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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Integral Incubator Day 1: Without Words

See preface piece "On Arrival"
My hotel here in Boulder is directly across the street from a Whole Foods, so I got to start my day with their granola bar (berries, coconut, almonds & 3 kinds of honey--but no sugar) and the short bus ride to Boulder Integral, shown at right.

Our morning session was about introducing ourselves in various fun ways in the high-ceilinged room that used to be a church. Then we heard intros from the coaches we have access to while here: Sue Brightman, Bert Parlee, Nomali Perera, leader Jeff Salzman himself, and several others. Being of clear intention, I dove under the legs of people scrambling to the signup board and got myself one of the slots with Jeff. (A couple of the other coaches are good matches for me as well, and I'm hoping to meet with them later in the week.)

Meeting with Jeff
Jeff Salzman
Jeff asked good questions about my plans for sharing my book with Christians, seekers, and Integralists and offered several good tips for the plan, including that I might be able to do an interview with Ken Wilber. I told him what I really valued from him is his thoughts on the potential awkwardness of talking about the book in a mixed audience--being able to share my honoring of each group's contributions. He said being able to do that is the essence of Integral. He laughed when I asked for his blessing.

Rev. Karen and Breathing Room
I "accidently" ended up having lunch with Rev. Karen Francis, a petite young English woman who says she left the new age to become a Presbyterian pastor. Her congregation outside Boise, Idaho, includes ultraconservative ranchers and liberal city folk. "How do they keep from splitting up?" I asked. "They believe God assigned them to this parish and so they have to work things out," she said.

Rev Karen Francis
Rev. Karen is using ideas from Integral to bridge the gap. "Instead of implying that my amber (roles and rules) folks are wrong, I encourage them to go deeper into their own beliefs and learn to express them better. And that seems to give some breathing room for growth all around," she said. "In fact, instead of attacking him in friendly debate, liberals in the congregation began rethinking their positions as well." Rev. Karen regrets not having anyone to talk with about integral (or as she says, "inTEGral") ideas. I suggested she'd enjoy communicating with Rev. Harriet Quigley, the Spiritual Living minister who first turned me on to Ken Wilber. (Which reminds me, yes, my other hotel mate from Vancouver does know Rev. Sophia who I've done some work with on "Three Faces of God".) Most surprising fact about soft-spoken Rev Karen? She met her husband playing Dungeons and Dragons.

An "unplanned" performance
In the afternoon we had a work session that felt like the most focused study hall you ever sat in. Then in the evening we each did what I'll call a performance art piece. I won't give away the details except that we were instructed NOT to plan anything in advance. This, of course, is impossible for me. So I made a deal with Spirit: I planned the first part and let it take over the rest. The result was something quite magnificent, transformational, that moved me as deeply as it apparently did the audience. I told the essence of my book without words in 60 seconds. The glorious feeling of freedom and connection with God it left me with will probably be my most lasting memory--and powerful result--of my week here.

Fascinating People
"Kid in a candy shop" is how one participant described the feeling of the opportunities available to us here. Here are examples of some people I am meeting--or hope to meet, because it already seems the time is going very quickly.
  • Costa Rican Jose Fernandez has played piano at the White House, been a radio talk show host, and university professor who is on his way to DC for a Doctorate in Public Policy. He's a sweetie and eager to join the DC Ken Wilber Meetup. I already want him in our Transformational Practice Group as well.
  • A couple of integral artists including Jolen Monheim whose project is "Swimming in the Ocean of Becoming" - photographing dancers underwater and manipulating the images in Photoshop.
  • A couple of people working on integral novels.
  • Several people interested in socially responsible investing or forms of capitalism that refocus on quality of life.
  • Several life coaches, meditation instructors, or yoga instructors seeking to broaden their practices and their businesses.
  • A couple people in life transition whose project is to figure out what their project is
More tomorrow: Day 2

Monday, June 14, 2010

Integral Incubator Diary: Arrival in Boulder

Jeff Salzman
This week I'm at Integral Incubator in Boulder, Colorado, to create the marketing plan for my book. The Incubator is a working retreat for those who want an intense jumpstart on a personal project. It is led by Jeff Salzman, a founder of Ken Wilber's Integral Institute, and will include one afternoon with Wilber.

Nomali Perera
My flight from DC arrived in time for me to catch just the last hour of an optional Introduction to Integral. I missed four of the five aspects: quadrants, lines, types, and states--arriving for half the final piece on levels of development. Naomi Perera of Boulder Integral co-led, making big-screen presentations from YouTube of songs typifying each level. Jeff ended by saying the "second tier" levels permit us to re-integrate values we may have left behind, including magic from the "magenta" level. "In a sense, miracles once again become possible," he said.

Adorning the wall of the Boulder Integral meeting room were pictures and bios of the 20-some people I'll be sharing my week with. I went to dinner at Cheesecake Factory on Pearl Street with three of them:
  • A personal coach from Vancouver 
  • JackieBergman: a Swedish engineer whose wife runs a Wilber Meetup in Stockholm and who focuses on the choice between love and fear in leadership training that he does for engineers. He says the problem in the Scandinavian countries is that everyone is a philosopher but no one wants to walk the talk, and thus he is interested in the Transformational Practice Group I belong to.
  • Victoria Blackwood from Maine here to develop a strategic plan for developing leadership in a multicultural context at the Maritime university she works for. She's an Episcopalian-turned-Buddhist who seeks to express Christ Consciousness in her daily life.
I can't wait to meet the rest of my new friends tomorrow: Day 1

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Book Patio Party Celebrates "Hard" Interfaith Dialogue

    My call for a new kind of inter-religious dialogue sparked lots of good ideas and enthusiasm at my first book party held on the leafy patio of my corner Pasha Cafe. 15 of us enjoyed a lovely spread of Middle Eastern Appetizers while supporters and I re-enacted scenes from my book "The Bishop and The Seeker." Although my co-author Bishop Phil Thomas couldn't be there, Dietra Jones from his staff did a great job of reading his part in our dialogues. Laurie Bolster from my New Thought church played herself, and my husband Andy played my intefaith chaplain friend Ed Preston. (more photos below)

    Here are some highlights:
    • Laurie, who helped edit the book, said she was amazed upon reading the finished product to see how much it surpassed the individual chapters she had worked on. "Makes complex concepts easy-to-read, accessible while drawing a vivid portrait of Pastor Thomas that makes his openness and integrity jump off the page."
    • Amy Roth said what she loves about the book is the "humanness" with which I drew the characters and the concepts, bringing down to earth a debate that is usually about extractions.
    • Neighbor Jason Powell and his transformational coach friend Chris didn't say anything during the presentation, but afterwards I overheard them scheming, "Every congregation has one person who would fully appreciate the power of this approach and be lit on fire to share it. How do we get it into the hands of that person?"
    • Jason, who is a member of a Meetup for Polymaths (people interested in everything) suggested I start a Meetup devoted solely to my book. Hey, there's a thought, eh?
    • Matthew and Wendy from Memorial Baptist bought a copy for themselves and one for their pastor. "Most of my friends are New Age and can't imagine why I would choose to be Christian. I've been waiting for a book like this to help me explain it to them," Wendy said.
    • Wendy also told of having mixed feelings reading Stephen Prothero's new book "God is not One." Because my Wilber Meetup buddy Ron Walkow (in blue shirt below) keeps me abreast of blogs like Rod Dreher's at Beliefnet, I was able to quote Dreher espousing hard-edged interfaith dialogue showing how all religions could be describing the same high truths from mushy interfaith dialogue that assumes everyone in all religions already does.
    • Belinda from Clarendon Baptist came on the prior night, when rain forced us indoors, and bought a book to get ideas for the public series they hold annually on "Blunt Questions for God and Christians."
    • Nurse Lynn, who remained a Catholic while her mother left Catholicism for a Black protestant church, bought two copies--one for her mom so they can begin a fresh conversation.
    • Also on the prior night, Nell Minow, who writes the "Movie Mom" blog on, recommended Guestfinder radio placement service as the best use of my advertising dollars. She also responded to my discussion of balancing humility with self esteem by telling the Jewish advice, "In one pocket you must keep a note to remind you that you are so important God created the entire world for you, and in the other pocket you must keep another note reminding you that you are so unimportant he created you last."
    More info about the book is at

    Many thanks to Pasha Cafe which gave us a great deal on the evening and splendid service from our favorite waiter Alex. Some gorgeous additional photos posted by Dietra.