Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comments from those reading the book

Please share here how the book is affecting you. Here's a starter comment from Julie Estep of Chico, CA, one of the first people to buy it.

"I suppose it need not be said that the book is a “bridge-building” tour de force, given its ambition and scope. It echoes and grounds conversations that, doubtlessly, innumerable New Agers, meta-philosophers, mystics, and non-traditionalists have been constructing in their heads for decades. Your book provides a succinct, precise, and unique mirror, which is one of the many things that make the piece so valuable. Readers will say: “OmiGod! Yes! Exactly! Thank you!”"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Highview Series 5: "My Intuition is Your Holy Spirit"

Follow our hearts or follow the scriptures? This was one of the main themes throughout  the dialogue in our book, so Bishop Thomas and I saved it for the last night of our discussion series at Highview Christian Fellowship.

At the beginning of our story, I'm all for "heart" or direct divine guidance, and he's all for the unchanging standard of the Bible.  But as our story progresses--and as our discussion series progressed last month--you could see both sides expanding to include some of the other's conviction: me because I realized how susceptible we humans are to mistaking ego for revelation, and Bishop Thomas because my concession of that freed him to focus more on the mature spiritual stages in which we have wholly incorporated the scriptures into our  way of being. Indeed, I came to see that most of my peers absorbed the Judeo-Christian ethic so thoroughly in childhood that they don't appreciate how much it still does serve as a "standard" against which they measure their intuitions.

"You call it Holy Spirit, we call it Spirit," said Rev. Trish Hall, minister of my other church, The Celebration Center for Spiritual Living."

One Standard, Two Answers
From Chapter 27 of "The Bishop and the Seeker," we read how I challenged Bishop T about a situation in which I seemed to be getting divine guidance that contradicted scripture. A friend was in the hospital, but I got a feeling that I didn't have to go visit her that day.

"Scripture tells us we should fulfill other responsibilities," he said.

"Ah. So you're saying a decision to go could be supported by scripture, and a decision not to go could also be supported by scripture?" I asked.

"Yes, it depends on the situation." he said.

"But suppose I didn't have other responsibilities that evening. I just had a feeling my friend didn't need me--perhaps because she had other visitors or was being discharged. Shouldn't Spirit be able to communicate to us new information like that that isn't in the scriptures?"

"You can take that attitude," he said. "But you may be wrong."

And THAT was a major "aha" for me. When I follow my inner knowing, I risk the possibility of being wrong. If I follow the pre-set standard and things don't work out, its not my responsibility. So how responsible am I willing to be?

Overcoming "the World"
"But what about the affect of the world on us?" asked one participant. And that made me realize that both our traditions, Christianity and New Thought metaphysics, share a passion to overcome the influence of "the world" of public opinion. Personally, I was  lucky that my mother taught me, "Never follow the world, most people are boobs."  But of course, that left me prone to judgment which may be just as difficult to overcome.

Following up
Several people asked at the end of the evening if we could continue the discussion informally, which I will be happy to do. Just let us know if you'd like to sit in.
All My Ministers
My favorite photo of the series:
Me between Rev. Trish Hall of Celebration Center, and my co-author Bishop Thomas.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Highview Series 4: Living for Heaven or Earth?

For the fourth week of the book discussion series of The Bishop and The Seeker at Highview Christian Fellowship, Laurie from Celebration Center served as seeker of the week, reading from Chapter 20, "Living for Heaven or Earth." Laurie is  featured in chapter 17, "Wicked and Evil Isn't That Bad," in which she spars with Bishop Thomas asserting everyone is basically good. She ends by saying, "I'm not going to say another word until I've gone to ministerial school to learn to express myself properly."  And today, several years later, she returns half way through the ministerial program of One Spirit Interfaith Learning Alliance in New York.

Several times during the evening Bishop Thomas repeated his main theme of this series, "Telling Seekers the Truth about the Bible." "If Christians want to draw others to their faith, we need to focus on building relationships with them and using our lives as examples."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Highview Series 3: Seekers of the Week, Mark & Rev. Trish

(Sept 15: Fairfax, VA) "Seeker of the week" Mark Gill didn't get far in his questions about how a loving God could send people to hell at last night's discussion at Highview Christian Fellowship of the book I've co-authored with Bishop Thomas, The Bishop and The Seeker. In my absence, Mark and Bishop Thomas read aloud from Chapter 8 in  which Bishop tells me no Christian has any business worrying about who is going to hell, and each person is responsible for only as much light as they are given.

Mark is an ex-Pentecostal turned "spiritually homeless" by dogmatism, hypocrisy, and what he learned at divinity school. "I didn't backslide," he told the group, "I fled. And now I'm just interested in finding a higher level of truth." Reading as me, he  got a laugh with the final line, "Wouldn't you be fired if anybody knew you believed these things?" he says to Bishop Thomas. "That's the first thing I thought as I read this book," Mark added on his own.

A young woman from Highview asked about atrocities in the Bible, and Bishop said he would answer some of those questions separately, but they generally arise from taking stories our of context.

Mark said that what attracts him to this series is the unusual opportunity to learn each others' views of God in a safe environment that welcomes questions. 

Learning the truth
"But I come to learn the truth," said one participant.

Bishop Thomas said that worrying about conditions for salvation can distract Christians from the mission Jesus outlined in Luke 4:18: "To preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."

Rev Trish on New Thought

Rev. Trish Hall joined the discussion. She's the senior minister at the other church I belong to, Celebration Center of Spiritual Living, an interfaith center in the New Thought movement. She shared her view of the need to continually honor our own divine nature within. She said that we could all get along in the world by realizing the commonalities among our beliefs rather than letting religion tear us apart.

Bishop Thomas responded that she might have an idealistic view because of her life circumstances.
"Since you brought up the subject ..." said Rev. Trish, and she shared some of  her background of extensive childhood abuse. "I am not the victim of my past.  Victimhood is a choice.  I know I am free to choose how I experience my life.  I choose to live life fully and to serve God and hopefully make a difference ..." 

In the quiet that followed, Bishop Thomas skipped his customary wrapup comments."I can't add anything to that," he said. "Let's close with a prayer."

Because I had to teach that night, I am relying on reports from attendees. But several people told me how much they appreciated Rev. Trish's warm, engaging, funny, and personal stories in explaining her beliefs.  The feeling was mutual and Rev. Trish declared her intention to return for the remaining two sessions. Folks also reported enjoying Mark's sincere quest for truth. "He was in his element," I heard.

Two more Wednesday nights

September 22: Laurie from Celebration Center takes my place as seeker of the week. Laurie is a ministerial student at the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York. They'll be reading from Chapter 20, Living for Heaven or Earth?

September 29: I return to discuss Chapter 9, "My Intuition is Your Holy Spirit"

Please join us for the series:
"Telling Seekers the Truth About the Bible"
Robert Frost Middle School, Cafeteria
4101 Pickett Rd, Fairfax, VA

Monday, September 6, 2010

Highview Series 1: Taking Off the Church Lady Hat

The first night of our book series for Highview Christian Fellowship commingled so many roles, levels, and cross currents that I started off by putting on and then removing my "church lady hat" to symbolize our need to step out of usual ways of being.

Staying for the Ride
For starters, Bishop Thomas and I read from the chapter in "The Bishop and The Seeker" in which I tell him that the plan of salvation sounds like the plan of an insecure person without much imagination, and he asks me to come up with a better plan.

We asked people how the reading shows off things that do or do not encourage open communication. Several people noted that Bishop Thomas remained calm, listened, and did not take offense even though my comments were blunt enough to be potentially offensive.

"To do that, you have to have enough love for people to stay with them for the ride," Bishop Thomas said.

But what about "Truth"?
Min. Daryl Ladd said, all this exchange of ideas is fine,  "But did you ever get to the Truth with a capital 'T'?"

This was a moment we knew we would face. Would it enhance the discussion or derail it?

Bishop T responded, "What you mean is, did Teri ever get saved, and that's an adventure in missing the point."  (He was referencing the title of a book by Brian McLaren about how Christians miss opportunities to expand the Kingdom by focusing on salvation.)
Mother Venita, a senior member of the church with a lifetime of labor organizing behind her, said she was impressed by an idea in the book about "transcending and including" the good aspects of outside ideas. "I find I am attracted to some of the values in Buddhism, so I tell myself, the bottom line is whether its compatible with salvation through Jesus." 

Surprised at who's in heaven
Ayub Kaddu
Visitor Ayub Kaddu is a Ugandan whose encounters with Christians in his gardening business has caused him to return to the cow worship of his ancestors. Ayub asked what would have happened if Teri had persuaded Bishop Thomas to her views. Bishop said there was no possibility of that since he is grounded in absolute truth.

But he also said that when all of us get to heaven, we may be surprised as we look around and see who's there and who's not.

At that point my friend Amy Roth, a Christian and  ex-NBC reporter; chimed in that I am one of the most Christian people she knows--regardless of whether I call myself Christian or pass the official definition of salvation.

Why do this?
"You might be wondering why I did this and whether it was worth it for me," Bishop said. "I can tell you the time I spent getting to know Teri's point of view strengthened my own faith and made me a better Christian, a better man, and a better pastor."

Amy Roth
Amy interjected, "Teri, can we ask you the same question? Given that you don't seem to have persuaded Bishop to your views, was all the time you spent worth it to you?"

"Oh, God," escaped my lips. "This was one of the juiciest experiences of my life. I might still have a slightly different understanding of salvation--one I would like to share with the group--but I have more love for God, for all Christians and especially my Highview brethren, and a richer experience of life every day. Plus I've had a chance to become one of  your best praise dancers" (which got me a laugh--if you check out the video, I'm the one on the end going left when everybody else goes right).

Visitor Mark introduced himself as an ex-Pentecostal turned atheist by his experiences in divinity school. He said he couldn't agree with either Teri or Bishop's views in the book, but he acknowledged how unusual and refreshing it is to have a discussion like this that is based in good will.

Warm welcome and connections
Afterward Sisters Reedis and Bridget served homemade refreshments while my husband Andy sold books. I noticed Mark in extended conversation with Daryl, visitor Chris in conversation with Mother Venita, and Ayub getting his picture taken with everyone. Chris is an agnostic foreign service officer who has served in countries where religion is often an excuse to kill. He told me later he was surprised by how warmly welcomed he felt by the Highview people. Ayub told me he didn't understand the points about "Truth," but he could tell there were good people at Highview, and especially Bishop Thomas.

Two questions were put in the "parking lot" for future sessions: How Teri experiences salvation, and--as a challenge to the seekers from Bishop Thomas--name any question that the Bible doesn't have an answer to.

Participate Virtually in Next Meetings
I encourage anyone reading this to participate virtually in the next meeting by posting here your response to Bishop's challenge. We will raise your questions in future sessions and post his answers here.

Meetings are all Wednesdays in September
7-8 pm
Robert Frost Middle School, Cafeteria
4101 Picket Road
Fairfax, VA

Also please check our list of Ten things you can do to help promote the book--which includes a survey of questions you'd like to see discussed.

Schmoozing: After the discussion, Ayub discusses the problem of land theft
in his native Uganda with Amy, Public Affairs Director at  International Justice Mission,
which has an office in Uganda.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Christianity vs. Interfaith: Erring on the Side of Love

Will all be drawn to God eventually or are we free to choose? 
Must we be guided by the scriptures or by our hearts?
Is Christianity the only path?
How can those who take different perspectives on these questions work together for good in a hurting world?

Opposites across the table?
At the table on my left, three strong, handsome, Black, Christian men, their bald heads seeming to emphasize their embodiment of the traditional virtues of  piety, humility, and endurance: Bishop Phil Thomas of Highview Christian Fellowship flanked by his lieutenants Deacon Greg Coulter and Minister Eric Holder. On my right, two golden-haired women from the interfaith and New Thought movements: the older, Rev. Joyce Liechenstein who co-directs the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York (OSIS), and the other--dressed in the flowing ochre robes of an angel--Rev Trish Hall of the Celebration Center of Spiritual Living in Falls Church, Virginia (CCSL). Anchoring the other end of the table from me was the woman who brought us together for this meeting,  Laurie Bolster, who is both a practitioner at CCSL and a ministerial student at One Spirit.

The amazing and electric meeting  was arranged at the request of Rev. Joyce who came down from New York to meet me and Bishop Thomas after Laurie passed her our book. The Sunday afternoon meeting capped a weekend of activities with local graduates and faculty of OSIS, including  a book discussion at the home of faculty member Barbara Kinney and a visit to the morning meditation at CCSL and to the Highview service at which I was dancing.
Following meditation at Celebration Center for Spiritual Living, from left:
Rev Joyce Liechenstein, Rev. Trish Hall, Rev. Rene Ragan, Barbara Kinney.
The three guests are faculty of the interspiritual counseling department of  OSIS,
an arm of One Spirit Learning Alliance, OSLA
Me on the left dancing at Highview. Click for Youtube.

I can capture the essence of topics covered at this extraordinary meeting, but I can't capture the sparkling  openness, humility, teasing, love, and spirit of cooperation that underpinned them.

Salvation vs. Enlightenment
I started the meeting by reading from page 89 of our book Bishop's surprising description of salvation.
In Buddhism and Hinduism and all those, you have to keep striving for perfection. You have to go through all those deaths and rebirths trying to learn lessons. But when you’re saved, you’re perfect now. There’s nothing else you have to do. So you have nothing to be afraid of. Your holiness is complete, right here, right now. And that is so magnificent, so freeing, so empowering, that if you really understood it, you’d never do anything to defile it. 
In the silence that followed, Bishop Thomas got the first of many laughs saying, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." 

I told the group I got so excited by how that definition echoes my understanding of "enlightenment," that I ran with it farther than Bishop T. is comfortable--to the place of knowing, as he himself said, that even the Ten Commandments no longer apply as I make my choices from love rather than from the law.

Scripture vs. Direct Revelation
This pulled Bishop T right back into our main dispute throughout the book: whether there is one standard we can rely on to know HOW to express love--the Bible as the "manufacturer's manual" on how best to run our lives. Rev. Trish jumped in to say indeed there is a standard, but the best way we can know it is through direct revelation.

Alexandria Hospital chaplain Ed Preston (who along with his wife Diane had opened their lovely home to us for the meeting) jumped in from the peanut gallery to remind us of the New Thought teaching that we all create our own realities.

"We can do that, but we'll have to take responsibility for the consequences of the realities we create," said Bishop T.  Revs Trish, Joyce, and Ed echoed agreement.

Will All Return to the One or Can We Choose?
Rev Joyce, who at 75 and well under 5' makes me think of a diminutive medieval abbess crossed with a marketing CEO, flipped rapidly through her heavily marked Bible. She cited Saul, the prodigal son, and references in Ephesians and Colosians to God's "secret plan" to bring all creation together and make known that "Christ is in you."  "These verse tells us that ALL will be returned to God," she said, "So who's going to mess with God's plan?" 

"We are," said Bishop Thomas. "We mess up. 'Many are called, but few are chosen.'"

"I'm not so sure about that verse," said Rev Joyce. The Jesus seminar tells us we may have only a dozen accurate quotes from Jesus. So I like to pick and choose the verses that sound really good to me." (laughter)

"So do I,"  said Bishop Thomas (louder laughter). "Scripture says now we see darkly. But Christians believe we must choose to accept God's offer to return to Him. People are fee to choose not to return." 

"Oh yes, we can refuse, but only for so long," said Rev. Joyce. She told of the book Testimony of Light, in which a deceased nun reports back to her friend that even in the shadowlands on the other side, angels come every day to continue bringing light. "Though I could be wrong," she said. The older I get, the more agnostic I am as I realize how much is mystery to us."

"Well I pray you're right, but the scripture tells me differently. This is where we'll have to agree to disagree."

Sermon Exchange!
As they plucked grapes from a bowl between them, Bishop Thomas said he doesn't like to get involved in theological discussions like this while people are hurting. "We pastors are like the fellows  who cut a hole through the roof to get their paraplegic friend to Jesus for healing. We have to do whatever it takes; we have to cut a hole through the roof while everyone else is dallying."

 Rev. Trish agreed heartily. "We need to learn how to move people into a better understanding of what we call enlightenment: getting our human selves out of the way so we can have that greater experience of God as light."

"Well I could let you preach that at my church," said Bishop Thomas.

"Sermon exchange!" exclaimed Laurie and I simultaneously.

"Well I could let Rev. Trish preach at my church," said Bishop T. Even with the people who are far out in New Thought, like Dale (referring to the top of page 130 in our book), the errors they make are erring on the side of love. My people would understand that. But I would have to be careful what I said in your church because folks are so sensitive about how things are said. I can sound a little rough sometimes because of my Pentecostal upbringing."

Marching in Iambic Pentameter
Bishop T said pastors must do like Sergeant Carter in the old TV comedy Gomer Pyle: While all the other marines are marching in order, someone must correct Gomer who's always out of step, "marching in iambic pentameter." (Bishop T. has a way of creating poetry on the fly like this, but the broad grin I withheld turned to awe when I later checked the definition of Iambic pentameter: a particular rhythm that groups of syllables called "feet" establish in a line of verse, a line made up of five pairs  or "iambs" of short/long, or unstressed/stressed, syllables.

As the meeting came to a close, Bishop Thomas said, "We're not going to solve our differences. I hope discussions like this can help us find enough common ground that we are not bickering and can work together to impact the world in the way God wants it impacted, leading people to a life of abundance in Him."

I believe there was more love and trust in the world at the end of this meeting--and more clarity as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Abraham and Aristotle: What is Interfaith Metalogue?

Carol Haave, Judith Latham, Amy Roth, Ed Preston, Teri Murphy,
Chris Sandrolini, Frances Eddy, Onley, Dr. Ahmad, Edie Russo

(Arlington, VA) Presenting Bishop and Seeker for an interfaith salon yesterday, I focused on how the book does or does not demonstrate the move from interfaith dialogue to interfaith metalogue. This approach was suggested to me by James Jones, Integral Institute co-founder and lay leader at Unity Fairfax.

I read three dialogues from the book, two with my favorite Muslim imam, Dr. Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute who was at the salon, and one with my co-author, Bishop Phil Thomas of Highview who will attend the next salon.

We placed several themes on the table:

  • Dialogue is normally advocacy for one's own position. Metalogue seeks something beyond
  • Metalogue is a conversation about the conversation one is having--which is what Bishop Thomas and I shared during the period we were editing our own dialogues for the book.
  • Metalogue requires that at least one of the participants be aware of the context from which they are speaking: how are my beliefs about this question shaped by history, society, and my own personal upbringing and psychology? James used his favorite term "intersubjective context" here, creating a connection across the room with Barbara Kinney, a developmental psychologist and interspiritual counselor from One Spirit Learning Alliance in New York. Barbara added that in metalogue, one notices one's own shadow projections--the part of ourselves we deny and see exaggerated in others
  • I thought Barbara offered the best definition of metalogue as co-creating something fresh that transcends the participants' prior beliefs
  • But then Dr. Ahmad offered a definition that took my breath away, "Normally we dialogue about worship, but perhaps it becomes metalogue when we dialogue as worship."
And then Voice of America reporter Navbahor Imamova brought us back to reality saying, "I don't believe in interfaith dialogue. People from different religions have a nice discussion in a fancy roomy while outside members of their own religions are fighting. To do any good, we need to be talking about differences within our own religions."

Amy Roth of International Justice Mission offered that The Bishop and the Seeker does exactly that by modeling how to have the kind of dialogue that opens fresh possibilities. "Seek and ye shall find," she said--which also took my breath away, because it happened to be what I'd had inscribed on the cake we were just about to share.

The salon was a regular meeting of Abraham and Aristotle and All their Children,  which is graciously hosted by retired Voice of America producer Judith Latham. In September we will meet for part 2 in which we'll look at the polarities in religious beliefs about materialism, literal translations of holy books, and the role of government in enforcing "God's law."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Incubator Day 5: Integral Christianity?

Continued from Day 4

Co-creation vs Surrender

Ross Hostetter
As the tension between co-creation and surrender is one of the themes of my book, when we were given the chance to sign up for a second coaching appointment, I decided to let the Universe choose. Earlier in the week, I had scrambled to get the appointment I wanted, so this time--even though I had three top choices--I let the other participants sign up first. Which three slots were left open? Yep, the Universe threw the choice back at me. I picked Ross Hostetter, an attorney who runs the business end of Boulder Integral and is writing a book on Integral Christianity.

My project of dialoguing with orthodox Christians would appear to be outside the focus that most Integral Christianity work has taken. Most the focus has been on expanding states of consciousness with meditation and contemplative prayer. (A broader picture is explored in Aqal Journal Spring 2006 including this great chart showing how congregations live in all four quadrants. Buy the full issue here.) Ross did seem more interested, though, after I showed him the video clip of me and Bishop Thomas that I received the congratulatory note about from Ken Wilber. Ross recommended I contact the publicist used by Michael Dowd for his book Thank God for Evolution.

Transformational Practice Groups
I also took the opportunity to share with Ross my enthusiasm about bringing spirituality into our daily lives via the small group process for transformational practices developed by my mentor James Jones. That's my group in DC in the photo below.

My Transformational Practices Group in DC.
From left: Justin Frank, Anita Conner, Amy Roth, Marianne Josem, Teri Murphy, and Malcolm
Transformational Practice Groups

Closing Rituals--and a Surprise
Our final day brought lots of hugs and chances to circle up for assessment and appreciation. Several people mentioned how Rev. Karen Francis had changed their image of Christian pastors. "You made it safe to say 'Jesus' again," said one person as everybody laughed. (Rev. Karen told me privately that her own experience in the New Age movement made her aware of the need to reintegrate a direct divine connection back into Christianity.)

And then Nomali surprised us--and I think Jeff as well--by telling an idea for future Incubators--focusing them on interest areas: integral education, integral health, integral Christianity, etc. The mere idea of an Incubator focused on Integral Christianity set of an explosion of ideas in my head. Would it be for people who want to launch a project that promotes Integral Christianity or for people who want to launch any kind of project from an Integral Christianity flavored "Big Womb"? I had been thinking that an Integral Incubator is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But now I'm thinking ONE may not be enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Integral Incubator Day 4: Email from Ken Wilber

Continued from day 3.9

I rubbed my eyes a bit when I saw Ken Wilber's name on an email in my inbox. Two days earlier Jeff Salzman had suggested that I send Ken a link to this short video clip of my dialogue with Bishop Thomas. What I'm finding is, when I just tell people about my dialogue with orthodox Christians, most say, "That's nice, dear." But when I show them this clip they say, "Oooh. You've got something there." And so Ken's note, received after I spoke with him Wednesday, said simply
Jeez, just got this now, Teri. Love it! Thanks so much....
I was, of course, thrilled for this validation by the person whose work has provided so much of my inspiration for building bridges across religious conflict.

And now the good news

But that may not have been the most exciting thing that happened yesterday. I was curled up on a bench outside the meditation room in a scrumptious blue blanket Nomali had provided in response to my "special care request" for needing a daily nap. Through the closed door, I heard the most amazing video clip being taped. In the most professional and compelling voice you can imagine, I heard something like this (rough paraphrase).
Are you tired of an America torn by strife and mired in old approaches that aren't working for 21st century problems? This new show, America, Next Version, will showcase groundbreaking solutions to our technical, financial, and quality of life problems. New ideas from a broader perspective that show us how to transcend old problems while including the best of who we are. In each show, we start with a prayer:

We open ourselves to the Divine power that is always embracing us and enriching us with everything we need. Divine loving energy that knows all the solutions to our every need is pouring through us now, empowering each of us to step out and do our part to create a renewed America...

As soon as the voice stopped, I bust through the door and asked, "What was that!" A handsome young fellow in a sharp suit told me he was taping his application to be on the Oprah show, and I'd be able to see the clip and vote for it on the Internet in a day or two. "This guy is going places," I thought. So I gave him the postcard about my book and told him he had to interview me. "This looks teriffic," he said. "I'll reach you through Facebook."

Thank God Nomali, who seems to be a jack-of-all-trades, (she was designing and sewing her own clothes at age 9) has graciously agreed to help me figure out Facebook tomorrow.

Elevator Speeches
Our last activity of the day was the long-awaited "elevator speeches." After much coaching during the week, we were each given 60 seconds to tell about our project in the way we might do in a chance encounter, such as in an elevator. Being an old Toastmasters hand, this was a hugely fun challenge for me, and my turn got a great response. In fact everyone rose to the occasion, and I heard passionate, funny, and moving appeals that made me wish we could start the week over so I could spend more time with each person. Luckily, we've got one more day. Next>

Integral Incubator Day 3.9: Making New Friends

Continued from day 3.5

If the Integral Incubator did nothing else than provide a comfortable work space for 30 fans of Integral from around the world to mingle for a week, it would be a fabulous deal. Even making a dedicated effort at it, I haven't been able to connect with everybody. When I meet someone I vibe with, do I spend more time with them, or keep mingling to discover other nuggets of either commonality or expansion of my interests? I've been trying to do both.

Pleasures of Pearl Street
After the trip to Denver to see Ken Wilber on Day 3, most of us went to Boulder's famous Pearl Street Mall to stroll and dine on a perfect summer evening. Although I started with a plan to join a large group for dinner, circumstances cooked up a better plan: a quiet beer and guacamole with my new friend Victoria Blackwood, followed by a lovely relaxed dinner of tapas and wine with world-renowned developmental expert Susanne Cook Greuter and her charming husband Craig.

Victoria lives in a Maine farmhouse with her new husband, child, and dog Wilber (yes!). On the surface we appear to have little in common--her job after a decade directing hospitality on cruise ships is running the continuing education program for an international maritime academy. Yet her vibe is of someone extremely grounded, competent, engaging, and at-home in the politics of a big organization or the tight quarters of a hierarchical male-run ship. (I don't believe her when she says she's been a bar maid but never a captain). It turns out our common interest is in churches seeking a new model of community. Her father was an Episcopal priest who designed intimate church buildings, and her mother studied theology with luminaries including Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Carl Yung. (Why am I meeting so many cool Episcopalians lately?). Needless to say, dinner among the f'our of us was not boring--especially with Victoria's penchant for breaking into jokes with a heavy Mainer accent. "Ya can't get there from here."

Integral Flamenco and the Mob
No less fascinating was my lunch that day with a fellow who became Christian after the Mob put a contract on him. Barricaded in his house with guns, he saw a sign, "Jesus is Lord," looked in the phone book to find the "Jesus is Lord Church," and ran over to the place where the pastor called out to him on arrival, "The devil's trying to put you in a box, but you'll be safe if you become God's minister." So this fellow started and ran a passionate Pentecostal church until his view of God expanded to a point where his congregation threw him out for someone who still believed in the devil. Today his partner is a raven-haired Colombian artist and spiritual teacher who did a showstopping flamenco-style piece of performance art for us, high black boots stomping and black cape soaring. She teaches that the coming of Christ is the birth of Spirit within us, and once got rival churches in Nicaragua to come together. The two plan to start an Integral coffee house and spiritual center.

And then there's  a young gay man who wants to shift gay culture such that young gays feel encouraged to develop their interiors instead of just their fighting stances in order to better shift the culture around them.

Can you see why I'm trying to spend some time with everyone?

More tomorrow: Day 4

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Integral Incubator Day 3.5: Meeting Ken Wilber

My polka dot elbow is bottom left. Click to enlarge.
(Continued from day 3) As our group from the Integral Incubator settled in to Ken's window-walled living room, his assistant suggested gifts be placed in a pile by Ken's empty chair, which bore a pillow with his face on it--so that seemed my best option for presenting my book. Ken walked in, sat down, and began teaching integral theory (i.e., taking the largest possible perspective on everything) with no introduction other than to get a laugh by saying, "I've said this many times before, but I love hearing myself say it."

He took us from hunter-gatherer through integral (with a long detour on the decline of slavery, which I knew would interest my friend Amy Roth who works for IJM fighting the rise of slavery worldwide). He ended by noting its lonely at the top, and encouraging us in our work to make practical applications of Integral in the world.

Our dozen or so brief questions generated long thoughtful answers--including a fullrecounting of the plot of "to Kill a Mocking Bird" in response to a question about his favorite movies. "I don't choose movies for the amount of truth in them, but for how well made they are," he said.

Historic exchange

My question didn't form in my head until just before I asked it. Here's what I recall of the historic exchange, which got both us us good laughs.

TERI: I'm Teri, and the passion you've ignited in my life is to bring Integral to Fundamentalists (laugh). I use David Zeitler's recommendation of horizontal identification--standing next to someone in a way that highlights our commonalities and then just glowing to raise the vibration. (laugh) I did that in a two year dialogue with a Christian pastor who takes the Bible literally as recounted in my book (I point to the book in the floor, but he doesn't look). And my question is if you know of anyone else who is taking this kind of approach that I can network with?

KEN: Well that's fascinating. Most of the work we've done with Integral Christianity is with the Catholic tradition of contemplative prayer. I was just beginning to tap into the movement to apply Integral within a Protestant context when I was hospitalized three years ago, and I lost track of that project. I do recall that some of the evangelical pastors involved had very large followings, five or six million. So its time I tap back into that. In fact, I have two manuscripts on my desk now that look at Integral from the Protestant Perspective. Where are you based out of?

TERI: I'm the coordinator of the Ken Wilber Meetup in Washington D.C., and my work has been with a pastor of a black church in Fairfax. Whenever I explain to him the benefits of Integral he says, "The Bible has all that and a bag of chips." (laugh)

KEN: I wish I'd known that (in the sense of "I wish I'd know that before I wasted my time writing 30 books." Very big laugh)

I was thrilled to pieces by the spontenaity of the exchange, wishing only I'd had a chance to actually see Ken receive the book.

Next, day 3.9

Integral Incubator Day 3: Meeting Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber center back. Click to enlarge

continued from day 2

I am 99% THRILLED with my visit to Ken Wilber. We rode a bus to his loft apartment in downtown Denver after being briefed on the protocol of being a guest in his home (don't use his bathroom and don't present him with your book for comments). After five years of failed attempts to make Ken aware of my project, I told Jeff Salzman that he would have to "go to red" to prevent me from handing my book to Ken. Jeff took this good naturedly, saying he was visualizing tackling me.

I took a couple hours in the early morning to mark up in pink highlighter the dozen or so pages I thought Wilber would most get a kick out of. I cut up yellow Post-its to mark the pages and used a hot pink Post-it for my favorite quote from Bishop Thomas.
You say Christianity is fear-based because you’re comparing us to all those other world religions. In Buddhism and Hinduism and all those, you have to keep striving for perfection. You have to go through all those deaths and rebirths trying to learn lessons. But when you’re saved, you’re perfect now. There’s nothing else you have to do. So you have nothing to be afraid of. Your holiness is complete, right here, right now. And that is so magnificent, so freeing, so empowering, that if you really understood it, you’d never do anything to defile it. …Now your eyes are really bulging. What? Tell me.
(I reply) That's not salvation; that's enlightenment!
Integrating First Person and Second Person God
The hour's ride from Boulder took us through prairie made brilliantly green by recent rains. I sat with Presbyterian pastor Karen Francis to learn about an epiphany she had the prior day. She let go of the project she arrived with: to learn to better communicate with people at all developmental levels in her congregation. When we were given a chance to summarize our project on a sheet of poster paper, she was surprised by what filled the void: a drawing of a chalice into which divine love was falling from above and spilling over, and poetically arranged words in colors of the developmental levels of Spiral Dynamics:




In Jesus Christ

Karen's gentle radiance as she told me this SO reminded me of Rev Harriet Hawkins, the person who turned me on the Ken Wilber, that I had the impression I had chanted up Rev. Harriet to accompany me at this Incubator.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: For anybody considering the Incubator, obviously I am filtering this report through my own interest in religious bridge building, and making no effort to give "equal time" to other topics. So please don't get the impression religion is a focus of the Incubator. ]

A swank high rise
When we arrived in Denver, I was surprised to debark in front of a swank highrise smack downtown. We bought lattes at the ground-level coffee shop, used its bathroom, and rode up the lobby elevator in batches.

Ken's gleaming, modern apartment has a magnificent view across the city to snow-capped mountains...

Whoops, I don't want to be late to meditation again this morning, so I'll break off here and resume this report in a few hours. See day 3.5

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Integral Incubator Day 2: The Three Faces of God and Cosmic Nipples

Continued from Day 1
Boulder Integral

1,000 golden cords dangled from the ceiling as the day began with a light, fun movement exercise and a lovely meditation on the Three Faces of God. Three Faces is Ken Wilber's concept for integrating one of the main themes I explore in my book--the tension of holding God as an impersonal force we can find union with or a personal force we can have communion with. The meditation was taped, and I'll be using it for the series of Meetups I plan to lead in DC on related themes. (As I talk with people here about Meetup I find many are not aware of this amazing online resource for finding people with your interests in your geographic area--and they are thrilled when I tell them about it.)

Planning vs Visioning
Next up was an opportunity to do a four-quadrant analysis of our projects. Mine showed me something I knew but was galvanized to do something about: the fact that my "upper left" (individual interior) is engaged round-the-clock in PLANNING how to get my book into the right hands, but I lag behind in visioning and prayer to support that intention. And perhaps the solution is in my lower left (collective interior), asking for help among my support network. Here's my start, in a form of prayer we call a "spiritual mind treatment" in my Spiritual Living community:

I know there is only one promotion project,
and that is the Divine promotion of ever-expanding love and consciousness in the Kosmic Kingdom.
I align myself with this unquenchable flow,
riding its wave to find the perfect hands to receive my book--those who can use it to heal religious tension in their families and communities while moving closer to their own spiritual Source.
I am so grateful to be a part of this creative shower of milk and honey,
And I release results, knowing the perfect outcome is already done
in the Mind of God.

Lunch with a Publisher
For lunch I hooked up with Jim Ward, a fellow here from Charlottesville, Virginia, who edits a stably successful alternative newspaper that's distributed throughout conservative southern Virginia. His project at the Incubator is expanding the reach of "The Echo" and perhaps finding partners. He asked for a review copy of The Bishop and the Seeker, and I told him I couldn't imagine a better way to tap the solidly Christian market than by featuring a series of debates by me and my co-author Bishop Thomas.

Catbird seat
In the afternoon I passed on a presentation by Sue Briteman on how to craft the "elevator speech" for our projects, putting in some work time on my own project: planning promotion of my book. In our "study hall," I've found myself "the catbird seat;" in the photo below that's me in the far corner of the room sitting atop a barstool and high-top table that's feeling like my office away from home.
Big Ideas: Big Womb
Later I attended an informal talk by one of Integral's top theorists on human development: Swiss-born Dr. Susanne Cook-Greuter, who is here as a participant to work on her book. (Her husband is here working on his novel.) She has sensed something missing in the Buddhist concept of Big Mind and Big Heart as essential features/sources of reality. She explored with us how our projects might be inspired by metaphors around the idea of "Big Womb" as the force that creates. Metaphors flew thick and fast as she told us that breastfed babies receive milk not in a single stream, but in a shower of many tingling streams that stimulate their mouths in many places. Creativity as "cosmic nipple in the sky," she said. Do you think that talk influenced my prayer above?

And more!
There is so much more to tell. Dinner with Tim Wertz of South Carolina who wants to help build Integral Families, dancing and drawing our projects, and more. but I'm feeling like a kid who's had too much cotton candy. Don't tell anyone, but I think I'll skip meditation this morning and just sit gazing at the view of red rock buttes from my hotel room window. This afternooon, we're off to visit Ken Wilber.

A hotel with a mountain view and a Whole Foods across the street. Is that Boulder or what?

Next day 3