Integral Life Practice

Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, Adam Leonard, and Marco MorelliFull Title: Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening
Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, Adam Leonard, and Marco Morelli
Publisher: Integral Books (2008)
Number of Pages: 388
How long it took me to read: 4 days
Where I got this book:
ISBN: 978-1-59030-467-9

Like a Moth to a Flame

For the last few years, I’ve been reading everything written by Ken Wilber. I believe he’s one of the foremost scholars in the world of transpersonal realities. His work in the areas of integral psychology and integral spirituality is especially intriguing to me as a social worker, spiritual practitioner, and educator of both.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “Integral Life Practice is a way of organizing the many practices handed down through the centuries—along with those developed at the cutting edge of psychology, consciousness studies, and other leading fields—using a framework optimized for life in the 21st century. It is, at once, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, speculative and scientific, and yet also something beyond those dichotomies.” (pp.2-3)

4. “Premodern practices include the world’s great wisdom traditions and the meditation practices that drive them. Modern practices include scientific studies of human growth and ways to induce it. Postmodern practices include a pluralistic and multicultural composite map of the human territory—the territory of you—and ways to include (and not marginalize) all of the important dimensions of your own being (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—in self, culture, and nature).” (p.xvi)

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

Makes you negatively hypersensitive, easily triggered, reactive, irritated, angry, hurt, or upset. Or it may keep coming up as an emotional tone or mood that pervades your life.


Makes you positively hypersensitive, easily infatuated, possessive, obsessed, overly attracted, or perhaps it becomes an ongoing idealization that structures your motivations or mood.” (p.50)

2. “Over a dozen developmental lines have been found to exist, including the following:

  • Cognition
  • Needs
  • Self-identity
  • Values
  • Emotions
  • Aesthetics
  • Morals
  • Interpersonal relating
  • Kinesthetic
  • Spirituality

Each line is unique in that it can develop relatively independently of the others. In other words, you can be far along in one line, mediocre in another, and low in another.” (pp.81-2)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “In modern and postmodern society, we’re most familiar with ethnocentric, worldcentric, and multi-worldcentric morality—in other words, Amber, Orange, and Green. We’re witness, in fact, to the military and culture wars that result from the clash of these different perspectives—from ‘my country (or tribe or religion), right or wrong’ (Amber) to ‘freedom and justice for all’ (Orange) to ‘we must care for the entire web of life’ (Green). Of course, each of these levels contains a slice of the truth, but since each thinks it has the whole truth and can’t see the other’s truth, they are perpetually in conflict. Only at Integral levels and beyond do we begin to see and appreciate how these multiple levels are all part of a larger evolutionary unfolding. Those who practice an Integral Ethics naturally care for the health of the entire evolutionary process itself. They will attempt to transcend and include the important truths of egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, and multi-worldcentric, while pushing the edge of their own growth even further.” (pp.256-7)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“This is not a typical Wilber treatise and I’m having trouble adjusting to this easy-to-read instructive style; I’m much more familiar with having to slog through his deeply profound, intellectual work. This isn’t a complaint, just a difference. This text should be called Ken Wilber Light as it’s apparent that the other authors did the writing (and he states this in the beginning). I applaud their ability to take his heady work and make it manageable reading, while maintaining the integrity (of course) of his life work. I believe the authors will reach a much broader audience with this book than with some of Wilber’s other works.”

“The beauty of these written words transforms the jadedness I feel after the day I’ve had (due to high physical pain levels) into that of healing and compassion, not just for me, but for all sentient beings on both immanent and transcendent levels. The authors write: ‘Divinity is visible not just in the physicality of our world, but in the energy body of Spirit. Dynamic life-energy permeates all living things’ (p.216). This is the blessedness of Spirit I feel as the sun’s energy and the subtle wind blow across my body while enveloping the natural beauty of my surroundings. I fall into the words that manage to express my thoughts and feelings—of peacefulness, of connectedness, of joy. This is what is overcoming my physical pain, for I am not my body, but of my body.”

“I know this is picky stuff from a book that has numerous healthy practices, but I really don’t want to read about meditation and the correct lotus or sitting poses. Yes, I’m supposed to get into these poses and let go of any pain; yes, that’s a good idea. But not everyone (myself included) can do those poses. If I do them, I am in so much pain that the meditation goes nowhere. And while I understand that if I were so attuned to the meditation, my physical pain would dissipate; unfortunately, I’m just not that advanced (and isn’t this book supposed to be about accepting where we all are on our integral practices?). So I lie on my back on my couch and meditate my way and amazingly, it works! I once had an instructor who was in tears as another student and I told her we couldn’t do the lotus positions as we took to lying on the floor; she wanted us to do it ‘just right.’ Please, can we just do what works and throw out the ‘correct way?’ ”

“Reading about the different development lines (see quote above) is interesting. It validates my beliefs about how too much focus is placed on IQ, while ignoring all the wonderful other levels of intelligence we’re capable of tapping into. Studies show that emotional intelligence is far more necessary to succeed than that of extremely high IQ scores. As an example, I come from a family of mathematical geniuses; unfortunately that gene skipped me. What I remember from algebra is how to measure square footage, which is helpful when I buy carpeting…. But really, do I need quantum physics or trigonometry to become a better, brighter person? And while these intelligences are necessary to some, they aren’t for others. For example, I have other characteristics, such as very high emotional and spiritual sensitivities, that I’ve successfully utilized in my capacity as a therapist. The book helps me to see the strengths of myself and others without labeling what is good or bad, right or wrong, intelligent or stupid.”

“The authors’ work regarding ethics resonates with my soul. I feel that we’re currently experiencing a downward slide in this developmental line, not just in the United States, but around the world. How we treat each other, the lack of compassion and love, the lack of moral certitude, is so very disheartening as I continue to see so much abuse not only in my therapy practice, but in the corruption of our so-called leaders—be they business, financial, political, educational, or spiritual leaders. Just looking at the business of extreme bailouts for those who mismanage their corporations, the unethical behavior of persons such as Ken Lay and others with their financial malfeasance, the political lies that are given as facts (Obama is Muslim and not a U.S. citizen), the cheating scandals at our educational institutions, and the corruption of the Catholic Church with its pedophile priests and the cover-up of these abuses, proves to me that our ethical behavior is severely lacking. This line of development is something I haven’t read in other self-help books. It’s a fascinating insight into some of Wilber’s most important work.”

“Upon completion of the reading, I reflect on the passion, commitment, and practices that will continue to aid me on my path of awakening. I’m going to use this book as an introduction for persons I work with who are on similar paths of growth. And I’ll continue to peruse Wilber’s more profound texts which are more engaging to me personally.”

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  1. Janet says:

    Excellent review. Very insightful on multiple levels. May we all take a page from this book and try to show love and compassion in a world filled with too much hate and confusion. Blessings to all…

  2. Teta Bombardieri says:

    How right is the comment :”the lack of moral certitude” which afflict the world …

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