Integral Zen

Diane Musho HamiltonAudio, Conversations, Perspectives, Spiritual, Spirituality

Become a member or log in to listen to the full 1.5-hour conversation.

“Part of what I like about shadow work is that it kind of cuts through our spiritual piety—there’s a certain kind of piety that can set in in spiritual communities, where people start to feel that they’re somehow beyond being human.”Diane Musho Hamilton

iane and Ken discuss the ways the Integral vision has helped enliven and enrich Zen practice by taking a multi-perspectival approach to spirituality, culminating in the “1-2-3 of Spirit” and the “3-2-1” shadow process. They then explore the potential dark side of evolutionary spirituality — most notably the threat of “spiritual fascism” — as well as the dangerous collapse of hierarchical thinking and the rampant anti-intellectualism that can be found in today’s modern and postmodern spiritual practices.

There are a great many ideas of what, at it’s most elemental level, the universe is made of. Some think atoms and quarks, some think strings, some think consciousness. Others think the word of God, or a great web of holistic interconnection, or maybe even an infinite holonic chain of wholes and parts. But the Integral vision suggests that our world is not composed of any of these — or rather, that all of these are manifestations of reality’s most fundamental ingredient: the universe is, first and foremost, made of perspectives.

We experience these primordial perspectives at every single moment of the day—with every thought and act of volition, with every conversation and feeling of connection, with every observation and appreciation of the world around us. Language itself is molded by these intrinsic perspectives, most notably in what we know as 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person perspectives, which in combination give rise to the ubiquitous pronouns of I, we, and it; the Platonic ideals of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth; the “value spheres” of art, morals, and science; the experience of self, culture, and nature, the Buddhist notion of Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma, etc.

The simple recognition of manifest reality being fundamentally composed of perspectives does a great deal to transform our relationship with spirituality, which by definition is supposed to help us transcend the manifest realm altogether. Bringing a multi-perspectival approach to any spiritual tradition does a great deal to help flesh out our experience of Spirit, as we begin to discern the “Three Faces” of spiritual practice, otherwise known as the “1-2-3 of Spirit”: Spirit as the entire interconnected world we can touch and see, Spirit as the woven fabric of relationships, families, and communities, and Spirit as a direct and immediate first-hand experience. And if our spiritual practice is to be as comprehensive as possible, and therefore as liberating as possible, it does a great deal of good to bring our attention to these first-, second-, and third-person dimensions of reality.

Diane also mentions the benefit of applying the “1-2-3” approach to our own romantic relationships, in which we often overly identify with the first- and second-person feel of the relationship, while sometimes losing sight of our partner as a third-person individual. By bringing conscious attention to one other as objective individuals, outside the context of the relationship, we are more able to recognize many of the important (and often endearing) differences between one another, differences which help shape and define the felt texture of the relationship.

Many spiritual traditions make a careful distinction between what might be called a “True Self” that is timeless and transcendent and untouched by the manifest world, and a “relative self” that describes the ordinary ego we walk around with every day. Here Ken suggests that there is a third self that needs to be accounted for, lest we risk sabotaging our own spiritual enlightenment: the “false self” of shadow and persona, which usually remains hidden from view while sitting on the meditation cushion, and can easily become reckless, over-inflated, and even abusive when infused when motivated by spiritual attainment.

This is another crucial contribution multi-perspectival consciousness brings to bear upon spiritual practice, one which is seldom accounted for in any spiritual tradition: shadow work. The term “shadow” is used to describe some aspect of ourselves which, for whatever reason, got repressed, submerged, or “cut off” from consciousness—a broken piece of “I” which we no longer identify with, but remains a piece of our consciousness anyway, typically manifesting as an “it” or “you” projection.

We have sadly witnessed many influential spiritual teachers sink beneath the weight of their own shadows, their embodiment of spiritual realization becoming somewhat distorted, even defiled. Here is where the Integral approach can seriously help—by drawing from and distilling a rich tradition of Western psychology, Ken has developed a very simple technique to help identify and reabsorb shadow elements of consciousness. Known as the “3-2-1 process,” it is a practice which helps us reintegrate our own shadows by first recognizing something or someone which, for whatever reason, happens to terrify, annoy, activate, or haunt us, and facing it in 3rd-person—describing what it looks like, what it tastes like, what it sounds like, etc. Then we imagine the person or personification of our shadow is in a chair in front of us, and we talk to it in 2nd-person—asking it what it wants, telling it how it makes you feel, etc. Finally we step into the perspective of our shadow, being it in 1st-person—speaking from the point of view of that which was once object to our awareness. By infusing this sort of technique into our daily practices, we gradually begin to reclaim these disowned voices within ourselves—and while it may take a considerable amount of time and personal work to fully reintegrate our shadows, this practice goes a long way to grease the wheels of transformation, as well as to simply recognize and keep a careful eye on some potentially problematic aspects of ourselves.

Listen as Ken and Diane celebrate the remarkable confluence between zen and integral practice, revealing a clear and unobstructed awareness that fully penetrates the heart of emptiness while fully illuminating the entire world of form.

As you listen to this conversation, you can use the Notes app in the bottom-left corner of your screen to record any reflections that may come up for you.
Diane Musho Hamilton

About Diane Hamilton

Diane is a uniquely gifted, playful, and awake group facilitator, consultant and teacher of Integral Spirituality and Zen. She is a lineage holder in the Soto Zen tradition, and has collaborated with the Integral Institute and Ken Wilber since 2004, developing the Integral Life Practice seminars and the Integral Spiritual Experience global events.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.