Staying Present

There is an ancient enlightenment teaching from the East regarding the importance of concentrating the mind in the present moment as opposed to the past or the future. In this pose, inner peace is found as opposed to the turmoil of worry or remorse. Acceptance of the present moment is a key to liberation from suffering. Developing the skill of resting the mind in the stillness of the present is counseled for spiritual practice.

Enlightenment teachers today have developed these insights into spirituality into a totalizing, absolutistic teaching which is supposed to be self-sufficient for virtually every need and situation. If you suffer, it’s because you’re not experiencing the Be Here Now or Power of Now or something like that. It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of avoiding unnecessary inner conflict and being aware of the present moment, but I am certain that these teachings are too good to be true.

Consider the fact that only a small fraction of the human population – far less than 1 percent – is seemingly capable of sustaining a permanent focus on the present moment such that they do not need to pay attention to the past or future. It is wise to question if it is possible at all for anyone, though I imagine that if gurus are able to have followers take care of the “mundane” details of life for themselves, or if they can live self-sufficiently in a cave somewhere, then it is conceivable that they could rest in the present moment constantly. And they could also make themselves virtually irrelevant to the goings on of “mundane” humanity.

The Power of Now and other teachings which concentrate on the importance of “staying present” ought to be regarded as spiritual technologies, not absolutistic worldviews as they are sometimes presented or held to be. As a technology, I believe these teaching has the ability to generate positive spiritual growth and create more fulfilling and well-balanced lives if it is put into use. It also helps in the attainment of enlightenment, I think, though it is difficult to support this claim without a longer discussion.

So I would urge a practice of remaining awake and aware during the present moment as a matter of good spiritual hygiene, for all the reasons that have been pointed out by the proponents of the Here and Now technology. What needs to be avoided is the oversimplification of the spiritual life by making this teaching the totality of one’s spiritual practice. For all but a very few, that would be a serious mistake.

Meet Ken Wilber at Success 3.0

Ken-WilberAs you may know, I will soon be visiting Boulder, Colorado to attend the Success 3.0 Summit which is bringing together key thought leaders together to explore the impact that can be made by collaborating together and redefining success.

Among the folks who I am most looking forward to seeing is my friend Ken Wilber.  Owing to his health, I’m not sure whether he will appear by video or in-person, but either way is good. His bio as it appears on the site:

According to Jack Crittenden Ph.D., author of Beyond Individualism, “the twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” If you haven’t already heard of him, Ken Wilber is one of the most important philosophers in the world today. He is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Ken Wilber currently lives in Denver, Colorado, and is still active as a philosopher, author, and teacher, with all of his major publications still in print.

Tony Schwartz, the president, founder, and CEO of The Energy Project, and the author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, has referred to Wilber as “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.” Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D., the well-known professor of Psychiatry, Philosophy and Anthropology at UCI’s College of Medicine, believes “Ken Wilber is one of the greatest philosophers of this century and arguably the greatest theoretical psychologist of all time.” And in commenting on the scope and impact of Ken Wilber’s philosophy Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development, and the co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, mentions that “After reading Wilber, it is impossible to imagine looking at the world the same way again”.

What makes Ken Wilber especially relevant in today’s world is that he is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”. As Wilber himself puts it: “I’d like to think of it as one of the first believable world philosophies…” Incorporating cultural studies, anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology, and spirituality — it has been applied in fields as diverse as ecology, sustainability, psychotherapy, psychiatry, education, business, medicine, politics, sports and art.

Wilber explains the need for an Integral Approach in the following way: In our current post-modern world, we possess an abundance of methodologies and practices belonging to a multitude of fields and knowledge traditions. What is utterly lacking however, is a coherent organization, and coordination, of all these various practices, as well as, their respective data-sets. What is needed is an approach that moves beyond this indiscriminate eclectic-pluralism, to an “Integral Methodological Pluralism”, aimed at enriching and deepening every field through an understanding of exactly how and where each one fits in relation to all the others.

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