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

Spirit’s Next Move is moving!

Thank you for visiting, a spot which has been the home of the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog for the past several months. As part of our organization’s web presence reorganization, we have moved the contents of this blog and will no longer be posting here.

You can find the new Spirit’s Next Move daily blog, better than ever, on the Center for World Spirituality’s main site at You can find new daily material on the left sidebar of the site. Thanks once again for sticking with us … we look forward to seeing you on the new site!

How a consciousness practice can replace willpower and give you freedom

Women's fitness

By Kristen Ulmer

This may surprise you, but discipline, perseverance, setting an intention, drive, and the will, as usually taught by sports coaches, are completely outdated. Same with goal-setting.

Here’s why. I remember having to perform a difficult ski photo shoot while still recovering from an injury. I wanted to maintain status and sponsors so I “sucked it up,” “did it anyway,” “refused to give up,” and “pushed through the pain and fear.” Sounds powerful, right?

Such willed effort is fine in a pinch: I skied great that day. But here’s the problem: doing something I didn’t feel like doing was the first step toward future burn out and ultimately resenting my sport.

There’s a better path.

Let’s say you don’t feel like going the gym but force yourself to go anyway. Sound familiar?

Picture a hose. All day long feelings and experiences flow through that hose. In this case ‘should I go to the gym?’ shows up. Next comes ‘no I don’t want to!’

Now picture you’re a corporation made up of 10,000 different employees. The mind is one of these employees. Throw in determination or a fitness goal and the mind becomes very clever at suppressing any employee who gets in its way, in this case; ‘No I don’t want to.’

She puts duct tape over ‘No’s’ mouth and throws her down the basement stairs. You trot off to the gym feeling victory over perceived ‘negativity.’

The mind does this enough times and guess what? The employee of ‘No I don’t want to’ isn’t taking the abuse quietly. She isn’t dying in the basement. She’s fighting back, plotting, building strength, having to do her job in a covert, pathological way and will even scream now in order to be heard.

Your hose is now kinked, and a war has started. You are now at war with your self. And you can’t see it because it’s being carried out in your subconscious.

But you can feel it. Repressed experiences and emotions remain in our systems and run our lives covertly, sometimes for decades or even lifetimes. They come out in the most disruptive ways — straining our relationships, causing injury, showing up as disease and body aches. They pinch off the possibility for happiness to enter. Over time you become burned out. All because the mind and the will refuse to be intimate with anything negetive ot working against a master plan.

What if, instead you had a consciousness practice, where you could first see how the mind and all her buddies act as slave drivers. To see it is to stop it. Stop that war. In today’s evolutionary world, next you welcome your emotions and experiences as they flow through the hose, and this way your mind instead sets you free.

What would you do with that freedom? Could you just listen to the wisdom of each moment as it flows through the hose, rather than crack a whip?

If I could go back and feel that pressure to ski injured over again, I would have honored fear and pain instead, and chosen my ‘No.’

How about you? When you think you should go to the gym and ‘No’ shows up, would you let her be this time? If so, she’ll only speak for about 15-40 seconds before she’s gone and another employee shows up.

It might even be this time: Yes.

Photo: Edson Hong

Being happy with yourself is the most important skill


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

What does it mean to be fair?


Snow White

By Marc Gafni

What does it mean to be fair? In one sense being fair means to be just and good. To be fair is to be honest and have integrity.

Fairness implies appropriate weights and measure. To be fair means to give things the right weight and measure accurately.

When my sons were young the phrase that would indicate that they were the most upset or disturbed was the mixed English and Hebrew idiom, “Zeh Lo Fair.” It’s not fair. When they said that, they were appealing to a universal standard of the good and the just, which has ultimate natural authority.

The word “fair,” however has a second meaning as well. To be fair means to be beautiful.

The Queen asks the Mirror in the famous Snow White legend, Mirror on the Wall, “who is the fairest of them all.” And of course there is My Fair Lady. To be fair then is also a quality of aesthetics.

This reminds us that a lack of fairness is not merely an issue of justice but also an issue of beauty. Goodness and integrity are beautiful. To be unfair is not only a violation of justice, it is to be ugly.

All too often in the spiritual world fairness is seen as a practical obligation and an ethical value. And it is that as well. But it is so much more than that.

When someone — anyone — is treated unfairly, a kind of sordid ugliness is born into the world. It can be papered over with a thousand popular albeit numbing spiritual platitudes. It remains just as ugly.

In a forthcoming book (Radical Kabbalah, 2012) I trace the original texts in Hebrew mysticism that talk of the goddess, especially in the work of one pivotal Hasidic master. From a careful reading of that the entire Eros of the goddess is really about justice. The erotic passion of the goddess in Hassidic teaching is about the radical erotic commitment to fairness.

It is in that sense that some of the minions of the goddess in this world are sometimes called fairies. A fairy is a gentle yet sacred and seductive incarnation of the goddess. The fairy is both fair and fair. Beautiful and just. Any good devotee of Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle knows is that to believe in fairies is to give them life. If we would chant Tinkerbelle’s mantra, “I do believe in fairies I do, I do,” fairies come to life as integrity and beauty are once again united and made manifest in the land.

Greetings from Venwoude’s community days event

Venwoude SquareBy Chahat Corten

Hello dearest friends,

Sending you all love and blessing from Venwoude in Holland. This is the first blog post from the Venwoude community days in Holland. In the first couple of days, we had an ecstatic evening with chanting, a teaching on chanting and storie-telling. Ecstatic and passionate ending!

Simply said Marc Gafni has been working round the clock since he got here. First he created a new World Spirituality process which he called “Growing Up,” which was four four-hour sessions in which he guided the community a brilliant and beautiful exploration of what he called Evolutionary We Space.

The process guided people through seven levels of consciousness in which Marc would describe the level and then put us in the voice of that level of consciousness and have everyone talk in first person about they experienced god, community, love and integrity from that level of consciousness.

It was awesome to see, how Marc used this process to kind of surprise everybody into engaging and enacting all the issues on surviving, belonging, power, rules and the great topic of autonomy and community. All the hidden issues were surfaced in away that inspired everyone, made no one bad and gave great honor to each person and the whole community. It was really awesome awesome to watch. It reminded me again of what Center for World Spirituality is so precious.

We have been recording the whole process and there will be some great clips coming from this!

Tomorrow Marc will have a day of conversations (and some students in between) and then Monday-evening diving in 3 days of visioning process, with the leadership group of our community….. I have the sense that something really will shift these days…. :). It also awesome to watch Marc’s love as he makes the issues and dynamics of our community “his issues” and holds everyone with so much care and love and with firmness and direction.

I’ll have another blog post for you soon.

Sending Love,


Exploring the Unique Self and beyond … Discovery and Gratitude (Part 1)

Hands Reflection

By Hans Jecklin

When, more than 40 years ago, I undertook my first steps into the cosmos of Jungian psychology, I was soon confronted with the opposition of an “I”, the person I am in this life, and the “Self” that Carl Gustav Jung understood as both the source and fulfillment of the “I” or as the prior source of potentials for the “I” to manifest in life. Jung was aware of the danger for the “I” to identify with this “Autonomous Reality” or “Divine Archetype” and warned of ego-inflation when a person would – even unconsciously – try to occupy or control that higher reality.

This mostly intellectual differentiation of “I” and “Self” accompanied me for a long time after I started my spiritual search. The longing for the direct experience of God had not only led me beyond psychology, but also to quit the reformed (Christian) church that had been my parents’ choice. I then spent nearly twenty years of practicing Zazen, Tao Yoga and Kashmir Shivaism and went through many dis-illusions, having mis-taken the impermanent for the eternal, until finally grace took over.

Tired of the year-long search through cultures and places, I had at one point asked my Self to make no more fuss and take me over to the Siddhis: “This is like dying” it responded and faster-than-I-could-think a chorus of inner voices exclaimed “This is what we have been waiting for!”. When after a seemingly endless fall through extreme darkness, I ended in indescribable bliss, I realized that this was the unconditional love I had always been looking for and that the irresistible longing that had led me through this labyrinth of temptations is the nature of GRACE.

The natural wish to bring this deep experience into my life of a family-father and business-man soon brought me to understand that — yes! — one hand there was nothing more to search for, but that, on the other, this was just the beginning of the real exploration into spirituality, one that might never end in this life-time.

Happily enough, my longing and curiosity had also led me to a form of past-life therapy where I could experience the “Inner Self” as an undeniable reality: as the presence of eternal, all-encompassing love and wisdom within me. Within this setting, I learnt to surrender to its guidance as an ever-present source that would not only send showers of love through my cellular, emotional and mental bodies but was capable to help me understand and transform traumatic imprints that had been limiting the unfoldment of my life purpose: Unconscious imprints or conditioning, resulting from this lifetime and — depending on our understanding — from cultural heritage (familiar, ethnic, racial, human) or past lifetimes.

Having become a facilitator of this transformational work — which I do not label as strictly “past-life” anymore — I  have over the years been enriched by so many experiences that I can gladly surrender to it, without any doubts about its unique power of love and wisdom. It is my supreme inner guide that not only carries the potential to manifest my unique role on this planet (or in the universe?!) but its wisdom is constantly guiding me into perfect circumstances and moments, right people, books and teachings that I need at a given moment to better respond to the challenges of the ever-evolving present.

I have learnt that I can grow into such subtle intimacy with this endless source of love and wisdom that it has become a supreme partner of dialogue  It may — at my request — permeate and transform or expand my consciousness by its love and wisdom in order to more completely perform my role in the favor of humanity, our planet and the cosmos.

I know that the “Unique Self” that manifests through me is but an aspect of what I would call a “Prior Unity” of all possible potentials, ready to manifest in this or other universes. These potentials constantly arise from the “ONE undivided and eternal presence”; they must originate from before the singular event that we assume as the BigBang and — according to limited human understanding — have evolved through the play of eros and agape ever since.

I have been shown by GRACE how to knock at the door of the “ONE”  that as to my present understanding might be my eternal home, but I know at the same time that NOW my role within this life will be guided by the “Unique Self” that is constantly present within and beyond me.


I am open for additional inspiration to enlarge my present view which — as we all know — is provisional. Please also do not hesitate to ask whenever my limited capacity of writing in English needs support.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Protest as Prayer (Part 5): Certainty of Rage

This post is continued from Part 4

By Marc Gafni

Said differently, by holding uncertainty and not settling for explanations of suffering that our soul intuitively rejects, we reach a higher certainty — the certainty of rage. It may well be that in a century that has seen one hundred million people brutally killed the only path back to God is the certainty of rage. Those who deny the holiness of our anger deny God.

Babies are part of our core certainty. They remind us of all that is pure. They somehow cut though our posturing and touch something deep inside us. Have you ever seen a baby brought into an office — no matter how serious the office — grown men and women almost immediately revert to baby talk, to goo goo gaga. Babies cry out for our protection. They call us to rise to our highest selves. Perhaps this is what Leah understood for the first time as she looked down at little Judah. Until Judah’s birth Leah had been so intent on using her children to get Jacob that she hadn’t really seen them. Only when she gives up her need for Jacob is she able to see her baby. It is from this place she cries out — “I have found myself before God.”

Babies being ripped apart — my mother’s youthful vision — destroy that core certainty. “Where Is God” writes Weisel, “he is hanging on the gallows”…. In the body of a young boy. Incarnation is reversed in the horror of suffering. God becomes human and dies on the gallows. In the reversal is the death of God about which some post-holocaust theologians wrote with such pathos. The Biblical response is different. Biblical men and women work their way back to God, not through pious imprecations justifying God nor through pathos-filled announcements of God’s demise, but through the certainty of rage.

Photo Credit: dariuszka

Oleg Linetsky’s open letter to Ken Wilber and other integral teachers

Oleg Linetsky

Oleg Linetsky

By Joe Perez

Recently the Center for World Spirituality received a welcome and intellectually stimulating letter and paper by Oleg Linetsky from the Ukraine. We’re pleased to be reprinting the letter and paper on the CWS website. These include a major rethinking of “boundaries” in integral theory and an innovative application of Unique Self.

Open letter to Ken Wilber and integral teachers

Dear Ken,

First of all I would like to express my deep love and gratitude for the light of wisdom you bring and your incomparable contribution for the good of sentient beings. Your works had a great impact on my own life, for which I am very grateful to you. On my journey through the pages of your books I experienced a true divine joy.

In this letter I would like to illuminate a side of the Integral Approach (IA) which up until now remained in the darkness, i.e. boundaries. Just like any other objects inside the quadrants, boundaries are objects that can be felt and realized, so they cannot be ignored and left outside the integral map. There are boundaries, even though also illusory for the non-dual witness.

In the natural state of non-dual oneness it becomes clear that all forms arise from the light of primordial ground, and even boundaries are a concentrated light of clarity of the nature of the mind and the final barriers on the way to the inexpressible. They are the very core of our feeling of aliveness and awakeness. They let us feel joy and suffering of life and make life meaningful. The message about boundaries (as five elements, fivefold mahabhuta or five skandhas) came to us from ancient traditions dating back thousands of years. This message is as valuable for humanity as The Great Chain of Being. There is a special method which lets us study boundaries today even in our usual waking state. Boundaries are the missing link between the absolute and the relative, emptiness and form, spirituality and religion, IA and its popularity.

Today we see that the message about boundaries actually describes the mechanism of conscious evolution, understanding of which can promote a progress of humanity towards 2nd tier and simply help us living from the deepest part of us that you and Marc Gafni call the Unique Self. Five boundaries described here are right about how to live in resonance with our Unique Self and how to resolve the problem of wise choice in everyday life using an integral approach.

I want to share my view of boundaries which arose from combining pure non-dual vision (when all boundaries are seen but seen as illusory) and integral vision. Five types of boundaries initialize the format of our evolutionary Game. Here I speak of a timeless, but not of an absolute wisdom that is also called diamond or vajra wisdom in Buddhist tradition. As you know, the state of oneness is paradoxical: everything is “I am,” but “I” remains above everything. But living in this state brings another paradox: although everything is ”I am,” “I” is not the only source of game novelty, so “I” constantly has to face challenges from a nameless source. Each of us is simultaneously the great Creator and an ordinary player on the common playground structured in a certain way.

The text below is composed as a very brief set of theses which are written in terms of IT and still have to be discussed and elaborated. I talk in detail about the message of boundaries in my book The Game. User’s guide. This message can be called “the integral approach to experiencing” as well. It is astonishing that today the wisdom of vajra is being revealed to the world again, largely through the integral approach. This letter is the expression of gratitude to you and all the pioneers of evolutionary spirituality and the integral approach. I would appreciate your feedback and hope there’s a possibility of a broad dialogue about boundaries with you and integrally oriented spiritual teachers like Sally Kempton, Marc Gafni, Terry Patten, Roger Walsh and others.

Love, light and wishes of good health,
Oleg Linetsky

20th of march 2012

Read the entire paper here.

What is the difference between a feeling and an emotion?


By Joe Perez

Recently Robert Augustus Masters wrote:

Once we really understand that there is no true escape from feeling, including unpleasant or distressing feeling, we may start, at last, to consciously and consistently turn toward such feeling, like a loving parent turning, with full presence and compassion, toward their just-hurt or badly frightened child…

I struggled to express whether I agreed or disagreed with this sentiment and ultimately concluded that much depends on the sense given to the word “feeling.” The word “feeling” is often seen as a synonym for “emotion,” but the two words have a different feeling to them, don’t they? Maybe they even create subtly different emotional responses in you?

The sound of the words are different, and getting a feel for the words through sound symbolism (the investigation of the importance of vocal sounds for meaning) is an interesting entry point to this topic. In this post, consider the similarities between the sound of the phonemes in the words, such as the “fi” sound in “feeling” and “finger.”

A “feeling” is closely connected to what we perceive through the fingers. The first definition in the dictionary says it’s related to the “function or the power of perceiving by touch.” Feelings tend to be warm or cold. Feelings are not responses that are linked to sight, hearing, taste, or smell; thus, feelings have less precision than emotions. Feelings are often vague, and more frequently flow down than up, just as liquid flows downhill but never uphill. People feel bad more than they feel good. They feel pain more than they feel pleasant. Feelings are rarely complex.

On the other hand, “emotions” are very complex. Like feelings, they are connected to the life force or ch’i; however in emotion, the ch’i is more directly referenced, not mediated through touch. Emotions take life energy and move them from one place to another, swaying like the tides in the ocean from incredible, tsunami-like highs to waves crashing against cliffs. Emotions involve such things as joy, sadness, fear, hate, love … emotions that may be loosely called “feelings,” but which are much more complex than more tactile feelings like warm and cold, good and bad. Emotions can be easily agitated, and once disturbed they tend to flow in negative or neutral directions.

Yes, “feeling” and “emotion” may be roughly equated, but there are subtle differences. From a spiritual perspective, we must understand that both emotions and feelings enact a process which directly or less directly stirs the life force, making it loose and liquid as with feelings or putting it into motion in ocean-like waves as with emotions.

You may hear spiritual teachers tell you that there is no need to escape from feelings, no matter how unpleasant or distressing, but this is subtly off base. Feelings can be avoided if they are unpleasant or distressing, much as you would remove your finger off a hot stove or remove your foot from an icy pool. There is no need to wallow, no need to lose peacefulness unnecessarily.

It is the emotions that can’t be avoided, and ought not be.

Emotions begin with ch’i, unmediated, not with an ephemeral bit of friction. It is their nature that they must be encountered; there is no getting around them whatsoever. The only question is where they can be moved, not whether.

Like the ocean, they can rise to the surface or fall to the depths; they can stay out in the wide blue yonder or crash upon shore. And when they crash, they may find their way to soft, sandy, white pristine beaches or jagged, mountainous fjords.

With Robert August Masters, I believe there is wisdom in not bypassing emotions. But I’m a stickler for finding the right word. I do not see the point to “consciously and consistently turn toward … feeling,” which risks distracting our equanimity with pointless diversions. It is better said that it is emotion that we must consciously and consistently turn towards, so that we may open ourselves to Love and allow Spirit to move the oceanic waves within us to their most auspicious resolution.

Photo Credit: Meredith_Farmer

Why disgust is important from a spiritual perspective


By Joe Perez

One of the most important insights of the Integral Framework is that it helps us to integrate psychological research regarding the basis for our worldviews with our spirituality. For instance, when we learn that many (but not all) liberals and many (but not all) conservatives are more likely to hold a common psychological type or structure-stage which per se is neither good nor bad, and for which they are not morally accountable, then we become less judgmental of them.

Thereupon we learn to dis-identify with exclusively liberal or conservative impulses as we locate within our own psyche the basis upon which liberals and conservatives usually hold out their warring worldviews as the only one worth belief. This change in political beliefs is associated with the arrival of a more expansive identification of the self and the world it inhabits. The self holds more of a both/and perspective rather than either/or.

Now it turns out researchers are constantly giving us greater understanding of how this all happens. Writing on Towleroad, Chris Mooney reviews the evidence to substantiate the fact that there appears to be no rational basis for the belief that children are harmed by same-sex marriage and unions. But Mooney’s main point is not political, but psychological. He argues that there is a psychological basis for differences in belief among liberals and conservatives regarding gay marriage, and it has to do with feelings of disgust:

There are a small number of Christian right researchers and intellectuals who have tried to make a scientific case against same-sex marriages and unions, by citing alleged harms to children. This stuff isn’t mainstream or scientifically accepted — witness the APA’s statements on the matter. But from the perspective of the Christian right, that doesn’t really matter. When people are looking for evidence to support their deeply held views, the science suggests that people engage in “motivated reasoning.” Their deep emotional convictions guide the retrieval of self-supporting information that they then use to argue with, to prop themselves up. It isn’t about truth, it’s about feeling that you’re right — righteous, even.

And where, in turn, do these emotions come from? Well, there’s the crux. A growing body of research shows that liberals and conservatives, on average, have different moral intuitions, impulses that bias us in different directions before we’re even consciously thinking about situations or issues. Indeed, this research suggests that liberals and conservatives even have different bodily responses to stimuli, of a sort that they cannot control. And one of the strongest areas of difference involves one’s sensitivity to the feeling of disgust.

recent study, for instance, found that “individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.” In other words, there’s now data to back up what we’ve always kind of known: The average conservative, much more than the average liberal, is having visceral feelings of disgust towards same-sex marriage. And then, when these conservatives try to consciously reason about the matter, they seize on any information to support or justify their deep-seated and uncontrolled response — which pushes them in the direction of believing and embracing information that appears to justify and ratify the emotional impulse.

The key takeaway, for my purposes today, is that when we look at our beliefs and those of our neighbors about important subjects of concern to us all, we are not looking at beliefs formed strictly out of either emotional or rational bases. Beliefs can also be almost instinctual, rooted in primordial feelings planted deep in the reptilian brain. In a sense, debates about gay marriage can turn into a show of force between a mature human perspective and a reptile perspective rationalized with human defense mechanisms.

Perhaps disgust is not something quickly changed, but it is a conditioned reaction that can be changed given the right amount of time, inclinations, and technique. But anyone concerned with making positive changes in the world needs to know this information and develop strategies smart enough to account for more of reality. And that is one way to characterize the Integral perspective on which World Spirituality is grounded: it is based in reality, and a commitment to continually embrace and include as much of it as possible… and perhaps, by extension, be disgusted by as little of it as possible.

What is Somatics?


Originally published on iEvolve on February 1, 2012.

By Mary Ann Gray Voorhies

Somatics, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, is a powerful new discipline in the field of health care.  Somatics (also called Clinical Somatic Education) gives us the technology and the tools that enable us to learn to control our own physiology. Now, arguably for the first time in history, we have the POWER to change our own bodies in relatively rapid ways — ways that can dramatically improve our health and well being. Now, thanks to Thomas Hanna, we have at our disposal simple ways to become victorious over the negative effects of accumulated stress or trauma on the human body.

Through the use of this “new” discovery and the employment of simple movement techniques, we can harness innate powers of self-sensing, self-regulating and self-healing. Through the discovery and the utilization of these innate powers we have “set foot on a new continent as far as health care is concerned” as Hanna said. This discovery is a giant leap for humankind — a paradigm which its proponents say significantly advances our embodied understanding as well as our ability to transform our own bodies through leading edge somatic technologies.  It is evident to practitioners that the practice of somatics enables us to create fast, direct, long-lasting changes in our movements, range of motion, postural alignment, coordination, pain relief, youthful appearance, and body efficiency.

The practice of this type of somatics (which reprograms the neuromuscular system through simple movements) can place in one’s hand the wonderful key that that can powerfully and easily change the brain/body wholistically and systemically from within. The practice of this slow, gentle non-invasive movement technique relatively quickly brings the body back into balance and alignment and can naturally and effectively clear up (and prevent) up to 80 percent of all functional bodily complaints, pain and diseases.

According to Thomas Hanna, through the proper use of human consciousness (by directing our intention and attention inward) and by performing specific easy slow movements, we can easily overcome physiological limitations in heretofore unheard of ways. According to Hanna, our bodies are not THINGS or objects to be manipulated from the outside. We are somas whose minds and bodies are one. In fact, CONSCIOUSNESS is a powerful and causative force that can reshape our whole system. Somatics is based on a thorough understanding of neurophysiology and how we can harness innate powers of self-balancing, self-healing and self -ejuvenation.

In his book “Somatics,” Hanna quotes a physician who attended one of his classes, saying, “This is the missing link in health care. What I have learned (from Hanna) has as much potential for understanding the mind-body relationship as Einstein’s theory of relativity had for physics.”

How Does Somatics Work?

Many diseases have as their root cause a “disconnect” between the sensory motor cortex and the muscles or muscle groups. To put it simply, the practice of somatics restores that connection. The disconnection (which occurs because of accumulated stress or accident, i.e. physical trauma) results in chronic muscular holding patterns that can wreak havoc on one’s health and comfort. When the muscles or muscle groups become chronically contracted — what we call sensory motor amnesia — the posture is pulled out of balance, often causing pain or discomfort and can contribute to many complaints and diseases. The chronically shortened and contracted muscles can impinge on and pull on nerves, bones, organs and joints and other bodily structures causing a myriad of common and painful complaints. Among these are bursitis, some types of arthritis, bulging discs, scoliosis, knee problems, back pain, hip problems, bent over posture, fibromyalgia, avoiding surgery, impotence, some forms of high blood pressure, and much more.

Sensory motor amnesia can also be a cause of breathing problems and the root cause of many of the major health problems (such as heart disease). Sensory motor amnesia is also widely mistaken for old age. Clearly aging is a healthy process of the body which  the body can gracefully experience with enormous beauty and  dignity.  Yet so much of what we feel is inevitable and label as “old age” is really not that all. Much of the decrepitude of old age is what Hanna refers to as myth. In fact it is the result of sensory motor amnesia and can be fully overcome through somatic learning and practice.

Through the practice of somatics, the signs and symptoms —so much of  the creakiness, decrepitude, poor posture, aches, pains and discomforts of aging can now be prevented, alleviated or even at times, reversed! All of this is possible because the brain controls the body. And, we can learn to reprogram our brains! Aspects of Hanna’s leading edge work has since been confirmed by multiple studies in the nature of neuroplasticity, and ongoing research continues to contribute to the scholarship around somatics and holistic health to this day.

Sensory Motor Amnesia

A more detailed scientific explanation of sensory motor amnesia is that it is a loss or distortion of freedom of movement, of control of muscular tension, and of the body-sense. It’s a maladaptation that occurs in the brain — in the person’s internal self-sense, and in their capacity for activity.  Here’s how it happens:

Commonly, with long-term stress or injury, the memory of stress or bodily trauma displaces the memory of healthy movement and feeling. Memory takes place according to contemporary neuroscience, primarily in the sensory motor cortex which is right behind the frontal lobe of the brain and it is the part of the brain that controls all movement and motor actives.  The person forgets what free and balanced movement feels like and how to move freely. (That’s the “amnesia” part.) Involuntary muscular tension and, often, pain sets in.  The person starts limiting their life to avoid pain. So, the effects are both physiological and psychological (right and left sides of the AQAL matrix of Integral Theory).

The practice of clinical somatic education frees a person from the grip of memories of stress and/or trauma and develops healthy memory patterns in the brain of sensation and movement that, in turn, restores healthy movement, a healthier self-sense, and healthier physiological homeostasis among all systems of the body, with corresponding psychological effects. Since the brain controls the muscles the brain transmits these new memories into the muscular system and this in turn produces healthier movement patterns.

Hanna found that through the skillful employment of the pandicular response (an innate action pattern), one could easily, effectively, rapidly and powerfully:

  1. Dispel the “controlling charge” of memories of stress and trauma,
  2. Develop healthy patterns of function,
  3. Cause large, durable improvements in one’s health and self-awareness.

As a mind-body learning process, the practice of somatics develops new neural pathways in the brain (which is why it is called education). And, since the mind and body are the “inner” and “outer” sides of the same thing (“soma”), not only is the “body” affected, but the whole human being (inner and outer) is affected in very positive ways — in energy level, self-awareness and capacity for participation in life. In fact, as part of an integral life practice, somatics can assist powerfully in spiritual transformation.

Hanna says that “the human species, possessed with a brain whose genius is unlimited learning and adaptation, is a species that is genetically designed to age by GROWING. (Not by declining.) Not to expect to grow (physically and psychologically) is to misunderstand what it means to be human. Not to do so is to fail in the God-given task of living a fully human life.”

This marvelous discovery  — that we can somatically learn our way back to restored vigor, health and wholeness in a relatively easy and rapid fashion (through somatic learning) is tantamount to saying that we are now is in possession of an amazing powerful evolutionary technology and knowing, which teaches us how to  easily care for ourselves in marvelous, effective and wonderful ways. Somatics gives us valuable tools and practices that  have the power to literally transform our bodies, and shift inexorably the experience of aging, in ways that were never before thought possible before in the history of humankind. We now have the know-how and the God-given ability to become autonomous, self-determining, self-balancing and self-healing which, in turn, can lead to human freedom — and optimal health and well being. No longer do we have to be helpless victims of negative circumstances and many physically painful situations.

In his book Somatics, Hanna says, “Somatic exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our bodies and minds interrelate, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total beings” …  “This new discipline in health care realizes that sensory motor amnesia describes a category of health problems that has not been recognized until now. Sensory motor amnesia (which can wreak havoc on one’s health and comfort) is a somatic pathology that requires not treatment but somatic movement education.” He goes on to say that ”we must break the bonds that limit us, so that the growth and evolution of the human species may continue toward that greater destiny which now, with increasing impatience awaits us.”

Thomas Hanna’s Vision

As put forth in many of his books, writings and teachings, Thomas Hanna was concerned not only with Clinical Somatic Education (the education of the sensory motor system) but he also had a larger concern about the somatic education of the entire human being. He was very concerned with the more philosophical and psychological aspects of somatic education. He was also concerned with alleviating psychological and emotional suffering (in the thinking mind). As a trained academic philosopher himself, he focused his study on the figures that he referred to as somatic psychologists and somatic philosophers. These included the likes of William James, Kierkegaard, and key teachers of Eastern philosophies. In this sense somatic meant for Hanna embodied  experiencing from within. For Hanna the somatic experiencing which lies at the core of his system was already to be found in nascent forms in the teaching of many of the great traditions.  For Hanna there was not split at all between body, mind and heart all of which came together to form the wholeness of the human soma. Hanna had a deep and thorough understanding of how spiritual teachings and practices can be somatically life giving and transformative.  For Hanna it is empirically clear that consciousness can be directed also to change attitudes, interpretations, negative beliefs and values and by doing so can actually change brain chemistry and reshape the system.

In Body of Life, Hanna says, “What the neurophysiological research of the last several decades tells us is that the kinds of thoughts we think determines the quality and effectiveness of our lives. It has been found the thoughts are sensory motor events and thinking can tense and activate muscles (causing contractions that can negatively affect our health).” He goes on to say that when we repeatedly think thoughts and memories of hurt, despair, anger, revenge or fear, we are physically injuring ourselves — we are engaging in self destruction. You can be sure that the weight of neurological evidence is massively on the side of those who advise us to think positive thoughts rather than negative ones when at all possible. Hanna said that what he was teaching was NOT just a manipulative technique (not just “body work” — heaven forbid), but a wholistic science of total transformation that would include all aspects of our beings and that “mind” and “body” are “one.” He called this learning process Somatology — the wholistic science of human experience and behavior.

We must “shine a light,” not only on our unconscious maladaptive memory patterns in the sensory motor parts of our brains (which keep us stuck, suffering and unfree) — but we must also “shine a light” on our unconscious maladaptive psychological and behavioral memory “habit” patterns, as well.

According to Hanna this is done by unlearning the maladaptive patterns that keep us stuck and enslaved to our own conditioning, like puppets on a string. We must enact more empowering patterns, which will liberate us to relate in a more loving and whole way  to ourselves and others. To be liberated from these patterns of “suffering” in our total beings —both physiological AND psychological — is  to be truly free. To be free in both of these ways is what Hanna called “The Fair State.”

Who Was Thomas Hanna?

Thomas Hanna ­ — born 1928, died 1990 — was a philosopher who through years of study, research and practice, developed Clinical Somatic Education, also known as Hanna Somatic Education. Hanna spent his life searching for ways for human beings to become free — intellectually, psychologically and physically.

After receiving a Ph.D. in philosophy and Divinity from the University of Chicago in 1958, Hanna began a successful teaching career at several colleges. He also had the fortune to teach, conduct research and write in Paris, Brussels and Mainz, Germany. In 1965, Hanna became chairman of the Philosophy department at the University of Florida. While there he studied neurophysiology at the medical school. His experiences in studying divinity, philosophy and the neurosciences led him to the idea that all life experiences lead to certain physical “patterns” in the body. He coined the word somatics (with an s). To him, soma did not mean only body (like the old Greek meaning) but soma means the entirety of who you and I are, wholistically. He contended that we as somas are always wanting life and wanting life more abundantly. He believed that we can, through certain somatic practices, both “bodily” and “psychologically,” we can achieve what he called the “Fair State,” — optimal mental and physical health. In other words, human beings have the capacity to FREE themselves from suffering on all levels, wholistically … body, mind, spirit.

In 1973, Hanna moved to San Francisco, where he became the director of the graduate school at the Humanistic Psychology Institute. There, he discovered Functional Integration, which was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais. Hanna founded and directed the first Feldenkrais training program in the United States in 1975.
From the previous experience, education, research and background, plus the experience he gained from his studies with Feldenkrais, Hanna developed his own very powerful way of dealing with mysterious symptoms with his clients who had seen many doctors without relief. Hanna was able to relieve and eliminate the pain and suffering quickly with his new technique. During the 1980s Hanna continued his work and research calling himself “a philosopher who works with his hands.” During that time Hanna helped many people overcome what were thought by the medical community to be hopeless cases.

In 1990, Hanna began his own training program. Tragically, though, he was only able to complete the first summer of a three-summer training period. Thankfully for us, he was able to transmit the core of his teachings and practices.  Thomas Hanna died in the summer of 1990 in a car accident.

Thomas Hanna’s Vision and Dream

Thomas Hanna was engaged not only with helping individuals, but he was passionately concerned with the collective well being of the human race  in a larger cultural and societal context. He was interested in educating people in how we as a society could learn to understand how to prevent suffering from happening in the first place. In his book Body of Life he wrote that “all somatic distortion (and suffering) reflect problems that are simultaneously problems in the person`s lifestyle. A somatic understanding of ourselves allows us to understand, to a larger degree, what is happening to us and why our THOUGHTS , our culture and our individual ways of living affect us in emotional and physiological ways. By understanding ourselves and the fuller aspects of our functioning, we are empowered to help ourselves. We can learn healthier ways to process our experience. Our total beings can be transformed by our daily experience and what we focus our consciousness on. We know now that our sensory-motor systems are just as capable of positive life-giving transformations as of negative ones. Quite apart from society and culture, we can redeem ourselves and take control of our own sensory-motor growth just as easily as we can abandon ourselves and lose control. We simply need to know how. It is a question of somatic LEARNING — learning those patterns that are more efficient and unlearning patterns that are painful and inefficient.”

Above all else, Thomas Hanna was concerned with the evolution of  the human race as a whole. And, he envisioned that a somatic understanding would lead us there. He also had a traditional yet evolutionary spiritual understanding of who we are as humans. He believed that we have a destiny to fulfill. In his book The End of Tyranny, he wrote, “As humans move toward the possession of themselves and our brotherhood, there is only one thing that stays our hand and holds us back — the uncanny inward voice that tells us that is really not possible — that the control of one’s destiny is naive, unrealistic and foolishly utopian. It is the taunting pessimistic voice that says — you will fail — you will fail.” He goes on to say that we CAN transform the world by transforming ourselves into “free humans” (though  inner experiential somatic education — body, mind, spirit.)

In the conclusion of The End of Tyranny, Thomas Hanna anticipates the potential emergence of a World Spirituality rooted in love. He writes:

“Our religious traditions are correct, mankind does stand in need of forgiveness, and we need to forgive one another. The prophetic injunction to love one another always seemed to be a promised destiny and a forceful necessity. We must LOVE or DIE! Learning to love other human beings and achieving the happiness of creating positive community bonds with others is a crucial need of us all. Only human LOVE and the realization that we are all ‘one’ can save us from ourselves (our ego driven madness) and heal our social fragmentation. We can create conditions that can create superior human beings.”

So, in my opinion, Thomas Hanna would be delighted and thrilled that his work has become a part of World Spirituality because his mission is our mission, as well — nothing less than the positive evolution of consciousness of the human race. In his book Bodies in Revolt, written in the seventies, Hanna talks about the Evolution Revolution. It the energy of this evolution revolution which drew me to support and participate in the Center for World Spirituality.

Daily Wisdom: It Depends on Love

ShadowyBy Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

It depends on Love

The technology for shadow integration is love.  Shadow causes a transformation of identity.  Love is the evolution–any force that transmutes shadow to light.

The inner magic and mechanism of love makes it the ultimate technology of Unique Shadow transformation.  The nature of that magic and mechanism is an essential sacred understanding necessary for your Unique Self enlightenment.

In order to integrate your shadow, your unlived life acting out and demanding attention, a transformation of your identity must occur. The key Aramaic phrase used by the Unique Self masters to describe the nature of this path is be’chavivut talya milta, “It depends on love.”

Photo Credit: Raphael Borja