September 30, 2022

Why discipline and will power are completely outdated, and an evolutionary alternative


Photo Credit: jontunn

By Kristen Ulmer

This may surprise you, but discipline, perseverance, setting an intention, drive, the will; all those celebrated states usually taught by sports coaches, are completely outdated. Same with goal setting.

Here’s why. I remember having to perform a difficult ski photo shoot while still recovering from an injury. I wanted to maintain status and sponsors so I “sucked it up” “did it anyway” “refused to give up” “pushed through the pain and fear.” Sounds powerful right?

Such willed effort is fine in a pinch: I skied great that day, but here’s the problem: doing something I didn’t feel like doing was the first step toward future burn out and ultimately resenting my sport.

There’s a better path. [Read more…]

Consciousness is power: a lesson from pebbles


Photo Credit: Alain Limoges

By Kristen Ulmer

While a body builder, Schwarzenegger was rumored to say lifting weight 1 rep in a conscious state enhanced results more than lifting the same weight 10 times in an unconscious state.

While we wouldn’t take relationship advice from the guy, perhaps this comment deserves pondering! [Read more…]

Prof. Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D. in Dialogue with Dr. Marc Gafni

Richard Shwartz

By Marc Gafni

In a long discussion with my friend and colleague Richard Schwartz, founder of Internal Family Systems Theory, I shared with him my perspective on the relation of Ego and Unique Self and the larger set of core distinctions that comprise Unique Self teaching. Dick excitedly concurred and added important empirical validation from his clinical perspective and sent me this written communication after our conversation:

Many spiritual traditions make the mistake of viewing ‘the ego’ as the problem. At worst it vilified as greedy, anxious, clinging, needy, focused on wounds from the past or fear in the future, full of limiting or false beliefs about you, the source of all suffering, and something one must evolve beyond in order to taste enlightenment. At best it is seen as a confused and childish — to be treated with patience and acceptance but not to be taken seriously or listened to. My 30 years of experience exploring internal worlds has led to very different conclusions regarding the ego. What is called the ego or false self in these spiritualities is a collection of sub-personalities I call ‘parts.’ When you first become aware of them, these parts manifest all the negative qualities described above, so I understand why this mistake is so widespread.

As you get to know them from a place of curiosity and compassion, however, you learn that they are not what they seem. Instead, they are spiritual beings themselves who, because of being hurt by events in your life, are forced into roles that are far from their natures, and carry extreme beliefs and emotions that drive their limiting or suffering perspectives. Once they are able to release those beliefs and emotions (what I call burdens) they immediately transform into their natural, enlightened states and can join your evolution toward increasing embodiment of your true nature, what Marc Gafni importantly refers to as correctly, your Unique Self.

Thus, if instead of trying to ignore or transcend an annoying ego, you relate to even the apparent worst of your parts with love and open curiosity you will find that, just like you, they long for the liberating realization of their connection with the divine and provide delightful and sage company on your journey toward enlightenment. In this way you will be relating to these inner entities in the same way that Jesus and Buddha taught us to relate to suffering, exiled people.

Richard Schwartz is a leading expert in the field of psychotherapy and recognized as the founding developer of Internal Family Systems Theory, an influential therapeutical model which combines systems thinking with an integrative view of the mind and its discrete qualities.

Social inequality is a cause of disease in itself, scientists say


Photo Credit: Yodels

By Joe Perez

Despite thousands of years of prophetic religious teachings telling us to lift up the poor and identify with the outcast, and hundreds of years of Western Enlightenment teaching about that all people are created equal, we live in a world of massive social inequality. When we aren’t completely ignoring the problem, scientists research the phenomenon to shed light. In “Why Low Social Status Causes Health Problems,” on Big Think, comes word from the study of macaque monkeys that inequality leads to disease:

[Read more…]

On the three different types of tears


By Joe Perez

Soulfulness includes the ability to express deep and often sorrowful feeling. In tears, aspects of the soul are released from the body, flowing erotically from one soul beyond itself. Marc Gafni in The Dance of Tears (forthcoming, Integral Publishers) has even categorized three major types of tears:

[Read more…]

Finding God in Our Contraction by Dr. Marc Gafni

By Marc Gafni

Your state, in this case a mystical state, is always interpreted through your level of consciousness.

Hurt is a state. This is a huge insight. You need to really take it in.

Hurt is not an objective reality that gives you license for cruelty under the cover of “I was hurt.”

Hurt is a state, and it is interpreted through your stage or level of consciousness. As you evolve, your relationship to your wounds naturally shifts. More than any other single barometer, what you do with your hurt reveals to you and others your genuine level of consciousness. [Read more…]

The Five Great Awakenings ~ by Dr. Marc Gafni

Marc GafniBy Dr. Marc Gafni

The following is a condensed excerpt from the forthcoming volume Your Unique Self: The Democratization of Enlightenment.

There are five great awakening of the human spirit. Each level of awakening is to a deeper and more expanded sense of identity and consciousness.

1) Prepersonal to Personal Awakened Self. The first great awakening takes place when the human being emerges from the slumber of immersion in the Great Mother. In the dawn of human existence, the separate self has not yet emerged. This self was, to varying degrees, identified with nature and the immediate environment with no sense of an individuation. At this level, there is no sense of larger frameworks of time beyond the immediacy of the present moment or present day. This is awakening to separate self, or level-one personal. You experience this awakening in your life in the beginning of your journey as your baby self awakens to an individuated identity as a separate self ego. This is the move from the prepersonal to the personal. It might also take place when you free yourself from any pre-personal context, such as a cult or a family system which crushes individual emergence. One expression of this awakening crystallizes in Hebrew mysticism, which affirms the human being as a homo imago dei, a separate dignified self, rooted in the divine, possessed of infinite dignity, value, and adequacy. [Read more…]

Newest Thinking on Unique Self, from a dialogue with Bert Parlee and Marc Gafni, at the recent Integral Leadership Collaborative

Your Unique Self: Giving Your Gift — Dr. Marc Gafni — Audio Transcript

Bert Parlee: Marc has an incredible breadth of wisdom and knowledge, not only in the spiritual traditions, but his doctorate is from Oxford, he’s a scholar, speaks various languages, and the way he weaves stories, drawing from all streams of life that he brings into his very embodied organic teaching style. Welcome Marc. [Read more…]

World Spirituality Retreat: Day 3 – Growing Up: Going Deeper to Make a Difference

by Leyna Roget

We’re still at that settling in stage of the retreat, which makes our morning yoga/meditation courtesy of Mike Brabant a refreshing, group energy bonding experience. Not to mention, a little comedy with your down dog never hurts, as we fan out our palms into ‘alien hands’ for stability. Marcy Baruch greets us this morning, appropriately setting the tone for togetherness with her melodic words, “I am the space behind I am…we are the space behind we are”. While we sing to honor many voices, this intimate retreat is as much a challenge to individual purpose, and in so embodies the third principle of world spirituality: growing up.

John Welwood initially coined the term “growing up” in his book Toward a Psychology of Awakening in reference to becoming psychologically whole. Marc Gafni explains, in the model of world spirituality, this description of growing up is more synonymous with our understanding of the awakening or ‘waking up’ stage. Therefore, growing up means the ability to move through higher and higher structures of consciousness in our life. As we age we organize and understand our experience of reality through a lens, our consciousness. For example, a child will have a distinct way of connecting the dots of self and experience in this world, versus an adult. Consciousness as a structure progresses from egocentric (limiting outlook to focus mainly on oneself), to ethnocentric (identification with the needs of a specific group), to world-centric (valuing the needs of humanity). Thanks to Terry Patten’s presentation of the next stage as “cosmocentric” (empathic identification and compassion for ALL that is), I’ve just had my consciousness blown open beyond the constraints of our natural world. Ironically, many religious texts operate from a love for the cosmos perspective, but the authoring person(s) is still bound to their egocentric view so the narrative shows up through a popular ethnocentric lens.

Being a Sustainable Human Presence

Growing up is about being an awakened form of consciousness in this world, “the next expression of the human race, the homo-noetic”. What I appreciate more than anything is how no-nonsense Patten is about telling us grow up, and own up to our call as spiritual practitioners. We must honor a sustainable human presence and be “authentic to the health of the fabric of the whole human system”. Everyone is capable of breaking through to an epic life purpose, as long as they are willing. “It’s about getting right with God and the call to exemplify greatness…When we tune into the profoundly good news of our divine nature, we begin towards oneness, and concurrently discover an urgency to care for humanity with love and activism”. Every person, in their individuality, has the ability to fill in the gaps towards elevating humanity to a functioning system of interconnectedness. This feels like a YAHTZEE kind of moment!

Answering the Call of Ecstatic Love

Living in a cosmocentric consciousness is about more than just being a global citizen. Marc Gafni illustrates this point beautifully with a discussion on the concept of obligation. The Hebrew translation for obligation is “ecstatic love”. This expression of love beyond limits is how we embody the seamless (but not featureless) source code of the world. When we perceive a cosmocentric existence, it is as though we experience the world as living in us. For many in a relationship with power, the message of obligation centers on what is “right” as opposed to what is centered on love and unity. It is the demand for to fulfill an obligation that often discourages authentic action. Gafni suggests that we must reclaim power as an expression of truth and change the dimension of obligation to be innate to our awakened unique self AND evolutionary urgency. It’s quite simple, obligation is created out of genuine need, recognition of a need, ability to meet the need, and seeing oneself as the only one able to meet that need. Therefore, obligation as a stage of developmental consciousness is actually embodied in our essence. Our waking up and growing up to our purpose is really to love ecstatically. Whether you understand your cosmocentric quest as a public or private practitioner, the shift of our internal structures in living in a state of ecstatic love (or obligation), has a dramatic affect towards creating shifts in the lives of others, and the heart of the cosmic source code.

Leyna Roget networks with community organizations and businesses to introduce the inspiring stories of Planet Progress and the developing works of iNDIGO PROjECT MEDIA. She captures on and off camera images for Blog posts, Twitter updates, and various other engaging platforms to bring the viewer into the company’s interconnected sphere. Leyna creates new outlets and sustainable community events that invite the public to interact with iPM.

World Spirituality Retreat: Day 2 – Cleaning Up: The Nature of Shadow

by Leyna Roget

I notice a succinct metaphor in working within the body today; our parts comprise a body, our awakened body reclaims participation within the network of ‘all that is’. There is a kind of ‘flatland’ premise that in raising children, parents’ inextricable damage their psyche so that a majority of ones life is spent equalizing those injuries. Marc Gafni begins with this example to illustrate the second principle of cultivating world spirituality: cleaning up.

Gafni redirects this theory to say that although your parents conceived you, essence has birthed you thru the vessel of your parents. Therein they are only one part of the puzzle that is your perception on this life. In seeking to find our way, we develop humility and compassion towards our parents. Then we notice the relevance of cleaning up, as relevant to our thought forms and belief systems (concrete and energetic), in order to realize the perfection of our creation. So really, from conception by our unique parents, we underwent unique challenges, which have lead us to the unique selves we are today.

Carl G. Jung introduced the term “shadow” to describe the repressed or denied parts of the Self. The practice of Shadow Work engages a “personal growth process which brings your hidden powers out of the shadow and into the light…and become more and more who we really are.” Gafni asserts that engaging in this evolution of consciousness is a luxury for many, and delving into the depths of one’s evil is especially undesirable. Through Shadow Work you are supposed take these repressed and denied qualities and then integrate them back into your self. In Gafni’s “reality consideration” (mind you, “not a lecture” he says, haha), we examine how integration of radical and destructive desires is problematic. These negative cravings are themselves not necessary to the whole of our experience as instead it’s the structure of the darkness that is transformative.

To simplify Shadow Work and say “follow your darkness it will bring you to the light” has dangerous implications as a broad teaching. Alternately, we consider an esoteric reference to the Book of Solomon (Chapter 2, Ecclesiastecles): “greater is wisdom than folly, greater is light than darkness” with the original translation for “than” as “that comes from”. The text becomes: “greater is wisdom that comes from the folly, greater is light that comes from the darkness”. Whoa. Right about now is when my head starts experiencing that throb of a post-strobe light flashing.

As Caplan mentioned earlier in the day, once we apply attention to something our prahna (life force) awakens to it presence, so if we clarify those things that trouble us the most we actually find the light is hidden in the darkness. Gafni connects this to mean, “if the fool would follow his folly he would be wise”. In the new enlightenment teaching of world spirituality, each person’s shadow “is a distortion of your unique, awakened self that needs, desires and wants to be lived.” The cleaning up of the shadow, therefore, makes sense in the context of waking up to the unique self. While I’m less likely to daydream about my uncomfortable, sad side, I notice that apart from a mild anxiety towards identifying my unique shadow, there is a profound excitement to uncovering potential that’s been hiding in the dark.

Leyna Roget networks with community organizations and businesses to introduce the inspiring stories of Planet Progress and the developing works of iNDIGO PROjECT MEDIA. She captures on and off camera images for Blog posts, Twitter updates, and various other engaging platforms to bring the viewer into the company’s interconnected sphere. Leyna creates new outlets and sustainable community events that invite the public to interact with iPM.

World Spirituality Retreat: Day 2 – The Body as Context for Oneness

by Leyna Roget

We enter into the psyche this morning with Mariana Caplan to address the concept of unity, accessible through a focus on inward form. “Mind lives in the body” so that when you examine one through the other, with knowledge of aliveness, the body becomes a foundation for spirit. We first tune into the spirit of the group through single articulations of our state of mind in that present moment: transformation…open…receptive… discovering… Many of our words begin to mirror one another’s and Caplan points out, the wonderful thing about spirituality is that often before we can articulate our experience of it, the feeling lands within us. There’s no doubt that spirituality is on all our minds and bursting from our hearts.

More and more, I experience the feeling of spirituality in the observations of external synchronicity and an internal calm-joy. While this is different and at times confusing for everyone, the principle of discernment is presented as a valuable tool in separating truth from untruth along our “spiritual path”. Discernment means continually developing a context within ourselves, through trial and error, that helps us to answer psychological and spiritual (psycho-spiritual) questions, in favor of our growth. When we apply discernment to our journey, we highlight the endlessness of our path and pierce falsity.

Caplan engages John Welwood’s initial concept of “spiritual bypassing” to shed light on how esoteric practices present esoteric results without truly tapping into the traumas or neurosis of the Western psyche. When we exercise spirituality apart from the body, we are likely to spiritually bypass and avoid dealing with psycho-spiritual issues that have been repressed deeply within the body. If we understand our physical parts as contributing to the whole of our form, and the whole of whom we are as part of the pulsating divine force, it becomes more clear how illness and disease can be physical manifestations of a spiritual disconnect.

A series of four interactive meditation exercises are performed with gentle guidance from Caplan, some with partners, as we “drop into the body” to perceive emotional breaks, without breaking ourselves completely open. Prana ( or life force) follows attention so that as we transition from focus on pleasure to discomfort, these respective energies emerge from our cells memory, free to reveal hidden stories of psychological trauma trapped within us. Caplan challenge us to delicately expose and release these emotional wounds while in meditation. We employ non-rejection tantra, which allows our darker spaces to be engaged comfortably before regrouping attention on pleasurable feelings in the body. I experienced some difficulty evoking coherent images of psyche in the meditation, but I solidified the discernment of trusting these embodied ‘feelings’ as authentic to my spiritual self. I grew up with a lot of physical pain. I didn’t know it when I began yoga three years ago, but that was my introduction to embodied spirituality. Caplan explains, it is the postures or asanas that connect us to our body and not the move itself because holding a position is an internally motivated action. We are taking a ‘seat’ within ourselves, and attempting to be comfortable in it. It was during this exercise of psycho-spiritual troubleshooting that I was able to articulate how I felt myself to be fully on the path to de-fragmenting my mind-body connection, and that’s the best place to be!

Leyna Roget networks with community organizations and businesses to introduce the inspiring stories of Planet Progress and the developing works of iNDIGO PROjECT MEDIA. She captures on and off camera images for Blog posts, Twitter updates, and various other engaging platforms to bring the viewer into the company’s interconnected sphere. Leyna creates new outlets and sustainable community events that invite the public to interact with iPM.

Unique Self and Levels of Consciousness with Don Beck, Katherine Woodward Thomas, & Marc Gafni

In this lively dialogue, Don Beck, Katherine Woodward Thomas, and Dr. Marc Gafni explore the relationship between Unique Self and Levels of Consciousness. Dr. Marc begins with an introduction to his latest teaching, Unique Self, and defines for us the differences between Unique Self and True Self. The dialogue takes a deeper dive as Don, Katherine, and Marc take a journey up and down the spiral and look at Unique Self as it expresses itself through the different levels of consciousness. If you’re ready to take the next step on your Unique Self journey, then this dialogue is for you!


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Obstacles to Unique Self with Don Beck and Marc Gafni

What are the obstacles to realizing your Unique Self? As one makes the leap from True Self to Unique Self, what are some of the common pitfalls spiritual practitioners encounter along the way? And how can we navigate these obstacles more skillfully and with more discernment? In this audio dialogue between Don Beck, Founder of Spiral Dynamics and Dr. Marc Gafni, spiritual teacher and founder of iEvolve, Marc explores with us the many obstacles one may cross on the Unique Self journey.


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