknowledgment that the heart tends to close, cutting us off from others and life. On that basis, there is practice, the intention to open the heart, loving surrender to the source of grace, and devotional enjoyment of intimacy with Spirit.

Second-person spirituality is a difficult sticking-point for many Westerners. One reason is that Western culture was long dominated by Christian second-person religion with a dogmatic mythic conception of God. When Western cultures made their transition into modernity, they (rightly!) rejected mythic religious conceptions of God. But they threw out the baby (second-person spirituality altogether) along with the bathwater (a mythic version of God.) It can be especially difficult for Westerners to accept trans-rational prayer, since they often imagine that communing with the Mystery must inherently presume a metaphysical conception of God. (“First, tell me exactly who I would be praying to?”) But that dogmatic skepticism fails to notice that we can relate to Spirit trans-rationally, as the graceful nature of reality, the universal “other-ness” implied by the experience of “me-ness.”

But second-person spirituality is essential—and it’s one of the most transformational opportunities opened up by an Integral view. Human brains and nervous systems evolved in hunter-gatherer bands, and therefore we are mentally and emotionally structured for relating to others. Those relational capacities are not engaged by first-person awakening to IAMness or third-person contemplation of nature or philosophy.

A love relationship with existence is the essence of second-person spirituality—and love enables us to access tremendous power and energy. Second-person spirituality implicates us personally, revealing our closed hearts and contraction for what they are—a violation of our inherent love-relationship with the Mystery of existence. The universal drama of a love-relationship with the universal Beloved quickens our blood and brings us alive. Love is what unleashes the power of our whole being. And what is spirituality without love? In Integral Life Practice, the core second-person spiritual practice is called Integral Communion.”  -Terry Patten

For more from Terry check out:

The Gift of a Red Light

How many of us when we come to a red light while driving in our cars get annoyed at having to stop?  I for one have been among that group for many years, and have just begun to realize why.

With the help of a friend I recently came to notice that I get visibly annoyed when I come to a red light while driving my car.  I have this burning desire while driving to not have to stop, and when I am forced to… it pisses me off.  This friend helped me see that instead of getting mad, I can use this moment as a time to connect with G!d and bless all the people around me.  For some reason, in that moment her words got through and literally my vision of the outside world changed, my soul became awakened, and became the driver of my body-vehicle which was driving this car-vehicle.  In that moment my vision expanded, became much wider, and I was able to truly send love and blessings to all the people around me.  After that I was actually looking forward to the next red light and gave so much thanks when it came because it brought, again, the ability to stop and connect with G!d and send love and blessings to all the people around me.

This deep teaching showed me how our “triggers” – the things that get us annoyed, or cause us to “react” in any way – can most powerfully serve as our greatest tools for awakening and self transformation… And the bigger the trigger, the bigger the transformation.

But this also brought about another understanding… That actually  it’s this society and culture based on productivity, on moving forward, and not on stopping which causes the annoyance at having to stop.  Our whole psyche is imbued with the imperative, the directive, to continue moving forward, and it’s not just coming from our culture, it’s a deeply programmed biological and evolutionary response of nature.  The nature of evolution is to move forward, to progress, and this has been strongly – and most of the time unconsciously – embraced by our culture and society… In so much that there is actually a physical aversion to stopping.

But stopping is exactly what is needed to tap into the spiritual dimension of life, to feel the beauty and amazement of existence… Stop and smell the roses.  Stopping is also the essence of meditation.  when we stop we have a chance to remember what we are and where we came from, and to live and act from there, instead of from the biologically mechanical imperatives we are driven by throughout our fast paced, “non-stop” day.

This also happens to be the essence of most – or even all –  the Jewish practices, mitzvot/halachot, they are systematically set up as times to stop and remember Source, to remember our selves, our divine nature.

So, next time you’re stopped at a red light, or waiting in a line at the post office, or suddenly get triggered by something, see if you can use it as a chance to stop and remember G!d, to remember that you are a beautiful divine soul, surrounded by love and other beautiful divine souls.  It’s a hell of a good practice : )

Divine Names – Albotini

“Through the use of Divine Names in meditation, one can channel extremely powerful
spiritual forces. Albotini writes that Moses made use of this to save Israel, and that “with
the power of the Divine Names, which he pronounced in his prayers, he was able to turn
back the anger and fury.” More remarkable, he states that the Ten Martyrs could have
saved themselves by using these Names, and that the sages could have prevented the
destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of the Babylonians and Romans. But, seeing that
this had been God’s decree, they refrained from doing anything.

…In general, Albotini warns against pronouncing any of the Divine Names, even those
discussed by Abulafia. Anticipating the Ari, he understands that, while earlier generations
may have been able to purify themselves sufficiently so that they could actually
pronounce the Names, later generations are no longer able to do this. But still, he
maintains that it is not actually necessary to pronounce the Names, and that much can
be accomplished by merely knowing them and pondering their significance.

This is evidenced from the verse, “He was enraptured in Me, I will bring him forth; I will
raise him up, because he knows My Name” (Psalms 91:14). Albotini notes that the verse
does not say, “he pronounces My name,” but rather “he knows My name.” He concludes,
“from this we see that the main things is the knowledge of the Divine Names, of their
existence, essence, and meaning.” A similar explanation is also provided to the verse,
“Before they call I will answer them” (Isaiah 65:24). “Even though one concentrates on a
given name and only thinks about it, without ‘calling’ and actually pronouncing it, he will
be answered.”’  -Meditation and Kabbalah, Aryeh Kaplan

Chatzivah and Chakikah – Albotini

“[Rabbi Yehud] Albotini also expands on Abulafia’s discussion of hewing (chatzivah) and engraving
(chakikah), mentioned in the Sefer Yetzirah. When a person reaches a high meditative
level, “the mind is no longer concealed in the prison of the physical faculties, and it
emerges… entering the spiritual domain.” In this domain, the individual may see various
visions or letter combinations, and the connotation of hewing is that he “splits” and
analyzes these visions while still in a meditative state. Engraving then implies that he
“engraves” these revelations in his soul so that they are never forgotten.”  -Meditation and Kabbalah, Aryeh Kaplan

Hishtavut – Albotini

“An important prerequisite for attaining the meditative experience is stoicism (hishtavut),
and this is discussed at great length by [Rabbi Yehuda] Albotini. The has been discussed by a number of
later kabbalists, but Abulafia only speaks about it in passing, writing, “One who has
attained true passion (cheshek), is not influenced by the blessings or curses of others. It
is as if they were speaking in a language that he does not understand.”’  -Meditation and Kabbalah, Aryeh Kaplan

Knowing the Truth

Knowing the truth

“Do not try to know the truth, for knowledge by the mind is not true knowledge. But you can know what is not true -which is enough to liberate you from the false. The idea that you know what is true is dangerous, for it keeps you imprisoned in the mind. It is when you do not know that you are free to investigate. And there can be no salvation without investigation because non-investigation is the main cause of bondage.” (I Am That, Nisargadatta Maharaj)

Sitting Meditation

Sitting Meditation or Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of connecting to the body and the breath and watching thoughts. One of the main purposes is to become aware of the power thoughts have over us.  When we sit, especially in a silent retreat for a few days or weeks, we become highly aware of how our thoughts are constantly pulling us in different directions and we have little to no control over them.  The practice of sitting is so simple, you just sit on the floor or on a chair or cushion and breathe.  You sit in silence, with your eyes half open or closed and breathe.  Just watching the breath and feeling the sensations in the body.  Feeling the rising and the falling of the chest or the sensation on the air passing through the tip of the nose and/or the upper lip.  Feeling the breath and the body and then also becoming aware of the state of your mind and/or emotions.  This is where the interestingness comes in, you begin to have thoughts or feelings of wanting to get up, or wanting to do something else, thoughts about the past or the future.  We begin to notice sensation in our legs or back and label it as “pain” and believe something must be wrong.  We think about what we’ll do when we’re done sitting, what we’ll eat, or who we’ll talk with.  Or we begin to question and doubt the whole practice of meditation, what it’s good for, or if we can do it.

And heres the point – if we stick with it, we become aware that thoughts and emotions are just thoughts, words, symbols, floating through our mental awareness, and we give them or just unconsciously let them have so much power and control over us.  Think about this, you could be feeling really great, strong and clear, peaceful and confident – then the phone rings –  it’s your mom, a close friend, or your partner and they’ve just told you some news – some words –  that totally throw you off balance and out of your center.  Here is the proof of the power words, thoughts and emotions have over us.

But as we begin to learn the art of meditation, we begin to gain mastery over thoughts and emotions, we begin to root ourselves in the core of our body and breath.  This happens directly through finding balance/core and then being thrown off of balance/core… Through this process we begin to learn what brings us to balance/core and what knocks us off…  So that eventually we become masters of our minds, thoughts and emotions, we become so rooted in our core that nothing can throw us off.  Through constantly returning to the purity and solidity of our body and breath we find and root in the peace and beauty  of our deep inner core.