Tag Archives: practice

Leaning Forward: The Art of Living on the Spiritual Path [VIDEO]

FULL AUDIO: http://uustpete.org/service/2014-09-07/new-beginnings


What is your spiritual path?

When we talk about being “spiritual but not religious” or living a “spiritual” life, what do we mean exactly?

There are different ways we can define spirituality (its own line of development, the highest level or stage of any line of development, an attitude toward life – like compassion or love, a peak experience regardless of lines or stages, or the Ground of all being and experience). Spirituality means all of these things (and more) to so many. And when discussing spirituality with others, it’s important to determine which definitions are in play.

But one thing is for certain – the spiritual path should not be confused with our spiritual practice. The path is not what we do. It’s who we are, who we choose to be in each moment. It is the journey to which we are called.

And whatever we are called to do – whichever cause or organization or group of people we’re called to serve, this is also part of our path. It’s a sacred relationship, a spiritual contract held in place by the agreements you have with yourself – that you will serve on your path with integrity.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to having doubts about my own worthiness – and my own qualifications. Not only in my career, but in parenting, in my pastoral and chaplain work, in community leadership, in my writing. Who am I to be deserving of these teachings and experiences that I’ve received? Who am I to be worthy of happiness in my life? Am I deserving of the opportunity to teach others?

Self-doubt sometimes greets you on the sunniest parts of the path.

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3-2-1 Shadow Process

“Dissociation proceeds from 1st-person to 2nd-person to 3rd-person: 1-2-3. The reversal of dissociation thus goes from 3 to 2 to 1. Hence, the 3-2-1 process. We summarize this process as Face it (3), Talk to it (2), and finally, Be it (1).”

– Diane Musho Hamilton

Kumi Yamashita: Origami Shadow Art

What follows is an excerpt (with some sections re-worked) from the 2008 book, Integral Life Practice. Shadow processing is a method of therapy that uses meditation and/or journaling to eliminate real or perceived pathologies. It is the most basic and valuable form of this therapy that we have found to date. Enjoy.

3-2-1 Shadow Process

Choose what you want to work with. It’s often easier to begin with a person with whom you have some difficulty (e.g., lover, friend, boss, family member). This person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset you. Or maybe you feel attracted to, obsessed with, infatuated with, or possessive about this person. In any case, choose someone with whom you have a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative. Alternately, pick a dream image or a body sensation that distracts you or otherwise causes you to fixate on it. This can also be positive or negative.

You can recognize shadow in two ways. Shadow material either:

  1. Makes you negatively hypersensitive, easily triggered, reactive, irritated, angry, hurt, upset. It may keep coming up as a negative emotional tone or bad mood that pervades your life.
  2. Makes you positively hypersensitive, easily infatuated, possessive, obsessed, overly attracted, or perhaps it becomes an ongoing idealization that structures your motivations or mood.

3: Face It

Now, imagine this person or observe the disturbance very closely, and then, using a journal to write in or an empty chair to talk to, describe the person, situation, image or sensation in vivid detail using 3rd-person pronouns such as “he,” “him,” “she,” “her,” “they,” “their,” “it,” or “its.” This is your opportunity to fully explore your experience of the disturbance, particularly what it is that bothers you about it. Take this opportunity to “let it out.” The person you are describing will never see this. Don’t try to use skillful language or say the right thing. Don’t “sugar coat” or minimize anything – describe it as fully and in as much detail as possible.

2: Talk to It

Begin an imaginary dialogue with this object or person. Speak in 2nd-person pronouns like “you” and “yours”. Here is your opportunity to enter into a relationship with the disturbance, so talk directly to this person or image as if he or she were actually there in the room with you. Tell them what bothers you about them. Ask them questions such as “Why are you doing this to me?” “What do you want from me?” “What are you trying to show me?” “What do you have to teach me?” Then, allow them to respond. Imagine what their response to these questions would be and either speak the imaginary responses out loud write them down in your journal. Allow yourself to be surprised by what emerges.

1: Be It

Now, writing or speaking in 1st-person, using pronouns like “I,” “me,” and “mine,” be this person, image or sensation. See the world, including yourself, from the perspective of the disturbance. Allow yourself to discover not only your similarities, but how you really are one and the same. Take on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate you. Embody the traits you described while “Facing It” in step 2. Make a statement of identification with this disturbance, ““I am__________,”  “I am angry,” “I am jealous,” “I am radiant.” This may feel wrong or awkward, and it should. The traits you are taking on are the traits that you have been denying in yourself. They’re the traits that your psyche has been working so hard to keep in shadow.

To complete the process, gently become aware of the disowned qualities in yourself. Don’t just see the world from this perspective, but feel this previously excluded feeling until it resonates as your own. Experience the part of you that is this very trait. Avoid staying in your head and making the process abstract or conceptual: just be it. Become aware of the previously disowned shadow reintegrating into your body, your memory, your emotions, your subtle energies. This frees up the attention that was spent on keeping this shadow behind you or in denial.


You’ll know that the process has worked because you may feel lighter, more peaceful, more open or relaxed. It may make you feel high or giddy. Allow yourself to be gentle with your newly-reintegrated self over the next week or so. You may experience a newfound joy in the degree to which you are participating in life. Always be present, do the work, and move on.

1-Minute Module: 3-2-1 Shadow Process

You can do the 3-2-1 process anytime you need it. Two particularly useful times are right when you wake up in the morning and just before going to bed at night. Once you know 3-2-1 it only takes a minute to do the process for anything that might be disturbing you.

Morning: First thing in the morning (before getting out of bed) review your last dream and identify any person or object with an emotional charge. Face that person or object by holding it in mind. Then talk to that person or object (or resonate with it, just feeling what it would be like to be face to face). Finally, be that person or object by taking its perspective. For the sake of this exercise, there is no need to write anything out — you can go through the whole process right in your own mind.

Evening: Last thing before going to bed, choose a person who either disturbed or attracted you during the day. In your mind, face him or her, and then be him or her (as described above).

Again, you can do the 3-2-1 process quietly by yourself, any time you need it, day or night.

– from Integral Life Practice – (Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008)

Integral Theism

When we talk about or make reference to God, how can we make sure the other people participating in the conversation are talking about the same God we are? The short answer is, you cannot. The idea of God is so personal that the way each individual relates to God (with fear, awe, devotion or worship) is as unique as themselves (not to mention framed by their current worldview and loaded with shadow material from the unconscious mind). God will look and feel completely different to a 7-year-old Hindu boy in India than to a 40-year-old Jewish woman in Brooklyn.  However, in the interest of increasing the quality and effectiveness of our collective spiritual dialogue, there are a few general points that we should outline up front.

There are three perspectives from which we can discuss God (or the idea of God) — 1st-person (the personal, meditative, internal and individual arising of Spirit, I-I, “thou art that”), 2nd-person (the relational, one-on-one, devotion, prayer, God the Father, Mother Earth) and 3rd-person (the physical universe, scientific/contemplative, God-as-the-Kosmos, Spirit-in-Action). These three value spheres (also identified as the beautiful, the good and the true) are useful when discussing or contemplating spirituality. All three are very real perspectives, as all three simultaneously arise together.

The following is an excerpt from the “Spirit Module” chapter of the book Integral Life Practice. It’s the section that addresses 2nd-person (Spirit in Relationship) perspectives of God.

“We are free to love and worship God in all stages of spiritual development. Our natural devotional impulse need not be suppressed, no matter where we are in our spiritual growth. Our human neurology is wired to enact relationship. Humans evolved while living together in hunter-gatherer clans and are neurologically structured to relate to others. We can engage our functions most fully when participating in relationships. Thus, the authentic and powerful processes of theistic spiritual life — which enable us to enact the living drama of a personal relationship with Spirit — are among the richest natural expressions of a truly Integral spirituality.

As spirituality evolves, it transcends “belief in” an objectified mythic creator deity. Integral spirituality is sometimes identified as transcending theism and arriving at panentheism, which is the view that divinity is both immanent (in the world) and transcendent (beyond the world). Ultimately, Integral spirituality transcends and includes all categories. This means that as it transcends old ways of relating to God, it re-includes transformed versions of all ways of relating to God that are even fuller, richer, more intimate and profound …

Religion is considered theistic when it presumes a relationship with God (or multiple gods). As we awaken beyond mythic conceptions of God, “belief in” an objectified God falls away. Often at this point, people lose touch with the feeling of devotion altogether.

But we don’t have to lose a sense of devotion as we grow beyond magical and mythical thinking. A higher level devotional practice is still possible. We can always relate to God as our Ultimate Beloved — and even as the nonobjectified Mystery beyond all perspectives. As we climb the ladder of development, this can naturally blossom.”

Try the following exercise:

Ask someone you love, “What does God mean to you?” and see which perspective they respond from.

Then shift the conversation to one of the other perspectives and see how the language that you use to describe God begins to change.

Sometimes we have a problem sharing “our” God language with others in a pluralistic setting for fear of being made wrong or different. God may feel “warm” and “connective” and “enveloping” to me, but “wise” and “all-reaching” and “powerful” to another. However, it’s in sharing that language that God becomes ALL of those things.


Integral Life Practice is available online. We recommend it as the primary reference for cross-training of the body, mind and spirit.