Friday, November 11, 2011

An Integral Approach to Consciously Collapsing

Something is glaringly absent in the Integral Community. As I point out in the introduction of my 2011 book, Awakening The New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior," here is the precipice humanity is teetering on:
 "Never before in human history has humankind been this close to a global psycho-social and spiritual awakening. At the same time, never have we been in such danger of being swept into a global totalitarianism, potentially more oppressive than any system known before. Technology, at the hands of little boys pretending to be men, has led us to this new geopolitical reality."
What's missing is paying attention to and addressing the biggest event that mankind has ever faced: Planetary Overshoot.  As a result of this obvious omission, couched in multiple perspectives of first-tier thinking and shadow, I find it difficult to to think of the Integral Community as...well...integral. Even what might be the first stage of second-tier thinking, Integral, or turquoise in Wilber's model of altitude, or yellow, in terms of Spiral Dynamics, with one of its primary focuses on competency,  lacks the compassion needed to empathize with the depth of pain that the coming changes are going to bring to the planet and the billions of people who will suffer through these times.

While the world, unions like the EU, nation states, and the people contained within these structures begin to feel the pain, and as things are speeding up, looking like a giant sink with the plug pulled with the accompanying whirlpool sucking everything down with it, the Integral Community seems to be mostly ignoring the bigger picture.

There are exceptions, but they are not really being paid attention to. As Andrew McDonald points out in a posting on Integral+Life, "......the integral world seems to be floating above this global problem emerging down there in the lower right quadrant. There are exceptions - Jim Garrison and Steve McIntosh for example and perhaps others - but there's an emphasis on theory out of step with the worry, concern, and genuine suffering in the economic downturn."

I agree completely with Andrew, but things don't just collapse in one quadrant. 

He also says, "Integral sometimes appears as if it's living on a plane that won't be directly affected personally by the implosion of the economy when and if that happens. Are most integralists wealthy or out of touch with where Main St. is. Or in denial of it?"

But collapse is not just financial, although that's where the focus seems to be. It's energy, environment, and economics, and they are all connected.

One of the responses to Andrew's thought-provoking questions was typical of the flawed new-age perspective of "The Secret" and the magical feel-good thinking that says we control our own reality that allows us to disassociate from the pain that's already going on in the world. This perspective is nothing more than an ego-centric worldview that says as long as I'm not suffering, the world is okay. I've said more about this in an earlier posting. What this response is actually saying is that it's someone else's problem (reality), not theirs, and is the kind of spiritual by-passing and up-and-out mentality that infects so many of us.

In stark contrast to what appears to be denial in the larger Integral Community (the denial is actually the fear of death), stands Spiral Dynamics integral, where discussion of what is happening in the world is not being ignored, but openly courted, and the prognosis is definitely leaning toward "some kind of collapse." It's clear that none of us have a crystal ball, but we can, and must, take a memetic approach and specifically tailor and apply our approach to collapse in all four quadrants.

At this time, green is seeing life conditions it cannot solve from it's level of consciousness (hence, the typical lack of a concise message from the Left). The new Republican Party, on the other hand, has a very absolutist approach to how they'd fix the problems we face. Both are reacting to problems they have helped to create. Given the ultra-polarized political environment in the U.S., it doesn't appear that collective second-tier solutions are going to happen.

With this in mind, how are we going to avoid an actual collapse as a result of planetary overshoot? Can we? How does a growing economic disaster impact climate change or energy needs? The news is not good, and it's out there for all to see if we're paying attention.

What second-tier should be doing

If we are going to be able to successfully navigate (whatever that means) the growing chaos, then we must first get out of denial and into acceptance that it's happening. Denial could kill you. This requires that we pay attention to what is actually happening in all four quadrants, in the interior, exterior, individual, and collective quadrants.

In the upper left quadrant - the quadrant of thoughts, emotions, state of mind, and human behavior - we must pay attention to our spiritual and emotional needs. We need to know how to step out of paralyzing fear. Using all four quadrants, determine what you think are the most likely scenarios, and then prepare for them the best you can, given your resources and abilities, and your awareness of what is arising in the other quadrants. This gives us the ability to step into calm acceptance, knowing that no matter how hard we may try, we can't possibly prepare for everything, and then let it go.

We do this in several ways. We find like-thinking others with whom we build community (lower left-quadrant), with shared values and meaning, who can support us as we support them. They don't need to be second-tier. We only need to have more that brings us together than separates us. In our newly forming community, "Conscious Transition WNC: A Network of Grace," we emphasize that we're not concerned about "why" collapse is happening - blame - but that it is happening, upon which we can all agree upon. In other words, we openly encourage - and insist - that everyone brings an openness that is accepting of all viewpoints. This allows multi-perspectivalism to develop, and this emerging process allows everyone to hear other viewpoints without having to defend their own. Community is an absolutely essential part of getting through whatever is coming. Otherwise, you're just a lone-wolf survivalist. Second-tier leadership provides the guidance and context that allows this to happen. Find and form your community.

We're also intensely aware of the geopolitics of collapse: what is happening, and how - the lower right and upper right quadrants, respectively. In the upper right, what is happening? The cold hard facts without interpretation. What can I see, touch, observe scientifically in time and space? What are the physical facts? We have to know because decisions need to be made based on those facts. For instance, watching what's going on in Europe at this time with banks and countries already collapsing gives us insight as to how it might unfold in the U.S. if the global financial markets are as connected as they appear to be. When should I think about withdrawing cash in case there are bank runs here as is already happening in Greece and Italy (and the U.S. as the wealthy flee with their money to what they think are safer havens)? 

In the lower right quadrant, how is it happening, what systems and networks are failing and in what time frame? How do they affect other systems? Technology? Government? Finance? Energy? The natural environment?

We simply must look at these issues through the 4-quadrant lens. As we've heard time and time again, anything less is partial, narrow, and fragmented....and there's already too much fragmentation in the world. That's what got us here. It won't get us out.

What then?

None of this guarantees that any of us will survive through what is coming. People don't want to hear that billions of people could die. Guess what? Millions are already dying and what do you need to see that will convince you that we don't have the capacity - energy and finances - or the political will to stop what is already happening? Collapse cannot be talked about in future tense, it's already happening.

What we can do is approach collapse in the most conscious manner possible. To be present to it as each moment arises, do what we can to improve how we come through this, however long it takes, and be more conscious individually and collectively than when we started. It's obvious that a lot of technology in the form of unbridled capitalism has not made our lives better. Maybe we'll be happier by getting smaller and living in the arms of gratitude. My sense is that it's by developing community, meaning, and sustainable systems that support all life on this planet. Maybe the way up is all the way down.

Where do the Integral leaders and community stand on collapse?


David MacLeod said...

"What we can do is approach collapse in the most conscious manner possible. To be present to it as each moment arises, do what we can to improve how we come through this, however long it takes, and be more conscious individually and collectively than when we started. It's obvious that a lot of technology in the form of unbridled capitalism has not made our lives better. Maybe we'll be happier by getting smaller and living in the arms of gratitude. My sense is that it's by developing community, meaning, and sustainable systems that support all life on this planet. Maybe the way up is all the way down."

Well said, Gary. I also like how Vicki Robin put it, seeing these trends in 2006:

"...I used to have this hammer called "Your Money Or Your Life", and everything looked like a nail, and I could just fix it. I don't think the world is fixable anymore. I don't think we're going to fix it, I think we're going to live through it...We're up against a wall! Cancer wall, peak oil wall, climate change wall. And being up against a wall is the most creative time. We don't know what the result of our engagement is going to be. We only have the choice whether to engage or go to sleep again. To be in some sort of open, spacious, humble passion with regards to the limits of our times, whatever we're doing. We're going to live through this together - it's sort of as simple as that. ..My desire is to heal our collective psyche that has been so confused by the industrial growth era. To mature as a species, to develop a capacity to live into what is most important, and let go of the rest.... That is the other opportunity. Our engagement with the peak oil issues, and the climate change issues is also an engagement with our own inner light and dark..Our own inner engagement, our own capacity to hold and love all of it, every little scrap of it."

Katie said...

What's The Shift? How do you characterize the collapse? Hard for me to comment without knowing more; and the vagueness sounds too conspiratorial.

Gary Stamper said...

Hi Katie,
What do you think "the shift" is? What do you think it will look like? Is there a "shift" happening on the planet at this very moment?

There's nothing conspiratorial about what I'm writing about. it's happening right now.

Think. Read. Critically.

Good luck,


Joe G said...

Gary I throughly appreciate and deeply share your wide perceptive on The Collapse/Shift, I have gone down numerous Rabbit Holes for many years-- not only processing diverse information,-- environmental, political, scientific, energy, economic Integral (I co moderated Atlanta Integral for years) but also having a solid external hardrive of friends/family directly in these fields (Hedge funds, AIG, Intelligence, science, etc) to drawn upon-- you seemingly are the Lone Wolf of Integral-- holding and including all these other variables, while I agree the Integral/Spiral dynamics model can be useful in contextualizing all these variables and the importance of Integral practices and Development (spiritual, cognitive, etc), I agree this alone will not be sufficient when the converging Tidal wave(s) hit-- I've been sensing this for years and recently viscerally feeling it more and more-- The "pixels" are all there IF one can stand back far enough to see the emerging picture-- I have been taking my own necessary steps, building community, continuously educating and staying abreast of information, while disseminating what I can -- I would love to continue this conversation further with you and see how we can help each other and the world at large...blessings my Integral brother-- joe

Gary Stamper said...

Hi Joe,

Preaching to the choir! Amen! I'm no longer trying to change minds, but I also can't help pointing out where I think our integral blind spots are....if they are, indeed, integral, or simply shadow left over from the previous structures. I think the phrase is "necessary, but not sufficient..."
Contact me on FB or email me at, and let's talk.

YogaLisa said...

Interesting...I was just listening to The Daily Evolver (an integral website) which I ADORE - but it occured to me that the analysis left me feeling like they (or we?) were standing outside all the turmoil. Standing outside Life. Can't be done - we are Life.

GreenMan said...

Great blog post! I believe that we may accelerate the collapse process by doing what a lot of us are already doing. Moving our money to local credit unions, buying products that are more sustainable and in harmony with nature, buying locally, creating sustainable communities, etc. The sooner the collapse happens the quicker we can create what's next!