Calling All Integral Practitioners! Responding Effectively to the Crises and Craziness of Our Times

Roger WalshArticle, Audio, Cognitive, Conversations, Lifestyle, Perspectives, Spiritual, Spirituality, Volitional, World Affairs

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Calling All Integral Practitioners!

Responding Effectively to the Crises and Craziness Of Our Times

Roger Walsh
University of California at Irvine

We are in a race between consciousness and catastrophe, and the potential catastrophes keep multiplying. Social and political turmoil, cold wars and hot wars, culture wars and cyberwars — the list of social challenges is long and growing.

But looming far larger are unprecedented threats to the survival of our civilization and even our species. Pandemics have grabbed attention, but are merely a warning shot. Barreling towards us is a constellation of crises such as overpopulation, resource depletion, ecological collapse, weapons of mass destruction, and more. Worse, the urgency of these crises keeps increasing and the time for effective action shortening. There are many reasons for this urgency, and three are crucial:

The crises are interconnected and mutually aggravating, and together constitute what is called the metacrisis of our time.

Ecology, climate, and societies — like all complex systems — are subject to tipping points and cascading failures.

Tipping points are conditions at which sudden rapid, sometimes irreversible shifts occur.

Cascading failures are crises in which a change or failure in one system, such as loss of a global rainforest, causes drastic changes in a second system, say global rainfall, which causes droughts, which cause loss of rainforest, which causes… You get the picture.

The rate of ecological and climate degradation is accelerating faster than anticipated.

Each new analysis seems to reveal more rapid disruptions, and the first major report of 2021 warns in its title of the risks of Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future4. People’s responses to these threats differ dramatically. Most putter along in semi-willful ignorance, consumed by the struggle to survive or the busyness of modern society. Some angrily dismiss such threats as alarmist or fake news, while others tranquilize themselves with trivia aided by technological toys and mass media’s never-ending stream of narcotizing insignificance.

The power of such psychological defenses to distort, deny, or distract us from painful realities is awesome. They’re also self-destructive, as any psychotherapist will attest. Worse, they’re now also potentially society and planet-destructive as threats to the planet are dismissed, and bizarre conspiracy theories such as QAnon — which is frankly delusional — proliferate wildly3. Clearly effective interventions will need to address these psychological defenses.

Fortunately, growing numbers of people are recognizing our global dilemma. Many are profoundly concerned about the possibility of civilizational collapse — a catastrophe so inconceivably huge that it would dwarf anything in human history, doom billions to death, and leave a miniscule remainder scrabbling to survive6. The pessimists or “Doomers” have given up hope that we can forestall disaster, and are searching for how best to survive in a drastically disrupted world. Some have adopted a bunker mentality (literally) and are building bunkers and stockpiling weapons to protect themselves, and only themselves. Others, such as the Deep Adaptation movement, are encouraging both personal and social adaptation to anticipated disasters2; 9.

But the outcome is not predestined and our fate is in our hands. No matter how bad our crises, our responses will decide both their consequences and our destiny. If that’s so, and it is, it raises one of the great questions of our time and of all time: How can we contribute most effectively to help mitigate or heal these crises? 

As integral practitioners, this question becomes: How can we use our integral skills to contribute most effectively? Of course, beneath this lies another question: How do we discover our most effective contributions?

To answer these questions requires us to identify the deep roots, the source code, of our crises and craziness, and to recognize what these roots reveal about what truly helps. For if we don’t address root causes, we’re just going to be doing first aid, forever applying social-global band-aids to symptoms, but not creating cures.

This article suggests answers to these questions, but not by offering a one-size-fits-all prescription. Rather, it poses questions and offers principles which guide each of us to discover our own unique answers and our deepest, most effective contributions. 

To do this, I invite you to ponder four questions and ten principles. These are particular kinds of questions, specifically, wisdom questions. The principles point to deep roots of our crises, as well as ways we can address these roots to simultaneously free the world and ourselves from them. 

Four Key Questions

What Can I Do?

This is the first question about contribution that naturally arises as we open to the suffering around us. Given my unique situation, my capacities and connections, my integral understanding, what can I do? How can I help? It’s a beautiful question, which opens us to the world’s pain and calls forth our care and compassion.

What Do I Feel Called to Contribute?

This is an important complementary question. It recognizes that each of us is especially sensitive to some forms of suffering and inspired by some kinds of action. Some ways of contributing align with our interests and skills, and we’re far more likely to be energized and impassioned by responses that call and inspire us.

Some of us will feel impelled to be on the front lines, to pound the pavements, feed the hungry, or protest pollution. Others will be drawn to changing hearts and minds with art or music, teaching or writing (such as this). Still others will feel called inwards — to meditate, contemplate, or pray — and then to return to the fray with a more open heart, a bigger perspective, a wiser response. Each of us is called to listen and respond to our unique call.

What’s the Most Strategic Thing I Can Do?

There’s a deeper question than “What can I do?” and “What would I like to do?” The deeper question is, “What’s the most strategic thing I can do to help?” What kind of contribution will leverage my offering for the greatest impact?

This is the art of trimtabbing: exerting influence at the most sensitive point so as to maximize benefits. “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough,” exclaimed the ancient Greek inventor Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” That’s what we’re looking for — our place to stand and leverage the impact of our contributions so as to move the world.

How Can I Live My Life So as To Be an Optimal Instrument of Service?

Deeper still is this long-term, actually life-long, question. Now we are looking, not just for a single contribution, but for a life of contribution. This means not only recognizing our most strategic contribution now, but also exploring how to cultivate our capacities so as to see more clearly, relate more sensitively, and act more effectively throughout life.

What Kinds Of Questions Are These?

To answer these four queries most effectively, we need to recognize what kind of questions they are. For there are two very different kinds of questions — knowledge and wisdom questions — and they offer very different kinds of answers.

Knowledge questions have a one-time answer. Is it raining outside? Look out the window and you have your answer. End of question!

But wisdom questions are more like Zen koans. Each time you ask them, they have the potential for taking you deeper into the question, deeper into yourself, and deeper into life. The answers keep changing and deepening as circumstances change and we deepen, and there is no end to the potential for change and deepening. Hopefully we will be asking these questions for the rest of our lives. As the answers deepen, they unveil successively deeper and richer understandings (sophic wisdom), as well as more effective ways of responding (practical wisdom). In short, they deepen wisdom.

Which raises the question, “what is wisdom?” It’s a crucial question because not only are we in a race between consciousness and catastrophe; we’re also in a race between sagacity and catastrophe. 

Wisdom is deep, nuanced insight and understanding of oneself and the central existential issues of life, plus practical skill in responding effectively and benevolently. 

There’s a lot in that definition and I’ve unpacked it in previous articles14; 16. Here we need only point to a few key concepts. First, the definition includes both of the two classic components of wisdom: sophic (insight and understanding) and practical (practical skill). Second, “the central existential issues of life” concern the major questions and challenges that we all face as human beings, such as finding meaning and purpose, navigating relationships, giving and receiving care and support, and facing suffering and death. One of the central existential issues of life is now how best to respond to the threats to our civilization and planet. The four wisdom questions above invite us to consider our contributions in light of these threats.

What Do We Need to Know to Contribute Effectively?

There are certain principles that are very helpful for contributing effectively. The following ten principles provide a big-picture context for understanding our current dilemmas, unearthing their roots, and revealing deep, effective responses.

Principle #1: All Civilizations Face Recurrent Threats and Require Creative Responses.

Yes, COVID, nuclear weapons, global overpopulation, and ecological collapse are crises unique to our times. However, they are novel variations of a recurring story. 

Civilizations are complex systems that demand enormous energy and ingenuity to create and maintain. Entropy is ceaseless and the pull to decay and disintegration is relentless. New threats keep arising, so that overcoming them and preserving civilization require constant ingenuity and innovation. 

The historian Arnold Toynbee identified this as the recurring cycle of “challenge and response.” Each new challenge must be met by a novel response from a “creative minority.” This is the small group of people who first recognize a new threat, innovate solutions, and then inspire the conventional majority to acknowledge the threat and adopt the solutions. Effective creative responses therefore require a three-fold process of recognition, innovation, and inspiration. 

Inspiring the slumbering majority to face reality and respond appropriately can be extremely difficult, as both history and the half-hearted responses to our current global crises demonstrate. The reasons for this mass inertia are many, and as subsequent principles demonstrate, reach far deeper than usually recognized.

Principle #2: People Tend to Regress Under Threat, But Can Be Encouraged to Progress and Contribute. 

If we are encouraging people to recognize major threats to themselves, our society, and our civilization, we’d better know how people usually respond to threats. Sadly, they often regress psychologically and fall back into less mature, more constricted ways of thinking and acting. Thus they may become more egocentric and defensive, contract into tunnel vision, and adopt short-term, black and white thinking.

This is very helpful for fleeing a lion. However, it’s not so helpful for responding to complex, long-term, global problems that require us to consider all people and future generations. That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that, given the right support, people can progress instead of regress. What’s the right support? It offers three things: a context, a purpose, and a means. 

A context is a mental framework, a way of understanding and making sense of a situation. There are multiple possible contexts, but the most helpful ones do three things: make the challenge understandable, show people how they can master it, and inspire them to do so. 

The first principle described above provides one such context and way of understanding: “Yes, resource depletion (or ecological disruption or climate change or…) is a major threat. Fortunately, history offers some guidance. We know that all civilizations face threats, and what they require of us is that we come up with creative solutions and inspire people to adopt them.” That’s a valuable context because it makes sense of the situation, points to a solution, and provides a purpose. 

Here’s another example of a useful context: “Yes, we created a dangerous situation and we didn’t prepare for it. However, if enough of us commit to solving it and learning from it, we can turn the situation around, and also come out of it wiser and better prepared to prevent future crises.” By looking at it in this way, we have reframed the challenge and transformed it into an opportunity and a purpose. 

Reframing is an extremely valuable skill. It consists of offering helpful perspectives or reinterpretations, and it’s perhaps the quickest of all psychological interventions. Resolving fears and defenses can take months or more. Growing more mature can take years. But reframing can be instantaneous. Of course, skillful reframing is an art, but you can see its value for making sense of our contemporary crises and inspiring helpful responses. 

The third thing people need are the means: ways to implement their purpose. This is crucial because research shows that if people see an easy way to help, they will. But if they can't see a way to help, they’re liable to become defensive, and then denigrate the victims. 

Creative contributors will find their own way. Other people benefit from suggestions and encouragement, such as, “Here are some ways all of us can help. Which ones appeal to you?” 

Principle #3: Our Usual State of Mind Is Dysfunctional and Delusional.

We often assume that, while our minds have their problems, they basically function about as well as possible. Yes, they (and therefore we) have glitches — quirks, cravings, compulsions, and more — but hey, that’s just the way they are and therefore we are and have to be. 

But suppose our minds don’t have to be that way. What if they and we are actually functioning far less effectively than we recognize, and way less effectively than possible? What if much of our suffering — both individual and collective — could be traced to our mental states: to false beliefs, buggy source code, and arrested development? Then perhaps our minds could be healed and cultivated so as to become far more mature and functional, and so as to relieve much of the world’s suffering and our own. 

These are exactly the central claims of the world’s contemplative traditions: those mind training disciplines at the heart of the world’s religions such as Christian contemplation, Buddhist meditation, or Taoist yoga. These traditions draw on centuries of profound exploration of the mind — both its problems and its potentials — and provide profound insights into of our human nature, the source of our crises, and approaches to alleviating them. 

What do these contemplative traditions tell us? A compelling way to summarize their insights is by sharing the core recognitions of the Buddha. This is the man who devoted himself to an unrelenting quest to understand life and the cause and cure of suffering until, after six intense years, he finally saw so deeply into the mind, life, and suffering, that his insights changed the course of human history. 

What he saw was that our usual state of mind is dysfunctional. In fact, it’s deluded and out of control — compelled by cravings, hypnotized by wandering thoughts, and lost in endless fantasies. In short, we are only half awake and half grown up.

Worse, until we systematically explore our minds, we don’t even recognize how impaired they are, or how much healthier and happier they and we can become. We also don’t recognize how much suffering — both ours and the world’s — stems from our uncontrolled minds. In short, the Buddha recognized that untrained minds are uncontrolled and deluded, and that this is the unrecognized source of much of the world’s suffering. Therein lies a central source of our suffering, but also its solution. The key to the source and solution of our crises lies within us.

Principle #4: We Can Wake Up and Grow Up

If contemplatives had only diagnosed our problem, they would have merely left us depressed. Fortunately, they also found a solution — a treatment for our flailing minds. For our minds can be trained, cultivated, healed, and honed. Perception can be clarified, emotions transformed, fear can yield to love, and egocentricity to generosity. It’s not necessarily easy and it takes time. However, to wake up and grow up is one of the most valuable and beautiful things one can do with a human life.

Each contemplative tradition has its own way of doing this via its own unique constellation of practices. However, they all contain at least six core practices12:

  • Ethics: how to live in ways that honor and protect ourselves and others.
  • Attention training: learning how to stabilize and calm the mind.
  • Refining motivation: weakening egocentric compulsions and craving, while cultivating ego-transcending callings such as self-actualization, self-transcendence, and selfless service.
  • Emotional transformation: reducing painful destructive emotions such as hatred and jealousy while strengthening pleasurable beneficial emotions such as love and joy.
  • Wisdom: clearly seeing the way things are and how to respond skillfully.
  • Service: working to support the well-being and awakening of everyone, including oneself.

Principle #5: Others Are Also Deluded — But We Can Help.

A moment’s reflection brings another potentially life-changing recognition: we are not alone in being deluded and entranced. We live in a collective trance and in the biggest cult of all: cult-ure. This is the usual human condition. This is what passes for normality, and this is the source of so much suffering and so many crises. 

If that’s true, then what’s to be done? Obviously any truly effective response, any real cure, needs to include an awakening from our collective trance. This is where a truly radical investigation of the roots of our social and global crises brings us. To the recognition that these crises have deep roots in our own psyches, that our psyches are far more distorted and deluded than we usually recognize, and that healing our outer crises requires inner healing too.

This is a profoundly transformative realization. For when we really let in how deeply our world is entranced, and how much it suffers because of this, we naturally feel compassion and the call to heal both the trance and the crises. 

Principle #6: Healing the World Calls For Healing Ourselves. 

We can only help heal the collective trance to the extent that we have awoken from our own individual trance. Therefore, an essential initial step is to work to heal and awaken our own minds so that we can more effectively heal and awaken other minds. And with that recognition we have rediscovered for ourselves one of humankind’s highest and most encompassing ideals: the Buddhist bodhisattva aspiration. 

A Bodhisattva is an “enlightening being,” someone dedicated to healing and awakening themselves and others. The Bodhisattva aspiration is the desire to awaken and heal ourselves as fully as possible in order to help awaken and heal others as fully as possible. This, say contemplatives in general and Buddhists in particular, is the way to help most effectively, heal most deeply, and cure most radically. 

There are four levels of occupation: a job, a career, a calling (work guided by an inner directive), and a mission (a calling with a transpersonal goal that extends beyond our own individual wellbeing). Those who open themselves compassionately to the extent of the world’s suffering are called to become effective instruments of service; those who recognize the deep roots of this suffering take becoming Bodhisattvas as their mission. 

This is not a time to play small. Our society is in turmoil, our planet plundered, our civilization at risk. Why would we want to do anything less than heal the deepest roots of our multiple crises? And if that takes becoming a Bodhisattva, so be it!

At first the Bodhisattva aspiration is simply an aspiration, a hope, a nice idea. However, eventually it becomes a recognition that this is what we most deeply want, since only an aspiration as encompassing, compassionate and profound as this is enough to do justice to who we really are, to who others really are, and to the urgency of our situation.

Updating the Bodhisattva Aspiration

As integral practitioners we will want to update and expand the Bodhisattva aspiration. In addition to healing and awakening ourselves and others, we will also want to aspire to growing up. That is, we will aspire to mature, and help others mature, through both the conventional and postconventional stages of adult psychological development recently discovered by Western psychologists17. This kind of psychological growth is crucial since each subsequent stage offers a richer, wiser, and more effective way of understanding and responding to life and its challenges.

Growing up is more important than ever because the exploding complexity of contemporary society is placing ever-growing demands on citizens for more sophisticated ways of thinking and responding. Fortunately, each subsequent stage of adult psychological development offers just this: wiser, more sophisticated, and more effective way of understanding and responding to such challenges.

However, there’s a problem. Tragically and dangerously, most people function far below their developmental potential. Only about half the population in Western societies reach full conventional development, while only some 20% move beyond the conventional into postconventional stages5. No wonder the developmental psychologist Robert Kegan wrote a book titled In Over Our Heads8. Fostering individual and collective maturation is one of the great challenges and opportunities of our time, and henceforth needs to be central to the Bodhisattva aspiration. 

Clearly, the redesign of educational systems to foster maturity, and help students make a life as well as a living is an urgent priority. That may seem a forlorn hope given current educational systems11. Yet there is a powerful example in the highly successful Scandinavian bildung (self-cultivation) education movement, which helped transform Scandinavian countries into some of today’s happiest and most thriving societies1.

As yet, we have very little research on how to foster maturity. However, effective practices likely include finding mature teachers and friends, studying profound texts, time in solitude and nature, as well as reflection, meditation, and other contemplative practices.

Principle #7: Effective Responses Address Both Symptoms and Causes.

If we are to respond effectively to the many crises careening towards us, we will need to treat both the symptoms and their causes. In fact, we will need to treat as many symptoms and causes as possible because we are dealing with complex systems and complex problems. In Aldous Huxley’s famous utopian novel Island, a visitor asks, “Where do you start?” To which the islanders respond, “We start everywhere at once.” 

Yes, we need to alleviate poverty and injustice, pollution and violence. However, we also need to simultaneously address both their outer systemic causes as well as their often overlooked inner causes — the individual psychological and collective cultural pathologies which keep creating outer crises. In short, we need integral responses. Otherwise, we will merely be applying band-aids, the inner causes will remain untouched, and the problems will recur endlessly, just as they have throughout history. 

The goal is to foster healthier, more mature individuals, as well as saner, more mature societies to support them. Ideally, these will be metamodern societies which take as major goals enhancing the psychological health and maturity of their citizens7

Principle #8: The Bodhisattva Aspiration Is an Inspiration, Not a Destination

To heal and awaken ourselves, let alone the world, is not a minor project. So let’s acknowledge that the Bodhisattva aspiration is an ideal, and ideals can be used skillfully or unskillfully. 

Used unskillfully, ideals become goals that have to be achieved and completed. But here’s a secret: profound ideals are rarely completed. There will always be some suffering in the world and some foolishness in ourselves — that’s the nature of our human lives and samsāric condition. If we think we must attain some state of perfection, we will simply create more suffering. 

Used skillfully, ideals are like pointers or compasses. They remind us, “Oh yes, that’s the direction I want my life to follow.” Then the ideal becomes an ongoing inspiration rather than an illusory destination and guarantee of frustration.

Principle #9: The Art of Sacred Service: Healing and Awakening Both the World and Ourselves Simultaneously.

When we examine our social and global challenges closely, we see that effective answers require deeper understandings and responses than are usually recognized. It becomes clear that we need to address both the problems and their many causes, including the causes within us. To do this, we need to work to de-hypnotize and awaken ourselves, to learn and to grow, and to develop our activist skills. 

That’s a lot! If only there was a way to do all these things simultaneously. Fortunately, there is: a millennia-old practice of sacred service that blends learning, awakening, and activism into a seamless whole. 

This is the ancient Indian practice of karma yoga, the yoga which uses one’s work and service in the world for learning and awakening. It’s a way of taking any activity and transforming it into an opportunity for learning and awakening. It involves eight steps, which can be done during the activity, and so require almost no extra time, just extra awareness13; 15.  

Sacred service has many benefits. It supports ongoing learning and healing, nonattachment and generosity, effective service, and more. Its benefits flow from each of the following eight steps: 

  1. Stop before beginning any major activity. Give yourself the gift of a moment to stop, become present, and reflect on what you’re about to do and why. The why of any activity is crucial because it expresses and reinforces the intention underlying the activity, and intentions are life forming. For from our intentions flow our actions and reactions, our lives’ direction and destiny, as well as the meaning and purpose we give to them.

  2. Offer the activity and its outcome to a higher source or purpose. Traditionally, the activity was offered to God. If that works for you, wonderful. If not, consider offering it to some higher purpose, such as “To the wellbeing of everyone touched by this activity.” What’s most important is that the offering be to a transpersonal source or purpose larger than one’s ego so that it supports ego transcendence rather than egocentricity.

  3. Attempt to do the activity impeccably. Do the activity as whole-heartedly and well as you can. This strengthens capacities such as effort, commitment, and willpower.

  4. Be mindful. Bring as much awareness as you can to all aspects of the activity—your behavior, your feelings, other people’s reactions, and the outcome. Then every moment becomes an opportunity for learning.

  5. Explore and work with any reactions that arise. Inevitably, we experience a flow of inner reactions as we proceed. There may be reactions to other people, such as frustration and annoyance, emotional responses such as anxiety or hope, as well as egoic appropriations such as pride or embarrassment.

    These painful emotions and reactions are feedback signals pointing to our attachments, especially attachments to the outcome. For example, we fear we won’t get the outcome we’re attached to, become angry with people who stand in our way, get embarrassed if we’re not looking good, or feel depressed if we give up hope. All these painful emotions are opportunities for healing and growth if we bring awareness to them, learn from them, and release them.

  6. Release attachment to the outcome. It’s this step which cuts through egocentricity and makes karma yoga such a profound practice. Usually if we’re doing something worthwhile, especially something as important as preserving our planet, we naturally get attached to things working out the way we think they should. Yet that’s a recipe for suffering, and all of us have probably met far too many burnt-out activists.

    Good hearted people also worry that if they let go of their attachment to the outcome, they’ll no longer be idealistic and motivated to serve. But that’s based on a painful underestimation of ourselves. It assumes that we can’t trust ourselves to do what’s right, and that we’ll only do it if we’re attached and addicted.

    Happily, that’s simply wrong. When we let go of our attachments to the way things turn out, we become less reactive, less egocentric, less caught up in our emotions, and therefore better able to see clearly and act skillfully. In short, we become wiser and more effective.

  7. Reflect: After completing the activity, reflect and learn. What can you learn from this activity — about yourself, others, the mind, and how to be more effective?

  8. Offer the benefits of the activity for the welfare and awakening of all. This paradoxical final step is based on a profound understanding of the way the mind works. Specifically, what we intend for others, we tend to experience and strengthen in ourselves. Therefore, when you finish by thinking, “May the benefits of this activity serve the welfare and awakening of all,” you are intending the highest good for the greatest number, and your mind naturally echoes that intention by filling with expansive feelings of generosity and warmth. Sacred service allows us to become the benefactors and beneficiaries of everyone.

Principle # 10: Service Serves Us Until the Universe Serves Itself.

Our culture thinks of service as self-sacrifice. However, wisdom sees service as enlightened self-interest. For service produces multiple benefits, beginning with an immediate “helper’s high” — it just feels good to help others — and continuing with long-term health benefits as well. 

Sacred service strips away selfishness and egocentricity, nourishes virtues such as kindness and compassion, and gradually unveils our True Nature. This is the mind-boggling discovery that we have spent our entire life suffering from a case of mistaken identity. We are not only more than we think; we are more than we dared think, and more than we can think. This is the central secret of life that the world’s contemplative traditions point to. 

Once this deeper, truer Self is glimpsed, in both ourselves and others, so much changes. For having seen its magnificence, what else would we want to do except help awaken ourselves and others to it? What else would be a worthy expression of who we are, or a worthy offering to who others really are? And given the extent of needless suffering in the world, what could be more appropriate or satisfying than devoting ourselves to alleviating this suffering?

Suddenly the Bodhisattva aspiration makes total sense. This is simply what one aspires to when one recognizes who we and others really are, and how much of the world’s suffering stems from not recognizing this. How simple, how natural, how beautiful! At this stage, the Bodhisattva aspiration becomes a natural, spontaneous expression of who we now know ourselves and “others” to be, and a natural response to what the world deeply needs. Love “others” as yourself because they are your Self.

When doing sacred service, we go deeper into ourselves in order to go more effectively out into the world, and we go out into the world in order to go deeper into ourselves. We continue this cycle of learning, awakening, and serving until they become spontaneous expressions of our True Nature, and then the universe learns, awakens, and serves itself through us. 

Attribution Note: Parts of this article are based on a talk given to the 2020 Integral European Conference and on an earlier article, Contributing Effectively in Times of Crisis, which has been updated, expanded, and situated in an integral framework.

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Roger Walsh

About Roger Walsh

Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., has spent nearly a quarter century researching and practicing in the world's great spiritual traditions. His critically acclaimed book, Essential Spirituality, is a summary of that wisdom, outlining the seven spiritual practices common to the world's major religions.