Seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette takes us on a tour of her life and career by sharing how the threads of her life have increasingly come together into one integral tapestry — where once there may have been jagged fragments, we can now see conscious and playful entanglement with all of life.
Alanis Morissette is one of those rare souls who has been brave enough to live, learn, and grow in the public eye, over the course of eleven albums, starting with Alanis, when she was just seventeen. Now, with her latest album—Flavors of Entanglement—near completion (no release date yet, sorry!), Alanis and Ken explore how her personal and professional life has increasingly reflected an integral impulse towards embracing as much of the human experience as possible. In one of the many light and humorous moments of this dialogue, Alanis shares that she gets bored hanging around with people who have less than a “multi-tentacled” approach—truly one of the most original, and funny, ways we’ve ever heard someone express their understanding an integral life.
One of the fascinating elements of this dialogue is that the discussion of Alanis’s personal and professional life meshes into one unified story. Her art is a reflection and expression of who she is, who she has been, and who she’d like to be—an astonishing feat, given that most of what the music industry produces is a superficial shimmer of human drama and emotion, not the deep, complex, and passionate narrative that life really is. As Ken shares, Alanis recently told him that she thought her purpose was to “connect the human and the divine,” a remarkably succinct summary of what art has the power to do, and, indeed, is one of its highest purposes.
Alanis, with a laugh, says she’s “always had a little love affair with God,” although, she reflects, God is also the first thing to go when she gets stressed. Here, Alanis and Ken both share their deep appreciation for the role that shadow work can have in helping one have a clearer connection with ever-present Spirit, and also in just leading a happier, healthier life. Ken goes on to mention that, in today’s world, “God has a serious PR problem.” The mainstream media simply doesn’t know the difference between contemplative, liberating, “experience it for yourself” spirituality, and dogmatic, mythic, “believe the Word or you’re going to hell” spirituality. Alanis, needless to say, is a radiant example of a spirituality that transforms, a spirituality that you feel and breathe and touch, where one is connected directly to the center of this conscious and living Kosmos.
In this dialogue with Alanis, an Integral Approach is particularly useful in understanding the various kinds and functions of shadow work and spirituality two things that Alanis clearly considers fundamental to her own growth and development; and, of course, she’s right. In an Integral Life Practice, the four core modules considered essential to health and development are body, mind, spirit, and shadow. Having had to confront body-image issues as a teenage performer, and obviously possessing an extremely acute intellect, Alanis has intuitively been touching in on all four bases in her own integral life practice.
Regarding shadow work, building on the crucial insights of therapies such as Gestalt, Ken mentions what he calls the “3-2-1 Process,” one truly Integral way to approach one’s shadow elements. The process itself is pretty simple—face it, talk to it, be it—but amazingly effective at getting at those aspects of your own psyche that you may be projecting onto others—and not just the darkness in you, but also the light.
An Integral Approach perhaps shines most brightly in how it illuminates the perennially thorny issue of spirituality and religion—what it is, what it isn’t, and what it means in today’s world, as an integral part of the human condition. One of the simplest and yet most profound concepts in an Integral Spirituality is the difference between pre-rational spirituality (mythic, dogmatic, belief-driven) and trans-rational spirituality (contemplative, liberating, experience-driven)—and because both are non-rational, they are often confused and conflated, with disastrous results (this distinction is often called the pre/trans fallacy).
It’s hard to describe Alanis’s presence in this dialogue as anything other than “delicious.” You get the sense that she doesn’t stop smiling for half an hour straight, and her laughs punctuate and liberate almost every other sentence. If for no other reason than to imbibe the joyous nectar of this brilliant soul, we invite you to listen in, and drink deeply of an Integral Life lived full-to-overflowing….
About Alanis Morrissette
A dozen years after the breakthrough debut of Jagged Little Pill, an album which earned four Grammys and spawned a dedicated worldwide fan base, Alanis Morissette remains not only an enduringly popular artist, but one whose success stems from a fierce commitment to authenticity and, to an equal extent, vulnerability. Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, and Germany, Alanis Morissette played piano, wrote songs and discovered a love of words and dance at an early age.
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”.