State of Integral Play Down Under 2016

In late November 2016, a group of folks came together online in an encounter where we traversed the contours of four distinct approaches to embodied-being informed by integral theory, as it lives out in Down Under spaces. Note Down Under here has two modalities implicit in it’s expression – there is both a geographic latitude and longitude implied in our connectedness, and there’s also the sense that with each of the presentations there’s a seeking into something like the basis or foundations from which we could say that something like the content of integral theory can be experienced.

There was narration from myself in between these sessions about a kind of personal inquiry I had brought to these unique sessions – this was an inquiry about how these sessions might inform the ongoing development of Integral Down Under, with a particularly leaning into what sort of considerations could best support interpersonal engagement, as it continues to morph and change in response to situational changes – such as, for example, the social despair that seems to have emerged in 2016 in light of global Trumpism and Brexit. I’ll describe how these came to be and bear as we journey through each of the short (15 min) presentations below.

Embodied Integral Theory with Simon Divecha

Simon leads us through an embodied awareness of the psychological, biological, social and cultural aspects of our being, as informed by integral theory’s quadrants. For Integral Down Under I found myself reflecting on how it is always possible to lean into a different register as we sense forward, for a project – and how that sensing forward is informed to the extend that works not to unduly exclude any particular source of information or experience. This meditation invited me to acknowledge how these different aspects of our consciousness may themselves persist with contradictions, but that meditative awareness graces us the space to hold them, in view.

Integral Polarity Practice with David Sainsbury and Sue Stack

Integral Polarity Practice is a voice dialogue practice developed by John Kesler, extending on the Big Mind process of Genpo Roshi. Dave and Sue here walk us through the ways that encounters with otherwise-opposites, through a collective and reflective practice, can open the way for an appreciation of how a kind of still-point unfolds between polarities, which has some other quality in its essence – some broadening of capacity, evoked in a new quality. With polarity practice, the way that the gross material realm, the subtle meaning realm, and the emergent or source realm connect becomes transparent to our experience, precisely through the way that the process itself works – there is direct insight into the state-stages available, here. For Integral Down Under, I found myself curious about how we might best reflect notions, ideas, positions and principles that seemed to be opposite in their own structure –  how it might be that we can nurture a space where the fourth-person perspective on these ‘differences’ can be adopted, without reducing the differences directly to a monistic view, or the idea that ‘all is one’ in a way that obliterates their value.

Authentic Relating with Khali Young

Authentic Relating and Circling are interpersonal practices that have roots in integral theory and which as Khali describes here, lend us tools to embrace and embody conflict and coherence, as it arises in social spaces. For Integral Down Under, this calls to presence something of how difference itself may be the germinate ground of transformation – and reminds me of the complex background work that goes on in the simple experience of being human, together. Authentic Relating seems to ask us to stay true to what our response is, to each other, while also bringing to light skills in how to be aware of how expression of that response will shape the interpersonal space that we co-inhabit.

Pattern Dynamics with Tim Winton

Tim here describes for us his experiences with the development of Pattern Dynamics itself and also some exciting new ground looking at how Pattern Dynamics might feature in decisions, where decisions are taken as formative in the structure of organisations or collectives of peoples. We discussed here the way that Pattern Dynamics might shape awareness of the different means by which groups of people arrive at decisions – and how Pattern Dynamics can describe it with reference to the state-stages as experienced in the Integral Polarity Practice session. For Integral Down Under, this drew to presence some exciting possibilities in thinking through consciously using Pattern Dynamics in the development of the project and its possibilities, in a way not dissimilar to Theory U, but also in a way that allowed for a much more dynamic structure of going from knowing, to unknowing, to newly-knowing.

So very grateful to all involved, thanks very much for your time and support.


An Integral Intersectionality

Intersectionality or intersectional theory is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, and is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The concept is often used in critical theory to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Such a theme of both interconnection and the sense of non-extricability also has home in integral theory.

Integral theory attempts to draw together disparate and individually irreducible paradigms to suggest that the most adequate account of reality is one which haaqals space and means for inclusion of them all. The idea with the axes in this model is that we cannot know the interior, without the exterior, and we cannot know the individual, without the collective, and vice versa in each regard. By setting each axis at right angles we arrive at an account of consciousness which suggests that psychological, biological, cultural and social aspects of any occasion of consciousness are irreducible to each other.

The two approaches thus seem to have some commonalities – there’s a sense that the paradigms in question can’t easily be extricated from each other, and, as a corollary, some way that the paradigms seem to mutually reinforce or influence each other. Integral theory would make no direct reference to systems of oppression, and in fact would claim that development in psychological, biological, cultural and social phenomena actually occurs along an axis that seeks into the conditions of freedom – becoming more complex, and more integrated, along the way.

I’m curious about bringing intersectionality into contact with integral theory in part to find out what happens, in their own intersection. One way to do this is to sense into what happens for each, when the principles of one are made available to another. For example, to bring an intersectional approach to integral theory, there might arise the question of in what way and how, does the biological influence the social, or the psychological place particular emphases on the cultural? What we’re speaking of here perhaps is a mutual interpenetration of these well-defined quadrants – acknowledging not only that the boundary lines connect, as much as they separate, but also that they might not reflect reality – where the social might compound the biological (think about developing alcoholism from social drinking), or negate the psychological (think about how we make an exchange of an orange piece of plastic in material reality equal to a $20 transaction, negating the simple material exchange part and attributing a monetary value to the operation).

What about the potential for an integral encounter with intersectionality? This might invite some consideration of the freedom/oppression duality in concert with first-person, second-person and third-person perspectives, in intersections. What stands to be revealed here is a kind of movement dynamic – in what way do freedom/oppression intersect by virtue of what I do, what you do, and what the situation we inhabit is and does? If some aspect of this freedom/oppression dance is shifted across any of those perspectives, what more becomes possible in subject-to-subject relationships? What can be seen, that couldn’t be seen before, in the space, between us?

Where earlier incarnations of feminism may have emphasised re-vision as functional to the construction of identities (a thinking for example of women in different roles, roles never really socially conceived, before), an integral intersectionality invites a re-cognising – a reflective ground on which thought (or consciousness) may come to encounter itself as thought (or consciousness) and thus know itself a little better. An integral intersectionality seems to imply a kind of double knowing in different ways – a sense of the interior/exterior individual/collective free/oppressed aspects of ourselves, a knowledge of ourselves as self-, and intrinsically, other-constituted. Free, and not free, but not necessarily limited, to any just-one.