Friday, October 16, 2015

Beyond Mindfulness: How to Enter the Meditative Path of Waking Up

There’s more to life and to meditation than being mindful. 

Without doubt, Mindfulness is a hot buzzword at the moment. A quick survey of popular culture and we see mindfulness practice being offered everywhere from Google’s campus in Silicon Valley to the halls of elite universities.
I am in full support of any practice that helps people come into deeper contact with their own direct experience as long as it helps the practitioner bring forth a fuller sense of care and presence in the world. Ultimately, however, if our desire is to tap the full potential of human life, mindfulness is not enough.
Mindfulness is the Tip of the Iceberg

Basic mindfulness meditation has the capacity to generate a fuller sense of conscious awareness in the lives of those who practice it, and because of the positive results I’ve seen it have on those I know and love, I generally endorse it. With that said, however, it is vital that those who practice mindfulness come to understand that mindfulness meditation is the tip of the iceberg when considering what is possible in meditative practice.
Throughout history the great saints and sages of both East and West have consistently described a path that leads beyond mindfulness to authentic spiritual awakening. This means that today, just as there has always been, there exists an entire universe of possibility waiting for each and every human being as they deepen their meditative experience. At the core of that possibility there is the fundamental promise and potential to Wake Up.
Meditation Has Gone Mainstream

Westerners have been dabbling in meditative practices borrowed from Eastern spirituality at least as far back as Ancient Rome (see the life story of Apollonius of Tyana).[1] In more recent waves of interest, the Beat Generation and many of the pioneers of consciousness in the 1960s took meditation even further with an active (and often public) exchange that brought Eastern practitioners to the West and sent truth seekers to the East. What is remarkable at this moment in history, is that meditation, once reserved for the fringes and most progressive pockets of society, has now made its way into the mainstream.
If we define meditation as the conscious and intentional practice of turning attention inward to study the phenomena of one’s own experience, then without doubt there are hundreds if not thousands of meditative techniques available to anyone of us today. With a simple search on the Internet, one finds scores of recorded and guided practices, meditation apps for smart phones (my own app Enhance Meditation included), and other forms of practice that can introduce one to certain forms of practice.  In this way, meditative techniques are more readily available today than ever before.

Making Sense of the Meditation Landscape

The fact that it is not uncommon to find meditation in both the classroom and boardroom is cause for celebration. And at the same time, we are faced with an interesting dilemma. With all of the content available, how are we to start to make sense of the plethora of practices at our fingertips?
Despite the ease with which we can access different forms of meditation, what’s not as easily available is any sort of map or guidebook to help the practitioner understand what is what. What are certain meditations useful for? Where do they fall short? Is there a purpose or direction to meditation as a whole?
Because mindfulness is sweeping the world by storm it seems like a perfectly fitting place to begin sorting through some of this confusion.

The Gifts and Limitations of Mindfulness

So, what exactly is mindfulness? What is it useful for? Where does it fall short?
As I see it, mindfulness is a gateway - an important first step on a much longer journey that ultimately leads to authentic spiritual realization.
For those of you who have not yet been exposed to the basics, mindfulness meditation is a practice of intentionally turning one’s attention to the direct experience of the present moment without any judgment.
When the methodology is applied correctly, mindfulness meditation does a few things quite well. First, it brings the practitioner into direct contact with thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they arise in the immediacy of experience. Mindfulness meditation also brings the gift of training the practitioner to pay full attention to that which is arising without distraction.
In our modern culture of short attention spans, instantaneous distraction, and perpetual efforts to find satisfaction and meaning in a superficial material world outside of ourselves, mindfulness practice provides a healthy antidote to a world desperately in need of fuller contact with the depths of our own body, emotions, and thoughts. To be able to do this in a persistent way from moment to moment without distraction is a skill almost any human being would benefit from acquiring.
When I speak and teach meditation, I often explain that there are two types of meditation: meditation with a lowercase “m” and Meditation with an uppercase “M”.
Meditation with a lower case “m” refers to any practice that allows the practitioner to intentionally engage his or her own direct experience. Basic mindfulness practice falls into this category. Although it is true that there are many different kinds of meditation (lowercase “m”), all leading to their own diverse array of states, Meditation (with a capital “M”) is and has always been about Waking Up.

What does it mean to Wake Up?

Not only can one learn to become more available to the present moment, but within that present moment one can expand the field of direct knowing, experiencing, and feeling to come to rest as the heart of Ultimate Reality. Waking Up, in this way, reveals an Ultimate Reality even more profound, more whole, and more enchanted than the one we tend to find ourselves in our usual everyday consciousness. Whereas a basic mindfulness practice allows us to be more present within the container of our everyday experience, Waking Up takes us beyond the mere present moment of thought, sensation, and emotion, to come to the direct experience of a non-separate awareness, totally open, spacious and free. Many of us have felt and known this experience directly in our own lives. This fresh and lucid awareness is always available. As we deepen our recognition we can begin to live in a perfect oneness, blended with all of life.

The Path Beyond Mindfulness

Pure awareness transcends and includes body, emotion, thought, personal identity, space/time, individual consciousness.

So how does the meditative path beyond mindfulness to this direct knowing of Ultimate Reality actually unfold? At its core, Waking Up is just as much a science as it is an art. Meditation masters throughout history, my own teacher Daniel P. Brown included, have clearly taught that Waking Up is a process of removing all the things that obscure our ability to perceive an Ultimate Reality which is already here. That means that in addition to the fundamental layers of existence that tend to create separation in our experience (thought, emotion, and the physical body), the process of Waking Up progressively reveals deeper layers of experience that are more whole, more free, and more open. (See my book Streams of Wisdom for a full description  of the path beyond mindfulness)

After becoming aware of body, thoughts, and emotions, awareness deepens to notice the moment to moment arising of a personal identity bundled with all of its personality traits, likes, and dislikes. As the path continues, we become aware of the experience of the entire space-time matrix, no longer confining our awareness to the conventions of cause and effect and spatialization. As Waking Up progresses even further, we become aware of the subtlest layers of information processing that create a basic split of subject and object. As these deeper layers of one’s own experience become familiar, we begin to notice the fundamental self-contraction into individual consciousness. As this self-contracting activity is noticed the very noticing itself releases us from the fundamental and erroneous assumption that there is a “meditator” doing the meditation in the first place.

At each progressive layer of realization, we learn to disentangle awareness from the previous layer of identity, while affirming a deeper layer of awareness that stays.
Ultimately, what results is a direct knowing (gnosis/jnana) of naked awareness in its purity. This naked awareness exists without a shred of artificial activity overlaid on top it. This isn’t just being aware of the present moment in the conventional sense (e.g. mindfulness). This is far beyond a mere conceptual labeling of thought as thought, or emotion as emotion. At this level of practice, awareness is recognized as the indivisible Ground of Being, simply and effortlessly, arising in, through, and as every form and every layer of seemingly separate identity. This level of recognition reveals a fullness of life. One comes to know Reality as an ocean of awareness-love that saturates everything.

Waking Up is a journey well worth embarking on....

Why Practice a Path Beyond Mindfulness?

Whereas mindfulness can help the practitioner become entirely engaged with the present moment, it doesn’t (in and of itself) lead to what the traditions call liberation or radical freedom. This type of freedom produces a direct knowing that everything is okay on a fundamental level, exactly as it is. As one begins to get a taste of this radical freedom, there is a natural opening of the heart and an increased capacity to allow steady stream of unconditional love to flow through one’s life and action. Not only does this make one more effective in the world in direct action, but this level of realization generates a continual field of inspiration, care and empathy for all those who enter it.
Going Beyond Mindfulness

And so, to state again my support for mindfulness, I am pleased by the fact that more and more people are coming into fuller and more regular practice of mindfulness meditation. There is no doubt that mindfulness is a healthy and welcomed antidote to many of the personal and social ills that we face as modern and postmodern culture. But if nothing else is gleaned from this article, please remember one thing: There is a pathway beyond mindfulness that leads to a direct realization of an ultimate, non-separate, unbounded identity.  This awareness is sourced in love, made of love, and leads to action that leaves a trail of love wherever it manifests.
There are many great lineages and teachers who can lead you down the path beyond mindfulness. If you want to go even deeper in your practice, reach out to me. Either I'll be able to help you directly or I’ll be able to point you to the teachings and teachers who might be a good fit for you.

If you are one of those lucky souls who have already seen benefits in your life from a basic mindfulness practice, know that there is more to come. The path beyond mindfulness is more full, more complete, and more deeply satisfying than you could ever imagine.

Dustin DiPerna

Join Dustin for a series of monthly meditation sessions “Beyond Mindfulness” in Berkeley, CA.
Oct 20, Nov 24, Dec 15, from 7:30-9:00pm @ Dondrubling, Dzogchen Center, 2748 Adeline St. (above Crixa Cakes Bakery). More details can be found HERE.

You can also join Dustin (along with John Churchill) on November 21-22, 2015 for a two day meditation retreat in Berkeley, CA: “Embodying the Open Ground -- Living Non-Duality Through the Body” @ Yoga Kula. More details are  HERE.

[1] See Linda Johnsen’s Lost Masters: Sages of Ancient Greece. P 95

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISIS, Boko Haram, and a deeper look Inside Religious Extremism

Global counter-terrorism efforts consistently fail to recognize the influence of psychological development on religious interpretation thereby missing the opportunity to effect real and lasting cultural transformation.

The White House recently hosted experts from around the world at a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. The summit was designed as a platform to share best practices in the prevention of violent religious extremism. In light of the ongoing conflict with ISIS in the Middle East, continued Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, terrorist attacks in Sydney, and the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the summit could not have convened at a more relevant time.[1]

A dear friend and colleague of mine was in attendance. As I spoke with her about the summit, I learned of the various conversations at play. Some participants focused on basic national/international security issues, others encouraged dialogue among religious traditions, while still others discussed how to curtail social factors that lead to violent action (e.g., recruiting, radicalizing, training, etc.). 

In our present Western culture we give a massive amount of emphasis to the exterior dimensions of our experience (behavior, security, social/economic influences) but we often miss the more subtle aspects at play that relate to the interiority of our experience; the dimension of consciousness. At the end of our conversation, I kept thinking to myself how useful it would have been to have someone in attendance at the summit who understood the basic stages of human development and how they relate to religious interpretation.

Here’s why: an individual’s relationship to and interpretation of a particular religious tradition falls along a spectrum of psychological development. The stages of interpretation are rooted in the basic ways in which we cognitively process information. James Fowler’s work on Faith Development, out of Harvard University, is still some of the best research we have on the subject. What Fowler found, and what much of my own work has attempted to deepen,[2] is that faith development is its own line of intelligence. This means that regardless of how developed a person might be along other lines (interpersonal, emotional, cognitive), interpretation of faith has its own evolution and trajectory. 

Understanding faith development is a critical component to mitigating the dangers of violent religious extremism.

Early stages of Faith Development are simplistic in their cognitive processing. They tend to see distinct and often dichotomous relationships between ideas and beliefs, their interpretation of scripture and tradition is often literal, and there are strong tendencies to draw bright lines between those who are on the “inside” of the faith and those who are not. As healthy development unfolds, perspective taking expands, boundaries between “us” and “them” begin to fade, and a capacity for bringing together multiple worldviews (even those from other faiths) comes online. The higher reaches of faith development allow one to find a deeper, more inclusive, and more universal synthesis of multiple worldviews simultaneously.

The stages of faith development provide a road map away from extremist views and towards views that are more universal and integrative. Combating extremism, isn’t simply about addressing the exterior issues. Yes, of course we need to consider religious violence across multiple traditions. Yes, of course we need to mitigate against further advances in behavioral factors that lead to extremism. And yes, of course we need to take seriously international security issues. But without someone or some group consciously holding a meta-view that includes the interior/consciousness dimension of combating extremism, countless opportunities for effective action will continue to be missed. 

We have the knowledge and capacity to help pave the way for conveyor belts of transformation within each of our world’s religious traditions. The opportunity exists to transform religion from being one of the strongest barriers to evolution to evolution’s greatest ally.  [3]

My latest book, Evolution’s Ally, offers a roadmap for greater understanding of terrorism, harnessing the power of religion for positive human and social transformation. Check it out HERE

[1] In its official press release, the White House announced that the summit intended to “highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.”     Statement from the Press Secretary on the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, January 11, 2015. Accessed on Feb 27th <>

[2] See my recent book release: Evolution’s Ally

[3] This article was originally published in German in Evolve Magazine. Slight alterations have been made to the original content for the purposes of this blog. I highly recommend readers check out the new magazine here:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bridging the Spiritual Chasm:
Why Sam Harris and Ben Affleck Need a Dose of Integral Theory

There was recently an exchange between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s Real Time television show that has stirred up a lot of dust. The passion revolved around some of the comments that Harris made about the religion of Islam and Affleck rising to Islam’s defense. A classic example of two perspectives speaking past each other, each with partial truths. I didn’t see the episode live but in the days after the exchange several people brought the interaction to my attention.

You can watch the interaction here. (Open link in new tab).

I’ve had an interesting relationship with Harris’ work ever since his book End of Faith was published. I welcome his rational voice but am often dismayed with how easily he dismisses religion altogether. I find his open mindedness about meditation and awareness training to be refreshing, yet his over identification with an anti-religion worldview often limits what he can see. (Coincidently, according to my recently released book Streams of Wisdom and Harris' new book Waking Up are frequently bought together.)

As I read through Sam Harris’recent blog post, describing his experience with Affleck while on Maher’s show, I realized how much the entire field could benefit from a touch a of integral clarification.  It is in that vein that I offer a bit of my own expertise on Integral Theory and Religion into the public sphere.

Islam is more than extremist and moderates

Islam, like all of our world’s great religious traditions, is enacted according to the specific levels of development of the actors involved. To be sure, Islam has a particular shape and flavor that has consistency throughout all interpretations.  Folks like Harris tend to emphasize the consistent dimensions of faith, often intentionally highlighting the aspects that many consider the most challenging to stomach, as a methodology to provoke or even dismiss entire traditions as “bad ideas”. But just as each tradition has a flavor and shape itself, it is equally true that every human being has a lens and worldview that brings forth particular elements of the tradition according to the world that he or she can see. There is not one version of Islam that is either “Good” or “Bad” but there are at least five versions of Islam, all dependent upon specific levels of interpretation. Each of these levels is not arbitrary. The levels are consistent across traditions and can be correlated with very specific stages of psychological development.

Whether we use the work of Harvard researcher James Fowler’s Stages of Faith or the models of American philosopher Ken Wilber, we see a very similar metric that can be used to explore five basic levels of development.

These levels can be referred to using the shorthand terms:
  • magic (Stage 1),
  • mythic (Stage 2),
  • rational (Stage 3),
  • pluralistic (Stage 4),
  • and integral (Stage 5).
Each level has particular characteristics and hallmarks of how it shows up in the world. Furthermore, each level has both moderate and extremist orientations.

The Magic Level of Faith
At a magic level of engagement, or in the context of this outline, what we might call a Magic interpretation of Islam, is hallmarked by superstition, an outlook that seldom takes perspectives outside of basic egocentric concerns, and an obsession or overemphasis on ritual and/or on specific lines of text without a broader comprehension of the larger context.

The Mythic Level of Faith
Mythic versions of religious traditions, and in this case, mythic version of Islam, tend to be deeply ethnocentric. This means that there is a very strong emphasis on “in group and out group”/ “people of the book and infidels”, etc.. Also at this stage there is often an over dependence on black and white meaning making. Absolutistic stances are taken on topics, almost always based on external authority, without much room for rational inquiry.

The Rational Level of Faith
Rational orientations to religion, or Rational expressions of Islam, begin to open to honest and rational inquiry. There is a deep analysis of all those beliefs that one once held without question and a tendency to now make a self determination. Healthy expressions of this stage may move into agnostic or even atheistic orientations for periods of time. If one decides to stay engage with his or her religious tradition, any new beliefs can’t come from external authority but rather have to be based on one’s own tried and true experience.

The Pluralistic Level of Faith
Pluralistic interpretations of faith, or Pluralistic Islam, begin to expand the lens and perspective to include the orientation of other religious systems. As cultural exposure deepens there is a sense that one’s own religious system can be filled out by the perspectives of others. Pluralistic Islam seeks to understand the “other” through dialogue, learning, and exchange.

The Integral Level of Faith
Finally, Integral orientations (as with all later stages) sees the entire spectrum of growth and development. In doing so, this stage of religious orientation seeks to build bridges connecting various levels of interpretation. Understanding that everyone starts the developmental process at stage 1, this level sees the importance of building conveyor belts of potential growth and development in each tradition. Rather than merely sitting in a circle in dialogue (as the Pluralistic level might do) the integral stage combines discernment and compassionacknowledging that some views are broader, more compassionate and more inclusive than others.

What’s the real issue?

The issue is that most of our world’s religious traditions were founded at a mythic level of development. Accordingly, the vast amount of people that subscribe to organized religion still fall within this ethnocentric stage of interpretation. Let’s take a look at Islam in particular. As Western (rational level) values – often dependent upon an unquestioned commitment to scientific materialism -- continue to encroach on the traditional Muslim world, there is a massive tendency for mythic Islam to dig in its heels preventing any sort of vertical movement into more rational orienations. In some cases, like those we see with the spread and politicization of Wahhabism, mythic Islam turns reactionary and moves into its more extreme versions.

The Good vs. Bad dichotomy is an outdated form of analysis

The point to all of this is that in the discourse between Affleck and Harris it’s not just a case of understanding the difference between extremist and moderates, “Good Muslims” vs. “Bad Muslims”. That binary outlook no longer serves us. Rather, what is needed is the critical comprehension that individuals, with different levels of development, are enacting Islam (and all other religious traditions) according to their own worldviews and levels of development. And even more importantly, we must come to the understanding that there are paths that can be highlighted that can help individuals move along that developmental spectrum from magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral versions of each tradition. As development unfolds, interpretations of faith move from being more restrictive, ego-centric and ethno-centric in view to orientations that more compassionate, open, and world-centric.

Harris should be allowed to use his discernment to criticize certain aspects of Islam without Affleck jumping on him as if he is a bigot. But to be effective, at least from an integral perspective, Harris needs to offer that criticism with an understanding of various levels of developmental interpretation. If offered in this way, any criticism would come more in the form of encouragement for deeper development and growth for the individuals rather than with an ode of divisiveness and a desire for eradication.

What now?

Holding all of this in light, the task in front of all of us who can see a whole and integral world, is to develop conveyor belts within each of the traditions. This will require working directly with Imams, Rabbis, Priests, Lamas and Swamis to acknowledge the entire spectrum of developmental interpretation. As these conveyor belts are made known around the world and in each spiritual lineage, we provide pathways for individuals and communities everywhere to stay within their spiritual tradition while finding a marriage with their own rational orientations (and beyond).

There is a bridge of hope expanding across the chasm of the religious and the rational. Many of us have already taken it. Integral Theory provides one lens and one possibility to make the journey a little easier for us all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is there Room for Compassion in an Evolutinary Worldview?

Every once in a while I'll answer an email question that ought to be shared beyond the private's an example from earlier today: (names were removed to protect privacy)


I was wondering if you can help me with this- I was wondering since you have both an integral and evolutionary perspective on things-what is your take on compassion, wisdom and healing? Do you think compassion and healing has a place in evolutionary enlightenment? I was also wondering where the quality and energy of compassion and healing come from-Being or Becoming. I am interested in these questions because I am a 'healer'-counselor...

I trust you are well, and are up to many great things in the evolutionary process!



Hi B--!

Great to hear from you! Thanks for reaching out.

The short answer is Yes(!), there is an infinite amount of room and desperate need for compassion, healing and wisdom within any evolutionary worldview. And yes, it has a vital and necessary role to play in any healthy version evolutionary enlightenment.

Here's how I look at it:

Eros is the evolutionary drive forward. its role is to manifest newness, creativity, and novel structures in the universe. This is a wonderful and important occurrence but it is only half of the story.

The other side of the story involves Eros' evolutionary counterpart, Agape. Agape is the energy that is constantly reaching back to heal, care for, and sustain all the previous levels of evolution that have come before. Agape is necessary for the health of any evolutionary process. There must be an effort to maintain the health and vitality of all of the previous layers of evolution that the leading edge is building upon. Compassion and healing are both part of this vital downward reach of love and care.

Eros reaches up, agape reaches down -- both sides of the coin are needed if evolution is to be healthy.

To your next question: "Where do the quality and energy of compassion and healing come from-Being or Becoming"?

There are two ways of looking at it --

1) Using the framework above for reference, the dimensions of compassion and healing are generally best thought about as part of the "Becoming" dimension. "Becoming" represents the manifest world of duality. As in the description above, the becoming dimension has two energies eros (reaching forward/upward in creation) and agape (reaching backward/downward in compassion and healing).

2) From another angle, it is also fair to say that an authentic experience of the ground of being is a total immersion in an ocean of Love. From this perspective one can say that compassion and healing come from "Being".

Ultimately, framing being and becoming with an "or" statement, is only useful at first. Upon deeper awakening within the integral worldview, one begins to recognize that being IS becoming. Reality is trans-dual (dual and nondual). This means that all of creative manifestation (Eros), its tendency for deep care and love (agape), and its nondual ground are all one event happening right now.

hope this helps.... :)


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Harnessing the Power of Islam to Create Free and Open Societies

How Foreign Policy Leaders can Generate, Replicate, and Propagate Evolving Interpretations of Islam

Challenging the claims of secularization theorists that modernization and religiosity are antithetical to one-another, my research will build upon the work of scholars like Peter Berger, Noah Feldman, Timothy Shah, Jeffery Haynes, Scott Thomas, and Monica Toft, to examine how foreign policy makers can strategically engage religion as a permanent fixture in the global landscape. Then, applying the latest empirical research in adult psychological development, I will move beyond already existing scholarship to explore (1) how the stages of adult psychological development influence religious interpretation, (2) how this new framework of analysis can allow us to make nuanced evaluations of healthy and pathological expressions of Islam, giving agency to address socio-religious environments with deeper understanding, and (3) how foreign policy can be designed to ensure that evolving interpretations of Islam continue to be replicated and propagated.
Although the theories in this proposal apply to all religious traditions, I narrow my focus here to Islam due to both its prominent place in the government of several strategically relevant countries (e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan) and the fact that intolerant interpretations of Islam currently serve as one of the greatest barriers to more open and democratic societies.
Utilizing systematized evidence and examples to connect a metric of religious interpretation to the stages of adult development provides policy makers with several critical advantages. First, applying this new methodology to religion and international affairs will help decision-makers craft foreign policy that empowers religious leaders to promote evolving expressions of Islam; validating that expressions of Islam are constantly changing to accommodate historical, cultural, and technological changes. With the gates of ijtihad (Islamic interpretation) open and as more fluid expressions of Islam increase in ubiquity in “countries of particular concern”, it will create what CFR president, Richard Haass, calls a “gradual opening”2 in traditional societies. Not only will more evolved expressions of Islam include pluralistic values such as tolerance, cooperation, and cross-cultural dialogue but because worldviews are so strongly influenced by religion, evolving interpretations will also help to shift societies away from the tendency to forcibly limit women's rights, promote blind obedience, and perpetuate intolerance, to views that are more likely to encourage gender parity, human rights, critical thinking, and democracy.
Second, this project will have immediate implications for counter-terrorism and international security strategies. As foreign policy specialists learn how to use a developmental model to preserve the integrity and key principles of Islam, they can simultaneously more actively help interpretations to gradually move away from radical perspectives to those versions of Islam more aligned with modern values. By working in cooperation with organizations like the United States Commission of International Religious Freedom (1) to condemn censorship in countries where more liberal approaches to Islamic interpretation are banned due to laws that designed to prevent religious defamation (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.), (2) to curb the exportation of extremist education and literature and (3) to promote the publication and protection of those voices from within religious communities that hold more moderate views, foreign policy can create the necessary conditions for a new type of positive change to emerge; a type of change that, by its very nature, reduces the potential for terrorism and instability.
Furthermore, when a developmental psychological lens of interpretation is applied to religious analysis, it helps to clarify why such diversity exits within each religious tradition. With this clearer perspective, policy makers can use evidence and examples to work directly with Islamic leaders worldwide to establish a more substantial foundation for religious freedom, as articulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An understanding of religious freedom that is aligned with developmental stages of interpretation will have two positive repercussions. (1) Not only will religious freedom continue to more effectively protect the integrity and diversity between different religious traditions (a right desperately needed in countries like Saudi Arabia), but perhaps more importantly, (2) because an evolving lens is validated by empirical research in the stages of adult development a new understanding of religious freedom will also protect the integrity and diversity of all progressive views within each tradition. Policy designed to enforce a more nuanced approach to religious freedom that includes the protection of intra-religious diversity, will help to prevent the dominance and hegemony of Islamic fundamentalists who seek to suppress and silence alternative, moderate views. With a background in religious studies, a deep understanding of the nuances of religious interpretation, and professional experience working directly with religious leaders navigating the intersection between international affairs and diplomacy, I am strategically positioned to contribute to this specialized area of analysis.
A concrete example helps to ground these ideas. The practical experience of pioneers like Ambassador Robert Seiple, Douglas Johnston, Thomas Farr, and Marc Gopin, demonstrates that the sheer potency of religious belief are often dramatically underestimated. Failure to recognize and utilize Islamic strength may be directly linked to why the strategies implemented in Iraq and Afghanistan are only partially effective. Using a developmental lens to view the current situation in these countries, one notices that when Islam is interpreted though an ethno-centric, intolerant, and exclusivist perspective (all characteristics of lower stages of adult development) it serve as an invisible blockade to progress. Modern structures like democracy will continue to be unstable unless the internal beliefs of Islamic populations are also reinterpreted through a modern lens. If there is to be true social progress in countries that align with traditional forms of Islam (e.g. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.) or in territorial conflicts that, at least in part, involve dispute over holy land (e.g. Israel and Palestine)3, policy makers must engage pragmatically with Islamic leaders to shift religious interpretation up the developmental spectrum. In short, we do not need to force Islamic countries to secularize, ridding them of religion, rather we need to help set the conditions for more evolved forms of each religion to organically emerge. This project shows one powerful way such a goal can be accomplished.

Work Product

With the recent completion of a full-length manuscript on religious interpretation, I have the capacity and know-how necessary to turn this proposal into a book if it is so desired by CFR. Similarly, with several shorter pieces already published, I also have the skills needed to develop the recommendations and research findings into a succinct report for CFR, scholarly articles for academic journals, or presentations oriented to the general public appropriate for Foreign Affairs magazine.
My IAF work product will include both theoretical research and empirical evidence to support its claims. In addition to providing examples of each stage of Islamic interpretation as it relates to psychological development, I will also make recommendations as to how the research might be implemented for immediate action through coordination with both Islamic Institutions such as the World Muslim League and trans-national organizations like the World Council of Religious Leaders. Depending on the interest and needs of CFR, I am pleased to focus my project on Islam as a global phenomenon or to offer a more specialized study of Islam and foreign policy in relation to a single region or country (i.e. Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

Institutional Support

As Director of Integral Affairs, at the World Council of Religious Leaders, I consistently gain practical experience working on the cusp of the emerging field of religious diplomacy. With full appreciation for my position, I also recognize its limitations. Thus far, although I have gained exposure to many religious leaders and the types of religious diplomacy already underway, my work experience has not provided me with sufficient exposure to the intricacies of policy analysis. Adding a more nuanced understanding of foreign policy to my current repertoire of intellectual frameworks (academic, diplomatic, religious) will directly serve my professional strength and aspirations.
Clearly, an opportunity for professional experience in foreign policy analysis can unfold via a number of channels and I welcome the feedback of the Council as to where they feel it might best be accomplished. The most ideal situation would allow me to work as a fellow in residence with CFR at its offices in New York or Washington, DC, while simultaneously maintaining the support of Harvard University faculty.
Taking residency at CFR with periodic visits to Cambridge, MA offers the experience and flexibility necessary for both an excellent work product and successful career development. Dynamic interaction with CFR staff, its networks, and its members will offer a window into policy analysis to which I might not otherwise be exposed. Concurrently, maintaining support at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard’s Center for the Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, will ensure that I have access to many of the various scholars whose work I hope to bring into a constructive dialogue.

Personal Development

I have devoted my entire career to understanding how we can make concerted effort to shift religion into a more positive role in international affairs. Thus far, I have had the fortunate opportunity for interaction with some of the most well respected university faculty and religious leaders worldwide. These interactions will directly translate into my International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) project. Through my study with Professor Jocelyne Cesari at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, I gained a deeper appreciation of the many complexities involved in weaving together various streams of Islam with modernity. Similarly, study with Professor Paul Hanson at Harvard Divinity School has deepened my understanding of the interaction of the religion and politics and the importance of a sophisticated look at hermeneutics (religious interpretation). Finally, the support and mentorship of Bawa Jain, Secretary General of the World Council of Religious Leaders, has showed first-hand how religion and diplomacy intertwine in practical application.
The International Affairs Fellowship provides the next natural step in my professional development by exposing me to areas of study and practice that would otherwise not be possible. If offered an IAF, it will allow me to make the crucial link between a nuanced approach to religious interpretation and the implementation of foreign policy. Surprisingly, despite the desperate need for this type of approach, the vital connection has not yet been brought to the attention of decision-makers.
Bridging the gap between theory and action, I plan to write several more books over the coming years. After gaining several more years of professional experience in policy analysis, I hope to return to academia to pursue a PhD in Political Science. As my career unfolds, I plan to continuously marry theoretical ideas with pragmatic application at think tanks and policy research institutions. Riding the inevitable trend of globalization well into the future, I hope to engage the practical ways that religion might play a role in what Princeton professor Richard Falk calls a “Humane Global Governance”.4 Ultimately, I am determined to find a way that both the core teachings of our world’s religious traditions and secular models of human dignity and universal rights might be harnessed together to catalyze a more compassionate and ethical world order.

(As is obvious from this proposal, I am currently looking for funding for this project. If you know of available resources or are personally interested in funding this project please contact me directly

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Two Energetic Poles of the Universe

Dear _____,

In response to your question of how I view the ideal romantic partnership, please find my response below.

Forgive me for re-articulating that knowledge in which you are already drenched.

The Macrocosmic Perspective:

As you know, duality is a constant flux, an oscillation between two primary poles of energy.

(Energy 1)
Instinic Qualtiy = Its nature is Freedom
Deepst Gift = To offer its partner Fullness

The first energy wants nothing more than radical liberation from restraint. It is boundless in its autonomy, potential, and desire to manifest; exploding new ideas, consciousness, opportunity, truth, goodness, integrity, and beauty into the world. This is the dynamic movement of the evolutionary impulse. In its most healthy and pure form, this energy offers its deepest gift of total fullness as a result of its radical freedom. This energy is fed, nourished, and catalyzed in partnership with complementary energy of support, love, and fullness. The feeder/comlplemtnary energy must give support freely, without expectation or any form of restraint.

(Energy 2)

Instinic Qualtiy = Its nature is Fullness
Deepst Gift = To offer its partner Freedom

The second energy in the universe wants nothing more than to let go completely into the spaciousness of existence. A boundless ocean of love-awareness; Infinite in expanse; relentless in its capacity for care, communion, concern, embrace, and radical inclusively. When it is pure and because of the fact that it is already full, this pole offers total freedom as its deepest gift. When in its healthy form, this second pole surrenders as infinite stillness. It is nourished, feeds, and is catalyzed by partnering with an energy that has %100 conviction and a determination of purpose and direction. The feeder (partner) energy must have complete integrity, autonomy, and must offer itself with so much honesty and transparency that it is deserving of complete and total trust.

The Microcosmic Perspective:

In addition to the more broad macrocosmic scale described above, both of these primary energies also manifest microcosmicly in relationships between two humans.

Most obviously we see these dynamics in our romantic encounters. The ideal relationship would match the descriptions above. One partner consciously taking a particular polarity of energy and his or her partner taking the opposite pole. Another alternative, would be to be in a relationship in which each partner spontaneously feels into the context and situation and then selects the appropriate pole -- easefully gliding between one perspective and the other. For maximum efficiently, evolvability and progress in the universe -- in other words to be aligned with evolutionary principles -- each partner must play the balancing role to its fullest manifestation.

This means that while one partner offers %100 percent support to complement one partners dynamic developmental direction. The other partner must bring an infinite stream of integrity, will, ingenuity, trustable, and explosive energy of potential.

The key to a healthy romantic relationship that involves not only partnership but communion that maintains sexual attraction is to play the appropriate role fully and consciously. This is true whether you find yourself playing one of these roles more than the other or if you and your partner can switch back and forth -- trading poles with ease.


Where do couples go wrong?

In most relationships these two poles are watered down. For instance, the supportive pole (Energy 2) comes in a form that is conditional. It comes with expectations. Ultimately, a watered down version of Energy 2 limits energy 1 because it fails to offer total and boundless freedom.

Similarly, very often the dynamic energy of direction and creative explosion (Energy 1) fails to provide total transparency, clear purpose, and integrity, and as a result is not trustable. Ultimately, when Energy 1 fails to have total conviction and direction it fails to provide the needed context that allows Energy 2 to fully surrender in complete support.

The Ideal

The ideal partnership arises when two humans line up in a way that allows each to play complementary poles 100% in as many life situations as possible. One pole offering total support without restrictions on the other partners freedom. The other partner offering total direction whilst maintaining integrity and trustability allows the other partner to surrender. As energetic "pliancy" or "flexibility" develops -- a partnership can switch between the two poles instantaneously depending on what is required for a particular context.


My advice to you is this...

Find a partner who makes you surrender because you trust his or her direction so fully. Find a partner who supports your direction because in his or her presence you can offer total honesty, transparency, integrity, and purpose. Practice both autonomy and communion. Freedom and fullness. Play with poles and your capacity to shift back and forth. The integral human being is emerging. It is up to use to guide its birth. It will only be so if we maintain evolutionary principles in mind and live in accordance with the laws of the universe.

I'm not sure if this was what you were looking for but I do hope it helps in some way.