Journal
Diane Musho Hamilton Sensei - Perspectives and Practice
September 01, 2008 14:50

Diane and Ken discuss the ways the Integral vision has helped enliven and enrich Zen practice by taking a multi-perspectival approach to spirituality, culminating in the “1-2-3” of Spirit and the “3-2-1” shadow process.

"Part of what I like about shadow work is that it kind of cuts through our spiritual piety—there's a certain kind of piety that can set in in spiritual communities, where people start to feel that they're somehow beyond being human...." -Diane Musho Hamilton Sensei

Written by Corey W. deVos

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: There are a great many ideas of what, at it's most elemental level, the universe is made of: some think atoms and quarks, some think strings, some think consciousness.  Some think the word of God, some think a great web of holistic interconnection, and others think an infinite holonic chain of whole/parts, as described by Ken's "twenty tenets.”  But the Integral vision maintains that our world is not composed of any of these—or rather, that all of these are manifestations of reality's most fundamental ingredient: the universe is, first and foremost, made of perspectives.

We experience these primordial perspectives at every single moment of the day—with every thought and act of volition, with every conversation and feeling of connection, with every observation and appreciation of the world around us.  Language itself is molded by these intrinsic perspectives, most notably in what we know as 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person perspectives, which in combination give rise to the ubiquitous pronouns of I, we, and it; the Platonic ideals of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth; the "value spheres" of art, morals, and science; the experience of self, culture, and nature, the Buddhist notion of Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma, etc.

The simple recognition of manifest reality being fundamentally composed of perspectives does a great deal to transform our relationship with spirituality, which by definition is supposed to help us transcend the manifest realm altogether.  Bringing a multi-perspectival approach to any spiritual tradition does a great deal to help flesh out our experience of Spirit, as we begin to discern the "Three Faces" of spiritual practice, otherwise known as the "1-2-3 of Spirit": Spirit as the entire interconnected world we can touch and see, Spirit as the woven fabric of relationships, families, and communities, and Spirit as a direct and immediate first-hand experience.  And if our spiritual practice is to be as comprehensive as possible, and therefore as liberating as possible, it does a great deal of good to bring our attention to these first-, second-, and third-person dimensions of reality.

Diane also mentions the benefit of applying the "1-2-3" approach to our own romantic relationships, in which we often overly identify with the first- and second-person feel of the relationship, while sometimes losing sight of our partner as a third-person individual.  By bringing conscious attention to one other as objective individuals, outside the context of the relationship, we are more able to recognize many of the important (and often endearing) differences between one another, differences which help shape and define the felt texture of the relationship.

Many spiritual traditions make a careful distinction between what might be called a "True Self" that is timeless and transcendent and untouched by the manifest world, and a "relative self" that describes the ordinary ego we walk around with every day.  Here Ken suggests that there is a third self that needs to be accounted for, lest we risk sabotaging our own spiritual enlightenment: the "false self" of shadow and persona, which usually remains hidden from view while sitting on the meditation cushion, and can easily become reckless, over-inflated, and even abusive when infused when motivated by spiritual attainment.

This is another crucial contribution multi-perspectival consciousness brings to bear upon spiritual practice, one which is seldom accounted for in any spiritual tradition: shadow work.  The term "shadow" is used to describe some aspect of ourselves which, for whatever reason, got repressed, submerged, or "cut off" from consciousness—a broken piece of "I" which we no longer identify with, but remains a piece of our consciousness anyway, typically manifesting as an "it" or "you" projection. 

We have sadly witnessed many influential spiritual teachers sink beneath the weight of their own shadows, their embodiment of spiritual realization becoming somewhat distorted, even defiled.  Here is where the Integral approach can seriously help—by drawing from and distilling a rich tradition of Western psychology, Ken has developed a very simple technique to help identify and reabsorb shadow elements of consciousness.   Known as the "3-2-1 process," it is a practice which helps us reintegrate our own shadows by first recognizing something or someone which, for whatever reason, happens to terrify, annoy, activate, or haunt us, and facing it in 3rd-person—describing what it looks like, what it tastes like, what it sounds like, etc.  Then we imagine the person or personification of our shadow is in a chair in front of us, and we talk to it in 2nd-person—asking it what it wants, telling it how it makes you feel, etc.  Finally we step into the perspective of our shadow, being it in 1st-person—speaking from the point of view of that which was once object to our awareness.  By infusing this sort of technique into our daily practices, we gradually begin to reclaim these disowned voices within ourselves—and while it may take a considerable amount of time and personal work to fully reintegrate our shadows, this practice goes a long way to grease the wheels of transformation, as well as to simply recognize and keep a careful eye on some potentially problematic aspects of ourselves.

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