Diane Musho Hamilton Sensei on Integral Naked - Integral Zen
August 04, 2008 17:52

Written by Corey W. deVos
Many people throughout the ages have said the words "I am one with the world,"  but what world did they feel at one with?  And what can we do to ensure that, in our spiritual practices, we are able to find union with as much of the manifest world as possible?  These questions are central to any Integral exploration of Zen Buddhism, and form the basis of this fascinating conversation.... 

"For instance, we might see how a deeply rational zen teacher—someone who has a really deep practice, but is embedded in a very materialistic level of development—has no room to understand the very subtle but powerful shamanistic aspects of Zen that can emerge. They are seen as ritualistic and archaic, but in fact, for people who are able to hold an integral perspective, they are able to see the energetic function of those things...." -Diane Musho Hamilton Sensei

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Who: Diane Hamilton is one of the most skilled and popular presenters at our Integral Institute five-day seminars, and as anyone who has been lucky enough to see her work will tell you, she's a total star. A transmitted teacher of Genpo Roshi's Big Mind process, she and Genpo have been introducing seminar participants to some of the extraordinary aspects of enlightened being and awareness that are available here and now, to anyone willing to inquire into their existence.

Summary: With such a highly sophisticated understanding of all the spiritual states of consciousness available to human beings, Zen is an extraordinary spiritual technology, with a rich treasury of practices carefully designed for the awakening of mankind.  In terms of its ability to evoke powerful states of transcendence—leading people ever closer toward recognizing the infinite liberation that awaits us at the core of each of our souls—many consider the tradition of Zen Buddhism to be in many ways unparalleled.  Some have described Zen as a sort of "plug and play" spirituality, meaning that it is adaptable to almost any background, belief system, or vocation a person might find themselves in—in other words, it is possible to be a Christian, a Jew, or a scientist and be a Zen practitioner, and have authentic spiritual experiences while practicing.  It is precisely this sort of fluid, all-embracing quality that makes Zen such a fascinating tradition for the 21st century—a sort of spiritual "universal donor" with the ability to supplement and enrich almost any other tradition, occupation, or creative endeavor available to humanity.

The reason Zen is so universally applicable is that it focuses almost entirely upon ever-present states of consciousness, with particular emphasis upon some of the deepest states of radical emptiness, clarity, and transcendent unity—states which, by their very nature, are available to us all, babies, boomers, and buddhas alike.  Since states of emptiness might be described as being utterly devoid of content, beyond all words and locations and referents within the relative world, one can assume that my experience of emptiness while sitting on a meditation cushion would be almost identical to your experience emptiness while sitting on a cushion.  Emptiness is emptiness is emptiness is, after all, how could it possibly be any different?  However, once we both get up from the meditation cushions and engage the world of form once again, we might very well have two completely different interpretations of the experience, using very different language to describe what happened, extracting two wildly contrasting perceptions of meaning and consequence from the very same experience of emptiness. 

In this sense, the apparent universality of Zen can be both a blessing and a blight, and has at times fallen prey to one of one of today’s most confusing issues: what is the relationship between evolution, human development, and spirituality? While the East (and the West, in its more contemplative forms) has offered us much information about the nature of states of consciousness, here we must look to the triumphs of Western developmental psychology, which suggests that human beings grow through several distinct stages of consciousness—each fundamentally determining the contours and contexts of our experiences.

One of the most approachable (and intuitively easy to grasp) models of human development comes from the work of Jean Gebser.  Drawing upon the rich historical evidence available to him from almost every major field of inquiry, (e.g., poetry, music, visual arts, architecture, philosophy, religion, physics and the other natural sciences, etc.), Gebser posits that consciousness is able to grow through at least six major stages of consciousness: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral, with plenty of space beyond for new stages to be laid down in the future of human evolution.  Each of these structures of consciousness approaches life with very different values, assumptions, idioms, and meaning-making processes, even when describing the same events and experiences.  As the same states of spiritual transcendence are available to each of these different stages of consciousness, we can begin to see where most of the confusion surrounding our interpretations of spirituality, transcendence, and human potential begin to spring.

Consider this: just about anyone is capable of having an experience of mystical union with the world around them, prompting them to say the following six deceptively simple words: "I am one with the world."  But these same six words can carry acutely divergent meanings from person to person—after all, who is the “I” that is making the statement, and which world are you feeling at one with?  The fundamentalist world as strictly written and interpreted by the book and believers of the “one true faith”?  The physical world of atoms, molecules, and squishy machinery of biology?  The planet itself, as a single interconnected "web of life" threading us all together?  There is not a single, pre-given world "out there" that we can experience spiritual communion with, but a succession of worldviews that can only be perceived by the stages of consciousness capable of enacting them.  Enlightenment is not a static experience—though the empty side of the street may ultimately remain unchanged, the nondual union of form and emptiness is an endlessly moving target, as the manifest world perpetually twists, billows, and slides across the effortless lens of eternity, with new and novel perspectives being born every moment.

The integration of horizontal states of ever-present consciousness with the vertical stages of conscious development does much to help situate our experiences with t reality, as well as offering some much-needed insight as to how an otherwise enlightened Zen master could retain the seemingly "unenlightened" biases of racism, nationalism, or homophobia.  Or how a heroin addict can experience states of spiritual communion with the world   Or how Charles Manson could attempt to justify his derangement by asking "If all is One, then what could be wrong?"  Each of these individuals would likely insist that their experiences of emptiness, transcendent unity, and at-one-ment with the world were very real and authentic, and they very well could have been.  But it becomes increasingly obvious which worlds—which morals, perspectives, and ideals—they are actually feeling at one with, and which worlds they are completely unable to feel united with, by virtue of these “higher” worlds being, in every sense, over their heads.

Integral Zen is the very first attempt within the tradition to account for both states and stages of consciousness, as well as the other components of the Integral approach: quadrants (or perspectives), developmental lines (or multiple intelligences), and types (e.g. masculine/feminine, enneagram, etc.)  By taking all of these dimensions of ourselves and the world around us into account—not only acknowledging them as they manifest in our experience, but beginning to recognize how they all inform and influence each other—we begin to see wholeness where we once only saw brokenness, light where we once only saw shadow, integrity where we once only saw compromise.  In short, we begin to see the elegance of an integrated world, allowing a newly-integrated self to find atonement with more of the manifest world than ever before possible—until this moment is inevitably swept up by the persistent gush of Eros, supplanted by something unimaginably deeper and better than us all—yet, somehow, unmistakably the same….

Many have noticed that humanity is now beginning to experience an extraordinary integration of science, spirit, culture, and technology, an evolutionary confluence of all that is good, beautiful, and true in this world.  And the Integral movement—of which you are all an essential part—represents the bleeding edge of evolution's latest and most significant creative leap toward it's own inexhaustible potential.  Diane represents one of the most remarkable expressions of this evolutionary drive—with one foot planted firmly in the Zen tradition and the other in Integral studies and practice, she is uniquely situated at the confluence of these two mighty streams of conscious evolution, where she stands with undeniable grace, mastery, and clarity.  It is impossible to be around Diane for any amount of time without falling in love with her, and more importantly, with consciousness itself, as she so fluently reflects your own inherent perfection back to you.  Diane is one of the Integral movement's most beloved teachers, for all these reasons and more, and we are very excited to share this dialogue with you all....



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