Introducing the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog with a global vision based on Integral principles

An Enlightenment of Fullness for the rising dawn of the 21st century

Being happy with yourself is the most important skill

Self-love

By Leo Babauta (Zen Habits)

If you’re like me, you are constantly learning new skills — gardening, carpentry, pizza-making, languages, sports, and so on. And I think this is a fun and wonderful thing to do.

But what’s the most important skill?

That’s debatable. I think compassion is a huge one, as is mindfulness. I’d go with those two any day of the week.

But if I had to pick just one, it would be this: learning to be happy with yourself.

That seems too simple, to trite! Too mushy and New-Agey! And I’ll grant all of that, but I stand firmly by my pick.

Why? The answer has to do with how this one thing can affect everything else in your life. If you are not happy with yourself, or your body, you become insecure. You think you’re not good enough. You fear being abandoned and alone. You do lots of other things to compensate, and these lead to problems.

So many of the problems people have stem from this one thing — being unhappy with themselves (often in the form of being unhappy with their bodies). Let’s take a look at why, and then look at some ideas of how to master the skill.

Why It Affects Everything

Let’s say you’re unhappy with your body. You think you are too fat, or too skinny, or your butt is too small (or too big). Or your boobs are too small, or your pecs aren’t big enough. Your stomach is flabby, or loose, or covered in stretch marks. Your thighs are too thick. Your hips are too wide, or too narrow. The list goes on and on.

We’ll get into why we’re unhappy in a minute, but for now, just imagine the unlikely scenario that you’re unhappy with your body. What does that do to you? Well, you might be envious of other people (who, you know, are also unhappy with their bodies). You might be worried that you’re not attractive enough to meet someone, and therefore sabotage your chances for a relationship. If you’re in a relationship, you might think your boyfriend/girlfriend will leave you for someone more attractive. You might then act jealously, and do things out of this jealousy that actually leads to your partner being unhappy, and possibly eventually leaving you.

If you’re unhappy with your body, you might not want to look at it. You might obsessively undereat, and then binge eat, and then feel worse about yourself. You might avoid exercise because you don’t want to even think about the problem. You might eat junk food to comfort your bad feelings, and then make the health problems worse.

You might have anxiety about all of this, about your body, your health, your girlfriend leaving you. Then you eat more to assuage the anxiety, and it gets worse. Or you shop to make yourself feel better, and you get deeply in debt and your life fills with clutter. Or you drink alcohol or numb yourself with drugs or television so you don’t have to think about all this.

At work, you’re unhappy because you aren’t confident about yourself or your body, so you don’t do the things that require confidence and that would further your career. You might not leave your work to find work you’re more passionate about, because you don’t think you’re good enough. Even at the work you’re in, you do what you can to not think about the unhappiness you have, so you procrastinate with social networks, games, and other diversions.

There’s much more that’s possible, but you get the idea. Not everyone has all of these symptoms, but they’re possible for anyone. Many of our problems stems from this one problem, and fixing it can change everything.

That’s why, if you have a finite amount of time to learn (and we all do), investing that time into learning this one skill can pay off in innumerable ways. It’s the most important skill you can master.

Why We’re Like This

If this is so bad, why are we like this? How did it get this way? Well, there’s no one answer. It’s a building up of lots of reasons, including:

  • Mass media. We see beautiful celebrities with perfect faces, stomachs, thighs, abs, chests and asses all over the place — on the Internet, on TV and movies, in magazines. Everywhere. They’re celebrated as the pinacle of our society, and we all want to be them in some way. They’re not real, of course — they’re Photoshopped, make-upped, did upped in so many ways that what we see is an illusion. We’re comparing ourselves to an illusion. But even if they were, why would we need to be like them? Why can’t we be like ourselves, and let that be the ideal?
  • Comments from others. Friends, family members, co-workers, even spouses might make a seemingly innocent comment about our butt or boobs that makes us feel bad about ourselves. These comments are small but hit our self-esteem very hard. They’re not really about us, though, even if we almost always take them to heart. They’re about the other person, who is having a bad day, or jealous of you, or projecting their own insecurities on you, or comparing you to the mass media celebrities they idolize for no good reason. See these comments for what they are, and don’t take them to heart.
  • Childhood incidents. In childhood, perhaps our parents made some comments about us that made us feel bad. Perhaps our parents got a divorce, or our dad was never around — if dad left mom, maybe that meant she wasn’t good enough for him, and by extension maybe I’m not good enough for someone else? If dad left, maybe it’s because I wasn’t good enough for him? This might sound like psychological mumbo-jumbo, but it’s real. I’ve experienced it, and so have countless others. It doesn’t mean we have to let it rule our lives, but we should be aware that it’s there, and learn to deal with it.
  • Failures. Perhaps we’ve made some mistakes and failed at some things we tried to do. Honestly, everyone does, but when we do it, we take it to heart. It makes us feel bad about ourselves — we’re not disciplined, we’re not good enough. This leads to further failures, further hurting our self-image.
  • Health problems. While having thick thighs or a bit of flab on the tummy is nothing to feel bad about — love how you look! — a completely separate problem from how we feel about our bodies is the health of our bodies. We tend to mix them together — being fat makes us feel bad about ourselves, for example — but really they can be separated. We can feel good about our bodies but realize that being overweight can lead to heart disease and diabetes down the road, so it only makes sense to lose some weight. Not because we want to look like a celebrity and feel better about ourselves, but because we want to be healthy. Being healthy, by the way, can help your self-image, and even though I said they can be separated, this is one positive benefit from conflating the two that you should accept happily.
  • Spiral of negative thoughts. One bad thought leads to another, and then another, until we have a bundle of bad thoughts that become our self-image. This negative self-image can affect everything we do. But this self-image and these bad thoughts are not us — they are things that happen within us, but we don’t have to let them become us. We can cope with them, and turn them into positive thoughts, into gratitude, into happiness.

These are just a few reasons. In fact, so many things affect our self-image that it’s impossible to list them all, but it’s good to start to be aware of them, so we can cope with them.

How to Master the Skill

Let’s say you’ve accepted my premise that learning to be happy with yourself (let’s call it “love thyself”) is the most important skill to master … how do you get started?

The simple answer is practice. The complicated answer is that it takes awhile, because our self-image wasn’t formed overnight and it won’t be changed overnight. That’s OK. Just focus on this moment, and you’ll learn as you go.

I can’t give you a complete guide to learning to love thyself, as that would take a book, and I’m still learning myself, but here are some tips for starting out:

  1. Become aware of your mental movie. You have a movie (perhaps a series of them) that you play inside your head about yourself. Usually we aren’t aware of this, but it happens, throughout the day. The movie is about who we are: you have a flabby stomach, you are fat, you are too skinny, you aren’t disciplined, you aren’t lovable, your braces look weird, you aren’t good at anything. Start to pay attention when this movie plays — it affects everything you do. Realize that this movie isn’t you — it’s just playing in your head. Realize that it isn’t true, and isn’t based on reality. Realize that it can be changed.
  2. Start to make a new movie. This new movie will replace that play-out old one that keeps running in your theater. It will be a Michael Bay production, with a gorgeous lead actor (hey, that’s you!), great visual effects, lots of excitement … except with more character development and a lot smaller budget. Let’s base this movie on reality, not fears from childhood or illusions of celebrities or comments from others. Instead, it should be based on the fact that you are a good person, wonderful even, who is loving, kind, beautiful, passionate. This might not be what you think about yourself, but let’s make the movie like this anyway. Ask other people why you’re lovable (people who are likely to give a kind answer). Use these images in your new movie. When negative images start coming up (my boobs are too small!), cut them out and tell them they have no place in your production. Put better images in.
  3. Consciously play the new movie. Learn to recognize the flicker of the old movie starting, and shut it off. Put the new movie in the projector instead, and play it. Practice this like it’s your new religion. You will get better with constant practice. Put up reminders all around you so you don’t forget.
  4. Learn mental judo. There will be things coming in all around you that will try to attack your new movie. Comments from friends, celebrities, things you see on Facebook. When they are hurtling towards you, learn to lean to one side and let them whiz by. Give them a small shove, with a thought like, “That comment is not about me, it’s about you.” (And then go give your friend a hug — she’s probably having a bad day.) Or a thought like, “That celebrity probably is also worried about her body — having big boobs or a flat stomach doesn’t solve that problem.” Give the celebrity a mental hug, then play your new movie.

You are already perfect — you just need to realize it. You don’t need anything to solve this problem — you already have it. You just need to practice, like it’s the most important thing in your life, because in many ways, it is.


Photo Credit: LaLaLaLiza

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 7): The Fallacy in the Traditional Enlightenment Teaching

By Marc Gafni


“Why now? Why is a World Spirituality based on Integral principles which has as its core the democratization of enlightenment, which is the natural emergent of the Unique Self consciousness, why is it a possibility in a way that it never was, and why is it an urgent necessity in the way it never was?”

Don’t ever turn to stone. Take a leap to learn new things.

By Kristen Ulmer

People ask me all the time why I started Ski to Live.

I want to tell you a story about my past you may find shocking. It explains why I started these evolutionary mindset ski and snowboard camps, and also illustrates the next top mindset tip.

When I was 22 years old I was competing in local Utah mogul competitions and generally coming in last place. Heck, I hadn’t even owned a pair of ski pants until two years prior — just competing in anything was a big step.

That summer, while my fellow competitors trained on snow at expensive camps at Mount Hood, Whistler or even South America, I decided to take a trip to Asia by myself. For 5 months. To work on my self esteem.

I had two rules on this trip. I made these rules because I realized my self worth was entirely based on the fact I was pretty, and could ski well. I realized I wasn’t going to always be pretty, or always ski well, and I thought I’d better find a way to build a more solid personal foundation.

My rules where this:

1. I would make myself as ugly as possible: wearing coke bottle glasses instead of contacts, not washing my hair and wearing frumpy clothes.

2. I was not allowed to tell anyone I skied.

On that trip, I volunteered for Mother Teresa’s House for the Destitute and Dying in Calcutta, India. I was robbed in the Philippines by a group of 30 scam artists and forced to leave the country at gun point. I almost lost my right leg to gangrene in Nepal. The challenging but magical summer ended and I came home.

The first mogul competition that next season was a special event for the entire west against the best technically trained mogul skiers in the country. I felt funny just being there. But I didn’t come in last place like usual. I won. I killed it, actually.

Within one single year, I then made it on the US Ski Team. That same year I also filmed 3 ski movies, and was subsequently named by four different ski magazines the best woman “extreme” skier in the world.

Here’s the math: I became world class at two different sports, in one year, without a single drop of technical training. I’d never had any technical training actually.

That trip forever changed my life and how I saw myself. We all hear mindset is everything in sports. Well, I know it because I lived it.

THAT’S why I started these camps. Now I teach it.

Tip #6 is this: shake yourself out of your comfort zone, take a bold step away from what’s familiar, and try something new. And I don’t just mean skiing with your boots unbuckled for a run.

Look to the infinite world and get creative! Shave your head for a cause. Wear tap shoes to the grocery store. Take a year off your sport to study Taoism. Get a cat instead of a dog.

It’s hard, I know. The biggest addictions we have in society aren’t drugs, alcohol or sex. Our biggest addiction is to who we believe ourselves to be. Those beliefs and habits are hard to crack. It’s rare when anyone truly expands outside the stone rock of their comfort zone.

But please, take a leap. Don’t ever turn to stone. Be an open, empty, upright cup ready to receive new teachings, to learn new things.

Because when learning happens, magic happens.


Photo Credit: thriol

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 6): What is Enlightenment?

By Marc Gafni

“What’s up in the evolution of consciousness in this moment in time is three components, a kind of holy trinity, what I refer to in my teaching and writing as the democratization of enlightenment. It’s an emergent World Spirituality based on integral principles and as Unique Self consciousness or Unique Self enlightenment. These three emergent structures of thought, emergent structures of being and becoming, are interrelated, inseparable from each other.

What does the democratization of enlightenment mean? Democratization as in democracy on the one hand, and enlightenment on the other hand. It’s the unique nexus of those two powerful, earth-shattering, mind-bending, heart-rending ideas that change the very nature of how we engage all that is. When you merge them together, something new larger than the sum of the parts emerges…”

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 5): Three Images of World Spirituality

By Marc Gafni

“Let’s try to envision World Spirituality for a second. Let me suggest three images. The first would be an orchestra, a great symphonic orchestra, in which every instrument is playing its music. From the diversity of instruments, what is yielded is a great symphony. In the premodern world, the religions believed that their instrument was the music. But the postmodern world has taught us is that the instrument is the critical context that shapes the music, the texture, the sound, the tonality of the music, but the spirit is not the surface structure. Spirit is the depth. And all the instruments are playing music. From the diversity of this music, of the instruments, comes the symphony…”

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Walking

By Joe Perez

“We’re all just walking each other home.” ― Ram Dass

For Ram Dass, the story of the spiritual journey as a walk home among friendly people is an important one.

It’s a story that resonates with me more since I turned 40 than earlier in my life, when I would have been more likely to say, “We’re all choosing our own adventure.”

Journey from the Source to the Unknown Self — the great adventure of Life — is also an important story, no disrespect intended to Ram Dass.

The return journey from the Unknown Self to the Source — homeward-bound — is equally important.

These are also what I call the Two Prime Directions of Love, the outward, other-directed drive of Eros, and the inward, same-directed drive of Agape.

My own story about the spiritual life is it’s hard to make universalizing statements about life such as “We’re all just walking each other home.” We are both coming and going, giving and receiving, reaching outward and falling back. We are generally caught in time, and yet we also can recognize a timelessness to existence.

We’re all just walking each other home?

Maybe.

We’re certainly telling stories to each other about what it means to be a human being and have a life worth living. We are also certainly examining those stories in relationship to one another, you listening to me, I listening to you. And it’s in the telling and re-telling of useful, memorable, and true stories that we find ourselves — stories as paradoxically unique and as universal we all are.


Photo Credit: moriza

Notes from the Venwoude community days event (part 2)

Holland

By Chahat Corten

Hello friends,

First pardon my English. I will do my best to share with you what wonders happened here in the last two weeks at Venwoude, our world spirituality community and center in Holland.

The visioning process at Venwoude Integral Practice Community at first presented itself as an impossible and complex painful challenge, which we really did not think we could meet. This was a key moment in our community in which things might have begun to go down and the community would begin a slow downward process or maybe just maybe a miracle would happen. But no one knew how it would happen. It truly did not seem possible.

And it happened!!! Wow did it happen!!! These last two weeks have been an enormous succes! What Grace how all of our paths came together in this way. The miracle has many parts to it but at the center of it all it had a name: spiritual teacher and artist Marc Gafni.

To many of us it occurred that it had to be precisely Marc that wove the magic of these days. When Marc walked in it seemed that there was really no way out. The complexity of the personal issues, and financial issues and emotional structural issues just did not seem workable. We had worked with other people and tried ourselves to work this and it just seemed impossible to come to a major breakthrough. But we were sure ready for one.

What happened here with Marc in a period of two weeks is really difficult to describe but I think it is fair to say that he almost worked a miracle. His tools were a brilliant clear mind, what he called loving outrageously, deep skills at facilitation, beautiful dharma talks and many individual meetings and deep listening. All of that was woven together in a kind of magic weave that — truly and absolutely transformed the community at some very deep levels in these two weeks.

A structural breakthrough was set in a legal form: a board and wisdom council were created, working for a committed period of three years. And it is now clear in a way that was totally unclear two weeks ago that this will be able to sustain this community to be here another 25 years.

In the first night Marc had everyone state their intention and what special medicine had to be given to the process. Everybody’s intention and medicine was hung on the wall. And all gave their commitment in the first evening to holding this intention during the proces.

It seemed like a simple start, but many times my commitment, to submit and serve, to stay on track those days was of staggering importance. The amount of goodness in the room allowed for blunt criticism of all leaders, which is of course in the end is always quite relaxing :)

In day two Marc led a four hour process  in which the room would talk and he would listen to all the voices and then from the voices he would express a core value with each time woven perfectly all the voices in the room, each time he wove the voices into a core value and it happened almost twenty times the whole room would just sit back and say Wow!! Yes Yes Yes!! The Core values are formulated!

A miraculous process in depth and subtleties, like clear, clear, clear … in one extended morning session! This usually takes places weeks or days but it was like Marc has brought a clarity, light and transmission to the process that just opened everyone’s heart and mind.

A lot of old issues appeared, were touched and fell off the table, right in the heart to be held in the process, where each contribution appeared to be exactly the right one…..! There was a lot of grace available at the time.

And Marc in his obvious and clear mediating role between the worlds, picked up the expression of all necessary contributions, no matter how covert and we phrased it accurately and precisely in words that reflect the depth, the heart and the clarity that we looked for. So we formulated the most wondrous core values, both in English and in Dutch. Then the very next day — in a two hour process that Marc created we chose a board of directors who would be responsible to those core values.

So just to see the whole trajectory. Marc did two days of deep teaching with the whole community, then one day of individual meetings with communal leaders and then four hours of core values and then two hour of elections and it was done. There is a sense of deep breakthrough and elation in the community now. What is so amazing is that Marc did it in a way which increased the autonomy of the community. He poured deep love and light and wisdom into the community without in any way moving to take it over. If I never believed in second-tier consciousness I do now. Marc was deploying, as it seemed in a very relaxed way, a range of intelligences — from emotional intelligence to social intelligence, to dharma intelligence, to systems intelligence — all woven like an art form. I guess this is what people mean by second-tier. When you really see it in action it is quite amazing.

deep deep bow

Then we concluded last night with a festive and ecstatic evening with the wider community in wich the Wisdom Counsel was initiated and held by the whole community. From there the wisdom council invested the board members and they gave there commiment for three years.

Marc in his awesome dharma talk and story telling-mode invited us to create a community of ‘Messiahs’ or ‘9-cow-girls’. It was a beautiful talk on what it means to create an evolutionary WE space based on wisdom and outrageous loving. He talked about the Unique Self of the Venwoude community and how our work with sexuality gave us special gifts and special respsonsilbity and special ability and how this will probably become THE major and important technology in evolutionary WE-space development in the next age on this planet :)

An invitation to LOVE each other outrageously! There is magic, pure magic on the threshold of Venwoude’s 25th year of existence!

Thank you, thanks to our founder Ted Wilson, thanks to all patriarchs and matriarchs, thanks our world spirituality teacher in residence Marc Gafni, thank you all loving supporters, thanks all participants.

Thank you beloved friends,

Chahat

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 4): Who does World Spirituality address?

By Marc Gafni

“Who does a World Spirituality address? If we discern carefully, World Spirituality is transformative to the four major types of people in the world. First, there are the hundreds of millions of people who are post-traditional. They’re the people who can no longer locate themselves within a great tradition, a classical religion. Their experience, the way they’ve been brought into the world, their cultural exposures are such that they can’t locate themselves in a religion or a great tradition, and yet they are profoundly engaged and extremely compelled by Spirit…”

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 3): Why World Spirituality, why now?

By Marc Gafni

“Why now? Why is a World Spirituality based on Integral principles which has as its core the democratization of enlightenment, which is the natural emergent of the Unique Self consciousness, why is it a possibility in a way that it never was, and why is it an urgent necessity in the way it never was?”

A Place where everybody knows your Original Face?

Starbucks Olive Way

By Joe Perez

There’s a recently redesigned and expanded Starbucks Coffee within walking distance from my home in Seattle. I used to go in there quite a bit, but gradually the place has become so busy and noisy that it’s impossible to find a good seat (sometimes it’s even been standing room only), so I’ve found alternatives.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Starbucks was ever a “home away from home,” but it was the spot where I first attended a Seattle Integral meet-up, and where I met many business clients for a while. Now I’ve come across an article in Forbes claiming that Starbucks may be making their coffee shops intentionally a bit uncomfortable so that they drive away people who linger too long in one spot and bump up the customer churn rate.

A Starbucks company spokesperson isn’t exactly denying the claim, so it looks like there’s some truth to it. And it ought not surprise anyone. Starbucks is a publicly held company with an obligation to increase profits. But what does it say about Starbucks customers — which is just about everyone in Seattle and hundreds of millions of people throughout the world — that it matters so much to us?

Alice Walton, writing in Forbes:

The new “let’s make it slightly uncomfortable” model has a larger effect on the psyches of the customers – those who come to work or to play – than we might think at first. This is because the coffee house plays the central role of “Third Place” in our lives – home being the first and work being the second – and Starbucks has always been vocal about its desire to be this third place for its customer. What’s interesting is that humans actually really need this place, and we’ve needed if for practically our whole existence, according to some.

About 20 years ago, Ray Oldenburg, PhD, who wrote a book called The Great Good Place, argued that there are a number of attributes that make a third place a third place: It has to be convenient, inviting, serve something, and have some good regulars (which, he says, is actually more important than having a good host). People have had third places throughout history, and they’ve ranged from taverns to coffee houses to barbershops. They’re definitely better than street corners. Third places are different from first or second ones because we go to them in our in-between time – their voluntariness is what makes them so special and unique.

For millions of people who are not regular church attendees, the coffeehouse is increasingly playing a social role similar to that which churches used to play. We go there to meet people who we know and like. We go there to read a book and listen to soft music. We go there to break bread and drink beverages that alter our state of consciousness. Nobody forces us to go, and we can walk out at any time.

With nearly 20,000 Starbucks locations throughout the world (according to Wikipedia), the coffee giant is not in danger of eclipsing organized religion anytime soon (comparing to about 271,000 physical Catholic churches alone). But I wager that in modern countries Starbucks is adding coffee shops much faster than the Roman Catholic Church is adding new churches, and the Roman Church has had a bit of a headstart.

The world is thirsty for spirituality, and for many of us our heart longs to have Third Places that transcend the boundaries of any one particular organized religion. Coffee shops are substituting for churches at a time when religions have floundered at articulating an earthy, embodied, Fullness-loving vision of spirituality that makes them better places to go to hang out.

It’s a pity that it takes the profit-driven behavior of companies like Starbucks — making seats more uncomfortable, pumping up the volume of the music so it becomes more difficult to study and hold a conversation — to remind us that a beverage retail store cannot truly substitute for a House of Worship. Is it too much to ask that one day we might all walk down the street to our favorite neighborhood spiritual center to hang out with friends and meet new people in love with Life and Love, a place where it is not only okay to Be Yourself, but an expectation and obligation?

The Democratization of Enlightenment (Part 2): Structure of this Teaching

By Marc Gafni

“What is World Spirituality? How do we realize this vision of World Spirituality? Who does it address? And why is World Spirituality so essential and possible today, an opportunity that hasn’t existed in 2,000 years?”

Daily Wisdom: Inside, Outside

Blindfolding

By Marc Gafni

From my book, The Mystery of Love:

Love is all about insight–in-sight.  It is the ability to see in, to the inside of the inside, to the Holy of Holies that is your lover.  Eros is being on the inside.  Thus, love is an erotic perception of the highest order.  Naturally you have to move way beyond sexual seeing.  Sex only models eros.  To be an erotic lover you have to understand that “what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

When something is far from you, you have to open your eyes really wide to see it.  As it gets closer you squint your eyes, when it gets really really close, you close your eyes.  Seeing with closed eyes is when we perceive way beyond seeing.  The adjective close and the verb close are the same word.  Closeness–intimacy–higher vision–all happen when we close our eyes.  We move beyond sight and invite the other faculties of perception to guide us.  Smell, sound, touch, and taste all become alive in a deeper way when we close our eyes.


Photo Credit: presta