Tag Archive: Integral Yoga


Two years ago, I went on a week long silent meditation retreat where a form of Qi Gong was also taught. On the first day, I knew I had found the next practice that I needed, a practice that would nourish and cultivate my vitality.

After the retreat, I began to practice Qi Gong every day. At some point during the retreat, I really got it, like a revelation, that daily practice is truly key. Harnessing the diurnal rhythm is how to most efficiently and effectively establish and grow practices that cause you to thrive. For example, ten minutes of exercise every day is going to work a lot better than three twenty minute sessions a week. When you engage in a practice every day, it quickly becomes automatic, like brushing your teeth. (More on this later.)

To the daily Qi Gong, I added physical exercise, emotional/relational work, and meditation. In order to fit these sessions into the day, I made them nice and short: 10 minutes each.

I was feeling good. I was beginning to thrive. And yet, there was still something missing! I hadn’t taken my passion, working with synergistic practices, out into the world. I had not created a livelihood based on inspiring and helping people to thrive by engaging in healthful practices.  I had recently completed a Waldorf Teacher Training program. There I learned about how regular artistic practice is not only healing, but it develops the capacity to manifest and show up in the world. During those three years I did a lot of art. It became clear that daily art practice was the fourth spoke of The Wheel. I began to write every day. A new book and my new livelihood emerged from that practice.

After doing these five different kinds of practice every day for a year, I saw that this circuit had wheel like qualities. So, I called it “The Wheel.”

I entered into that daily turning of The Wheel, knowing that it would nourish me and bring health, because I had already experienced this with the various practices. What was new was shortening the sessions and doing all five kinds of exercises every day. I entered into this with an experimental attitude. How well would it work? After month or two, I was seeing that this was a very powerful and surprising easy approach. Once the Wheel was turning it accumulated momentum. It required very little effort to keep it spinning.  It centered and anchored the day. I was also struck with how efficient it was. Relatively minimal effort and time yielded maximum beneficial effects. In other words, I was becoming increasingly happy and healthy with ease.

How cool is that? I’d been engaged in various kinds of personal growth work for decades, and it was rarely easy. This is the central message I want to share that it is possible to heal and become increasing healthy and happy, easily and enjoyably.

Engaging in a regular transformative practice will bring up many opportunities to work with your inner authoritarian structures. If we don’t work with those structures, then we may end up reinforcing an old regime that is in serious need of a revolution. We all have inner authoritarians. We internalized them mainly from our parents, but also from the culture around us. When we were young children, some of us had wise, benevolent, loving kings and queens for parents. Some of us had cruel despots. Most of us had parents somewhere in between.

A person can go very far with a practice without ever working on that inner authority. I’m thinking of Andre Agassi. His father amounted to a narcissistic despot, and Andre thoroughly internalized that tyrant. Andre mastered tennis by pushing himself mercilessly. His intense daily practice of competitive tennis utterly transformed his life.

However, he reached a point in his life where he was miserable. He was one of the world’s best tennis players, but the rest of his life was in shambles. In an interview, he revealed that he had always hated tennis. He never enjoyed it. He decided that he was either going to find a way to love tennis and make it his own (not his father’s) or he was going to quit.

I remember seeing Andre play after he had transformed. At the time, I didn’t know his story. And I was very surprised. I watched him for 5 minutes without recognizing him, and I did a double take when I saw the caption under his image. I had never liked Andre 1.0. But, I immediately liked Andre 2.0. He was a new person. He had shaved off his hair. He played differently. He was much more humble. You could tell that he was playing with heart. There was a depth to him that had been lacking before.

Transformative practices will transform you. But, if they are founded on a kind of inner fascism, they will prove to be unsustainable. Ultimately they will not thrive, or cause you to thrive. If they are founded on an open heart; if they are practiced in a loving and kind way, well then, your practices and you will flourish.

A Bit of Biography, Part 2

When I was 29, I got divorced. It was becoming clear that I had some learning and growing to do if I wanted to be in healthy, satisfying personal relationships. Physical exercise and meditation had positive effects in this area. I was more centered, patient, and resilient, which definitely helped. Still, it wasn’t enough. A couple years later I entered graduate school to study counseling psychology. I got into therapy. I did quite a bit of work healing old emotional wounds. This kind of work, working with relationships, communication, emotions: this became another spoke of The Wheel. Thanks to this kind of work my relationships became deeper, more satisfying, and healthier. When, I was 35 I got married. This time I was in a far healthier and far more mature relationship. 10 years later we are going strong with two kids, 4 and 7.

In spite of all this goodness, there was one big area of my life I was neglecting: my vitality. When I was 43, I was completely exhausted. I’d been in a good, solid relationship for 9 years. We had two beautiful, happy kids. But, middle age had arrived with a vengeance. Over the past 5 years I’d racked up some serious sleep deprivation. A heckaton of my vital energy was being poured into the kids, and not really being replentished. I felt like they were healthy plants. I was the soil, and I was just about depleted.

I went to an acupuncturist. He said my physical body was in good shape (thanks to continuing physical exercise) but my Chi tank was just about empty. My “pulses” were weak. My adrenals were shot.

As a new parent, the centeredness and presence I had developed through mediation had served me very well. I still managed to work out a few times a week and was in okay shape. My work in therapy and Graduate School and with my wife definitely helped me to negotiate the interpersonal stresses of parenthood and marriage with some grace.  I was about to say that Meditation, exercise, and emotional relational work combined to make me a much better husband and father. But, the truth is: without all that work, I couldn’t have done it at all. I would not have had this wonderful family.

And yet, I was done. Out of gas. Something had to give. Working with my acupuncturist was a start. I began to be more sensitive to my life energy, my “Chi”, my vitality. I began to consciously cultivate it, and it slowly began to return.

To be continued . . .

 

When I was 9 years old, our class had to do the presidential fitness tests or whatever the eff they were. My scores were at the bottom of the class. I was a pretty chubby kid which was much rarer in those days. I had excellent coordination and eye hand coordination. But my fat weighed me down. For the next 6 years my weight was a big bummer. The message I received from my parents and many of my peers was that there was something wrong with me. I was fat and lazy: that was the message. It was some kind of moral failing. Either I was too weak to change or I chose to be fat for some twisted reason. So, I wondered: why  can’t I lose this weight? I surely would like not to be fat and not to be the object of so much derision. On the other hand, I really liked eating lots of candy and junk food. Of course my friends and siblings all did too, but they weren’t fat. No fair! Okay maybe I did enjoy such food excessively. But, anyway, I couldn’t lose the weight in spite of all kinds of diets and exercise.

When I was 14, I started playing High School basketball. I began to lose the weight. Basketball really introduced me to intense daily practice. The practice itself transformed my body. It also strengthened my will. With that new found willpower, I started exercising more, playing both tennis and basketball, and I ate less. Within a year I was quite skinny. This was my first experience of how powerful daily practice was. Regular physical exercise has been a part of my life ever since. I learned that physical practice is how you take care of your physical body. Here we see the first “spoke” of The Wheel.

When I was 22, the Summer after I graduated from college, my father committed suicide. This blew me into a major existential crisis. Your 20’s are already a kind of mild to extreme existential crisis: you’re trying to find out who you are and what kind of work you want to do in this world and what kind of relationships you want to be in. Physical exercise certainly helped ground me a bit and keep me relatively healthy and not clinically depressed, but it wasn’t enough. “What is the meaning of life? What really matters?” I took psychedelics several times with the attitude of the seeker. The states of consciousness I experienced confirmed my intuition that consciousness and reality is much bigger and wilder than conventional, ordinary, consensual “reality.” But, those states passed, leaving just a pale memory. I read a Zen book (“The Three Pillars of Zen”). Kapleau Roshi said you had to diligently practice meditation to really get Zen, to embody it. What this meant to me was that I had to meditate in order to really get the meaning of life. I started meditating. I had lost faith in materialism. Meditation seemed the best way to see for myself if there is anything that really matters once you get beneath all the superficial layers.

Meditation did not answer my questions in an intellectual or logical or conceptual way. But, it did have immediate practical benefits and cumulative benefits that kept me practicing. On a day that I meditated, I felt more centered, more grounded, more courageous, and somehow more authentic. Over the years, I became increasingly centered. At the same time I became more open and sensitive. 20 years later as I write this, I’ve come to understand that meditation is wonderful way to practice wholeness. It is a powerful way to be intentional about including all or our experience, all of the aspects of who we are, in our consciousness. In other words, it is a way to practice being more awake to our whole selves. This kind of Wholeness meditation is the meta practice of The Wheel. Here we practice including all the aspects we will work with: physicality, vitality, emotionality, and creativity.

To Be Continued.

Next, I get divorced!

My Website is Up

My Website, turnthewheel.net,  just went live. It’s a simple page describing the work I do as an Integral Trainer/Coach. Basically, I help people customize a set of practices that will bring them into health and balance. This kind of work is in alignment with Integral Transformative Practice pioneered by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, with Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, with Rudolph Steiner’s teachings, and with Integral Life Practice being developed by Ken Wilber, Terry Patten and others.

The basic idea of Integral Practices is that to most effectively develop the whole person, more than one practice is necessary. Different practices develop different aspects of the person. For example, for personal growth, practicing Yoga is good. But, practicing Yoga, Meditation, and being in psychotherapy is better. My own set of Integral Practices includes: Meditation, Qi Gong, Strength and Cardiovascular exercise, Heart Centered Prayer and Inquiry, Writing, and Conscious Parenting.

These Beginning Times increasingly put pressure on us to “grow up.” Just as old external structures (governments, carbon based economy, education, media, etc.) are on life support or collapsing as we speak, our own ego structures are in trouble. We have to get much bigger, more capable, and more compassionate in order to thrive in the coming times. How do we do that? Integral Practices.

 

 

 

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