This site is in Danish and explains how to incorporate and surrender to an integral lifestyle. So I only offer this little snippet in English… You can read more about WHAT an integral life practice is in the book by Ken Wilber et al, Integral Life Practice. However, this book – and others about similar topics – do not really explain HOW to incorporate an integral lifestyle. So that is what I am trying to offer methods to do here.
I both offer tools to people who do not have a life practice at all (integral or not), as well as to people who already have a life practice (such as physical exercise, diet and / or meditation), but doesn’t know about integral.
For people new to establishing a life practice, I suggest the following steps (for the others, please see the bottom of this page):
Open your heart
It takes a lot of compassion towards yourself to change your habits. You need to be in tune with your heart, sensing into where you are and how much you can take in just now. So my first suggestion is for you to practice connecting with your heart for example on a daily basis, or at least several times a week. Sit down and connect to your inner feeling of care and compassion. Towards yourself and towards others. You need to establish this connection with yourself in order to sense into how your new habits are working for you, and whether you need to adjust. Usually we need to adjust all the time, because that’s the organic way of life.
Connecting with care and compassion is in itself a part of integral life practice – so by doing this practice, you are already well on your way! When you feel ready, continue doing this practice while moving on to adapting the next.
Open your mind
A very important part of integral life practice is to be able to put yourself in the place of others. So this is the next practice: Pick an incident from today when you reacted (internally or externally) against someone. And try to imagine being in the shoes of the other person. Feel how it is wearing her shoes and her clothes, speaking her voice, saying the things she did, moving her body the way she did. Try to be this person and sense into, how is it. Does this increase your understanding of why she acted like she did? Connect this exercise with the previous one and connect your heart with compassion. Then reflect: Have your feelings and thoughts about this person changed due to doing this exercise? If yes, why do you think this is? And is it desirable? Will it help you live your life more fully, establishing more true connections to others, or not?
Another and related exercise is to challenge your beliefs. When you are absolutely certain about something but this belief is causing you trouble with other people: Maybe it’s a good idea to investigate if your belief is the only possible way of seeing this topic? Could there be other beliefs that were equally true? Try and investigate as many possible view points about this belief as possible. Does this loosen your belief? Does it at least loosen your attachment to this belief?
When you have practiced like this for at least a week and you feel ready, continue doing this practice once in a while, while moving on to adapting the next.
Most of us are walking around sleeping with our eyes open… meaning, that we are not very used to being conscious about what is in fact going on inside us and around us. We are simply not used to being AWARE of our own feelings and thoughts AND at the same time being aware about of what is going on inside the people we are with and between the people we are with. Even the pure observable things going on, we do not really pay attention to – just ask a police officer who is interviewing witnesses to a crime…
Why is this? We are so absorbed in our own train of thoughts and our own story that we live inside this “self-made movie” of our life… instead of actually LIVING our real life! But it doesn’t have to be so. And the more we practice being conscious and aware in the present, the more we will be living our actual life instead of the life we are making up inside our own personal consciousness. This increased awareness can be difficult, make no mistake! Seeing things as they really are, and not as you want them to be, can be quite troublesome at first… But it will also set you free 🙂 There are many ways to becoming more conscious, but by far the most effective one is to sit down and meditate on a regular basis.
For beginners, I would suggest that you pick an easy meditation practice that works for you, it doesn’t really matter which one. The only “wrong” meditation practice is the one you do not get done! Later on, it’s a good idea to consult with an integral life practitioner coach or similar – to check up on which meditation practice would be most effective to suit your development, so that you best establish a grounded connection to your essence and soul qualities while at the same time loosen attachment to shadows and blocks in development.
When you have meditated regularly for a while and haven’t forgotten the previous exercises regarding connecting to your open heart and practicing an open mind, you are ready to the next exercise 🙂
Be in your body
Our bodies are our passports to living this life. Even if you believe that your soul is eternal: If you want to act in this physical life, you need a body to do it. And the body is an excellent compass to navigating in your life. The body has so many sensory organs inside and outside, that can alert you and help you adjust. So being aware of your body and how it relates to your thoughts and feelings is essential. It will teach you so much about yourself and your relationships. And will also be essential when you want to do the last preparatory exercise about listening to both your own boundaries, and to others’.
A good way to practice being in your body and to notice the correlation between your sensations, feelings and thoughts, is to regularly do the “weather report” scan. First, practice doing it in quiet surroundings at home – and then start to do it outside the house, while waiting in line at the super market, picking up coffee, participating in tedious meetings, etc. The idea is to be able to quickly scan the body and mind to find out: 1) What are my body sensations right now?, 2) What are my thoughts right now?, and 3) What are my feelings right now? And how are the three possibly connected? Over time, be aware if you see a pattern in your experience, and what this tells you about your belief systems, shadows and potential blocks in development (so it can be a good idea to write notes about each scan down in a note book or on your smart phone, for later reference).
When you have adapted the weather report scan in your daily life, and still meditate regularly and practice opening your heart and mind – you are ready to continue to the last preparatory exercise!
Listen to boundaries
In the previous exercises you have gotten to know yourself better and you have hopefully become more conscious about what is going on inside and outside when you go about your daily life. Now it’s time to check if you are living inside or outside your boundaries? If you’re living outside your boundaries, it’s probably wise to find out how to adjust so that you are not doing harm to yourself or others? If you’re living inside your boundaries, are you living too comfortably within them? If you never move outside your comfort zone, you will never learn anything new. So living life and expressing your boundaries means exploring where your comfort zone is – and you do not know where it is, if you do not cross the line sometimes. Just do it sensibly and within the danger limit!
This exercise will often involve discussing with other people, maybe a good friend, a practice partner, a therapist, a coach, a meditation teacher, or all of the above. And this is a good thing! A very important part of integral life practice is to practice with others and to be able to talk about your life content, purpose and difficulties with other people.
Establishing an Integral Life Practice:
If you’re still doing all the five practices mentioned above, you already have the beginning of an integral life practice! However, there is more to it… Things become so much more effective if you practice both body, mind, spirit and shadow daily! And other areas regularly (ethics, work, relationships, creativity, and soul). Read more in the book Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber et al.
If you already have a life practice, but doesn’t know about integral, I also strongly recommend you to read this book and add the components to your practice that are not already included. For example, studies show that when you BOTH do physical exercise AND meditate, you become better at both. Also, when you know about integral theory and understand how this affects the dealings of the world and of your own life, things that before seemed inexplicable, are now much more obvious. Plus learning about integral theory is “psychoactive” and will in itself expand your understanding and your consciousness. It doesn’t matter if you doesn’t understand all of it at once, just keep coming back to it on a regular basis. And maybe join a study group in the beginning, it’s very helpful to discuss it with others – that will make the principles more experience based, embodied and practical.
If you want to know more about Integral Theory, you can get a taster in my little “integral journey cartoon”.