I am often being asked the question about what integration means and I think it is a very important one, so I’ll start by saying that today, all of us are being faced, not only personally, but also inter-personally, nationally, internationally, politically, economically and globally with this challenge. Indeed, our very survival on the planet may be dependant upon on how successful we are in this venture, since the more integrated we are, the more whole or spiritual a person we become and the more capable we are of bringing integrative energy into the world. So it’s a pretty important issue.
At a personal level, integration signifies a state whereby all the many different parts, sub-personalities, layers or levels of us can somehow cohere together and work in unison and not fight, i.e., that we don’t go about our daily lives with different parts of ourselves locked in conflict with each other. It means, then, coming to a place where our masculine and feminine sides collaborate, or where the ‘doer’ inside us can be at peace and not fight with the more mystical us, and where all the many different systems inside us learn how to work in unison together. And so on. In my case, for example, I have a real rock n’ roll side to me – I sing and play the blues ( although not very well!) I also have a more meditative, ‘priestly side’ that is much deeper and teaches spiritual retreats. Both these sides are very much part of me and exist at different levels inside me. In the past, they used to fight and I would think to myself ‘ Blues isn’t spiritual, I must give up this side to be a full human being’. How wrong I was! That was suppression and if we suppress key parts of ourselves, we cannot be integrated, for whatever we suppress about ourselves, we turn into an enemy! Anyway, this struggle has been over for a long time, and now both parts work very co-operatively and respectfully together. Eric Clapton and B.B. King are as much my spiritual heroes as Ramakrishna and Yogananda, and thus ‘Sergie Boy Slim’ gives a certain color to what might otherwise be a somewhat dry ‘Ramana Maharshi Serge’, while the latter gives a new decorum to the Bluesman. In other words, Blues man does not fight with Priest man and Priest man does not try to deride or put down Blues man. They both respect the holyness/wholeness of each other and acknowledge that working together collaboratively is actually a step up for both of them. On my spiritual retreats, for example – and, please note, I am giving two week-long ones in February, both on themes around Joy and Awakening the Heart – see my website – I like to read Rumi’s mystical poems accompanied by some nifty blues licks!
Carrying this theme on into the wider world, we see that the more we may become integrated at a personal level, the more we will be able to do the same at a human-collective level and thus discover our shared human unity in all its manifold diversity. However, this is more challenging. How do we integrate different cultures? How can Christian and Muslim and Israel and Palestine find common ground? One of the great things about the Internet now, is that all world cultures have become available to us. Knowledge has become global and the wisdom and experience of all the major civilizations, premodern, modern and postmodern, can be studied as we now have an integral map making it possible to get the best elements out of all of them. So, for example, taking the theme of spirituality, it is now possible to draw on and integrate the best information both from the East and the West as well as having access to the latest thinking going on in the fields of psychology, business, science, ecology and art. So therefore we are potentially able to achieve a higher level of integration.
We must not forget, however, that in order to have integrations occur, there needs to be a centre or core for the different parts to integrate or cohere around and which is also responsible for ‘doing’ the integration. In the past or in our old model where man was just seen as being his or her personality, a person was regarded as being integrated if they had a good job, were physically fit and had a stable emotional life. Today, many of us are evolving a deeper perception of who we – we realize we are multi- dimensional creatures and so exist at many different levels, that we have souls as well as a personalities – and thus our integration needs to occur at a higher level or around a higher-order centre. In other words, there is much more material to be integrated, and the way I see it is that that higher-order integrative organ or centre is our heart (our metaphysical not our physical heart.) I have just written about the heart’s manifold capabilities in my new book that has just come out, called Awakening the Universal Heart: a guide for Spiritual Activists where I explore this issue in detail. It follows, therefore, that the more each of us learns to awaken to our hearts, the more capacity we have to begin integrating ourselves at a higher level, though how the actual process occurs is a complete mystery, comparable perhaps to how it is that when we have a cut or a wound, that our body draws the necessary remedial ingredients from the rest of our body in order to effect a healing.