Integral Spirituality, Circling and the Evolution of Consciousness

In listening to an audiobook on comparative spirituality I realized that I would like to bring Applied Integral Theory to bear on several tools for spiritual awakening and to contextualize circling within that. This is a rough draft:

In Buddhism, there is a focus in on the practices of the Shambhala Warrior; and the “weapons” of such; Compassion and Insight. These qualities are explored through cultivating intimacy with the immediate experience. In Vippassana, students are guided to turn their attention towards the sensations of the body, and to notice what arises while welcoming the experience and cultivating equanimity in relation to it. The relationship between our sensations, our emotions, our impulses and our thoughts are observed through simply noticing what we are noticing.

In Zen Buddhism, sitting with Koans is a common practice. This involves being with raw, open curiosity through inquiry around a given question that might be understood as paradoxical.

In Christianity, there is a focus on generosity, on devotion, and on unconditionality. Prayer is practiced as means for cultivating intimacy with a personification of these qualities; Christ.

In the tradition of the Enneagram, the essential qualities of being are also a focal point. Ones patterns of unconscious response to life’s changing circumstances are honed in on as indicators of how individuals are relating to the essential qualities of being.

In Judaism, the unique potential of the human being is a focal point. Cultivating ones capacity to unlock their unique potential is an aim.

In psychology, the individual psyche gets attention. Specifically the process of moving from unhealthy expressions of the psyche towards healthy expressions of the psyche.

In Gestalt, the individual psyche gets attention as well, and specific attention goes to the fragmented aspects of the psyche and integrating those.

What patterns exist here and where does circling rest within this?

There is a movement to recognition of our essential nature in many spiritual traditions, and our essential nature is seen in terms of textures of being. In Zen Buddhism a quality of emptiness is recognized as essential. In Buddhism at large compassion and insight are paramount. In Christianity qualities of generosity, of devotion and of unconditionality are honed in on. In Judaism our unique potential is explored. In each of these traditions the essential is seen as intrinsic, as fundamental, as present.

There’s a movement from from fragmentation to wholeness as well that shows up in Gestalt, and in Psychology at large. In some forms of psychology, simply being a mirror for the client is practiced, and in my experience, can be radically calming and orientative.

So how about circling? Circling is an intersubjective meditation that seems to foster the natural, organic unfoldment and blossoming of the human soul (the essential), as well as seems to uncover our intrinsic care for others (compassion, generosity). It aims to cultivate intimacy with the moment, (as in Zen, Buddhism), while tracking where our attention goes (Witness practices). In this way it pulls from similarities of other traditions, but with one distinct difference that stands out to me.

Circling is a relational practice. It seems to draw from our relationships with each other to provide a mirror (like psychology) but rather then guiding a clients process, it supports ones deepening into what it is like to be. It supports awareness of the subtlety of the textures of the human experience.

What then, is the art of circling?

Circling, as an art form, seems to contain the following elements: Presence, Curiosity and Mutuality.

Cultivating Mutuality

Wilbers Integral Theory contains an element called stages, and applied to the evolution of morality, indicates a maturation of our care. In Egocentricity, our priority is care of self, and this can be at expense of the well being of others. In sociocentricity, our priority shifts towards care of our relationships, and in worldcentricity our priority shifts towards care of our relationships with the larger scope of humanity. In Kosmocentricity our priority shifts to care for our relationship with the infinite. As we mature, healthy development follows a pattern of transcending and including (where our care for our relationships includes care for self, for example), and unhealthy development follows a pattern of transcending and denying (where care for our relationships disregards our care for ourselves, for example).

Cultivating mutuality is an expression of our capacity to care for others WHILE including ourselves within this. Thus, this practice seems to contain the possibility of providing direct experiences of inhabiting a healthy sociocentric mode of awareness.

At the Integral Institute, the practice of cultivating mutuality is referred to as “weaving shared reality”. In service of this, practitioners learn to cultivate (a) presence, (b) ownership of experience, and (c) curiosity.

Presence is a focal point perhaps on the same basis that it is a focal point in buddhism, because what is so arises in the moment. The past is a memory, distinct from reality. The future is a projection, yet to be defined.

Owning our experience is a relational tool perhaps most attributed to psychology. Gay and Kathleen Hendricks use it in the “beyond codependency” teachings they share, and it seems popular in human development. Perhaps most notable is that it arises from a set of distinctions.

Curiosity is a fundamental element in that within a circling context, we are taking an approach to learning that is perhaps a bit closer to Zen Koan Inquiry then to the process of figuring something out. We aim to inhabit our curiosity and to explore what its like to simply be with another while relating.

more to come… thoughts?


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