Waking up, Growing up, and Cleaning up – an article about integral spirituality

This an introduction to the concept of spiritual intelligence and development. I will be discussing the following three terms coined by Ken Wilbur. 

  1. Waking up – direct spiritual revelation and realization of ones true nature
  2. Growing up – Integrating yourself into the community/earth as a functional unit
  3. Cleaning up – clearing shadow material from the psyche

Spiritual intelligence is now well recognized in many communities and is backed by research done in over 40 countries. Just like emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence, the value of defining varieties of intelligence offers insight into their nature, and how to then understand, teach, and grow through them. When we combine waking up, growing up, and cleaning up, we have a balanced spiritual development process.

 Let us begin the conversation with Waking up.

Waking up refers to enlightenment.  Historically, inner development of this nature has been most refined by the cultures in the East, most notably China and India.  These cultures have offered us rich texts, teachings, techniques, and systems to wake up from our limited self-concept and realize our true nature. 

The waking up process is one of transcending the limited concepts of self that are tied to the personal body and mind.  This disidentification with the self-concept or ego structure often comes over time, and sometimes culminating in a mystical experience wherein the awareness of an individual reaches such an expansion that it never fully contracts down to the limited -this is termed Enlightenment. However, there are many variations on this experience and the process, so let’s not pigeon hold it too deeply into one structure.  The importance is panning out that it is the individual journey to transcend the ego and realize and live in constant awareness of one’s true nature.

Someone who has awoken may not necessarily have grown up. Growing up refers to the ego and its integration in society as a functional unit. This gets a bit complex, because when some individuals attain enlightenment, their ego is completely dissolved and they have virtually no ego-structure left and they in many ways are unable to integrate into society and usually end up becoming a wandering saint, a holy (wo)man, or something along those lines. But for many individuals, even though they wake up, they still have remnants of the ego, and though they are not tied to it in the same way they were before, they still have to work with it, and integrate it and will live society. Thus, the individual who has completely transcended has no need to ‘grow up’ and integrate into society as an ego, they cannot.  But for many people along the journey, they will need to in the words of Ram Das “realize their true nature, and still know their social security number” [paraphrase].

Let’s transition into growing up.

Growing up, as discussed is the process of being a part of society and culture. When one is on the spiritual path this is a continual process of integrating higher and lower aspects of themselves.  Growing up in terms of spiritual development asks that one deal with sexuality, work, relationships, and family life, all with the wisdom from the higher self, or true nature.  For many, this process involves recognizing the conditioning present in one’s life and consciously creating new patterns that are in alignment with one’s higher self. 

This section of growing up and cleaning up are important parts of the discussion in modern spirituality, I have seen it in the West that many individuals are moving with great intensity to wake up, which is beautiful, but often avoiding the aspects of growing up and cleaning up. Most notably, those who use a great deal of plant medicines, and are constantly having great awakenings without integrating them, or offering much in terms of service for the world.  I get that the West has been a culture that has not had awakening technologies and techniques in it as readily as in the East so there is a novelty and increased desire to dive into these realms, and it’s important for role models and elders to guide the path as more and more individuals are exposed to powerful processes of waking up and also to guide them into growing up. Which involves accepting responsibility, having accountability, offering contribution, and living in a way that is harmonious with your highest knowing of the systems of this planet. Growing up and cleaning up are often uncomfortable at times, especially when we resist them or avoid them for too long.

Let us move into cleaning up and tie everything together.

Cleaning up is shadow work.  Shadow work, as a recognized field and practice is only a 150 years or so old…that means it is a recent development and thus very vital to bring into the conversation.  The process of waking up is akin to moving towards the light, we can thus become incredibly imbalanced when an individual does not equally wish to see their own darkness. Once again, I have witnessed many trends of toxic positivity in the waking up community that is all light and love, and neglects to see the shadow. Our shadow is the parts of ourselves that we push under the surface, perhaps they are too dark for us to want to see, or they don’t fit in with our public persona. This can be a recipe for disaster, especially when an individual has had legitimate waking up experiences and thus acquired a level of mastery over their bodymind and a position of power, and yet has powerful shadowy aspects they have not dealt with in their subconscious.  The most notable examples of this that come to my mind are yogis and breathworkers who have achieved mastery, and yet shadowy aspects of sexuality and narcissism plague their development and harm others.

C.G. Jung has brilliantly said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  The process of healing and integrating spirituality is about becoming whole. Our wholeness comes when we are willing to see all aspects of ourselves and integrate them into our awareness. For example, I can display characteristics of narcissism and it is something I have to continually be aware of, and I’m open to share, because I invite my shadow to the light. I make it known and conscious to myself so that when those particular patterns of activation begin to come into consciousness, I can see it, and make choices to purify my actions in alignment with my highest intentions. It is important to create safety in our communities and a knowledge about what I have spoken to here so that we hold a safe container for all to be seen, this is how we heal together.

To pull the pieces of this article together. A well-rounded spirituality involves a process of waking up, of continually transcending and working with the self-concept (ego-construct). It involves realizing your true nature, and still to be human, to be a functional unit of a society, living in harmony with the spiritual values one has set for themselves, which are often an orientation towards love, truth, and beauty.  This process of spiritual development takes place on every level, the higher self (true nature), the human heart, and the lower self and shadow. A fully realized being has integrated their entire psyche into their awareness, and thus they can see with true vision.  This is where true spiritual intelligence arises, when one is no longer conditions or influenced by projections, biases, and other illusions because they are fully integrated in their capacity to see clearly, and it begins when we see ourselves clearly.

Thank you for reading.

  1. Waking up: Meditation, Breathwork, Pranyama, contemplative prayer, ecstatic dance, fasting
  2. Growing up: Finances, contribution, community involvement, caring for the earth, helping those in need
  3. Cleaning up: shadow work

Please enjoy a short list of techniques or associations with each category I discussed below, and feel free to comment your thoughts, and message me if you would like to explore holistic coaching or breathwork therapy.

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