Reaching Into the Universe

Class for white people

NYC Pro-Muslim Rally Marching On Sept. 11th, 2010For some reason, the boyfriend and I have been talking about white privilege and the importance of addressing it. Then the universe drops an email in my inbox about an upcoming class called:

Being Mindful & White in a Multicultural World

a class series for white people
with Kitsy Schoen & Christopher Bowers

How timely is that? Unfortunately I can't commit to a class of its length right now (5 sessions, including a one-day retreat), but you should if you can.

About the class:

"A group for white people to explore identity, diversity, racism and privilege through mindfulness. Using practices from various teachings and traditions, we will examine lessons learned about race and privilege, how they have limited and harmed others and ourselves, and what we can do to bring greater compassion, understanding and justice to ourselves and our communities."

More info at:

Registration is required and space is limited. Sign up at

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Watch interesting videos, raises money for a good cause

Andrew Weil M.D. on the future of psychedelic & medical marijuana research

A MAPS benefactor has agreed to donate $1 every time someone watches a video in their Psychedelic Science conference archive. This means that you can raise money to give people psychedelic drugs (legally no less) just by doing what you already do online (i.e. watch videos constantly, judging from your Facebook).

I know it's not nearly as good as raising money to give YOU psychedelic drugs, but it's the next best thing.

Click play on the video to the right to automatically trigger a $1 donation to SCIENCE!, and then go watch the rest of the videos in the archive to trigger more. They've got neat stuff on using psilocybin to treat OCD, Alex and Allyson Grey on Better Religion Through Science and Art, and more.


Notes on saying you’re sorry

Sorry on Australia Day-sky writingFound good information on apologies and forgiveness today. First, this blurb from a Greater Good research digest:

Researchers found that a person is more likely to forgive when they see a relationship as higher in quality, when they have a greater personal investment in it, and when they see the transgression as less negative. However, a person is more motivated to retaliate when they’re less invested in the relationship and see the transgression as intentional. These findings shed light on why we are more likely to give our close family and friends a second chance but may hold grudges against those who are less meaningful in our lives.

Second, the article How to Make an Apology Work, in which we learn that researchers found that three basic types of apologies work best for three different types of people, and if you don't know what type a person is, include all three types in your apology -- basically, offering compensation, expressing empathy, and acknowledgment of violating group rules/norms.

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Notes on a Holacracy strategy meeting

plane landing over simpson bayBay Area Integral's strategy meeting (a type of Holacracy meeting) was great to be part of. Of course I think it went better because I was doing it with other skillful, integral people. Perhaps a better test for Holacracy would be to take it offroading into the wilds of the typical workplace, working with a group of more diverse development levels. Even then, I suspect it would work well.

The meeting started with a check in by roles (everyone in a holacracy fills one or more roles). I'm always impressed with how people in the integral community hold sacred space, moving in and out of it as necessary, quickly, with a minimum of fuss.

The bulk of the meeting followed the standard diamond-shaped creative process: a period of divergent brainstorming followed by a focusing convergence toward our meeting outputs. Every Holacracy meeting has well defined, concrete outputs—in this case, a high level theme for the organization for the year, our core value proposition, and our strategic direction for the year.

The last part of the convergence phase involves a proposal being made based on everything that's been brought up at the meeting which is then run through Holacracy's Integrative Decision-Making™ (trademarked, really?) process. This is a highly structured process that seems to have a lot of power: all views get heard and integrated without having to struggle with consensus, and perfectionism never even makes it into the room—the Holacracy definition of an Objection is "a tangible reason why adopting the proposal is not workable… at least for now". When the proposal can make it through an objection round with no objections it is adopted. At which point there was much rejoicing.

We had just made it through 4.5 hours of strategy meeting, finished early, and smoothly landed a plane that looked, for a while, like it had no engines, mangled landing gear, and only one wing. We were excited by the outputs we had developed, and grateful to, and appreciative of, our circle members for being along for the ride together.


Learning more about Holacracy

Fractal For K & K Challenge #7After sitting in on more holacracy meetings and reading the introductory PDF, I'm beginning to get the hang of it. And in just under 2 hours I'll be attending my first strategy meeting for Bay Area Integral.

The introduction provides the big picture overview of holacracy, which is a bit breathtaking. Holacracy aims to liberate organizations from human egos and ownership, which if successful would have the effect of giving them even more of a life of their own than they already have. And its fractal design could scale from local communities all the way to a global government, all while linking each level to the next.

I'm not sure if I love the idea or want to kill it before it breeds. On the one hand, we have enough problems with organizations that live forever and corporations being treated as people. If corporations already cause too much injustice and environmental damage do we really want to "liberate" them into further autonomy? On the other hand, it seems that human ego and limitation are exactly the things holding us back from significantly shifting humanity's course toward a less perilous future. If Holacracy delivers on its promise to turn corporations into more direct tools of evolution, perhaps it's exactly the kind of thing we need to save us from ourselves.

As for the implications for government, well… I think the biggest obstacle to global governance is that our current forms of government are barely sufficient for running nation-states, let alone a planet. Of course people are terrified at the concept of One World Government—we have enough tyranny and corruption without giving politicians and bankers even more power. But Holacracy distributes power through the structure rather than allowing it to concentrate at the top. Whether or not it could work as a political structure is an open question, but it's much more intriguing than trying to mindlessly spread democracy everywhere.


Why integral people need more green

Mean GreenThe phrase "non-marginalizing awareness" was uttered onstage at ISE2, by Ken Wilber himself I believe, to describe the integral mindset. But I do not find that people in the integral community are somehow automatically non-marginalizing. In fact, I find a lot of work still to be done in this area, even among integral folk, and I wonder how much of this has to do with underdevelopment at the postmodern level, the level integral calls the Green meme.

The issue is that marginalization is not simply a function of our individual awareness but also of our socialization into the culture we find ourselves embedded in and the systems and institutions created by that culture. Certain assumptions from our families and culture become invisible to us, as do the systems built from those assumptions. For instance, someone raised with the assumption that everyone is either "male" or "female" may experience no particular reaction to filling out forms with the question like "Sex: ☐ Male ☐ Female". Perhaps it comes time for that person to design a form at work, and the cultural norm of asking for sex on everything from credit card applications to customer satisfaction surveys gets copied without a second thought.

To be non-marginalizing an awareness is going to have to do the work of bringing such unexamined assumptions and hidden power structures into the light of day. This is exactly the work of the Green meme, the postmodern level of development that brought with it the tools to do just that, from critical theory to deconstruction.

When I'm around the groups of relatively privileged people who tend to populate integral events—mostly straight, white, older, and relatively affluent—I often find myself wondering how much of that work they've done. It's often not readily apparent in their language or behavior. And while there's plenty of focus on weeding out the "mean" aspect of the Green level (the unchecked narcissism that can grow in the space carved out by Green's pluralistic tolerance), and always the attitude that "everybody who's anybody" in integral of course wants to transcend Green (or better yet, already has), I find myself wondering, "Where is the inclusion of it?" Where is the horizontal development at Green that takes you not only out of your narcissism but into ever growing consciousness of your privilege?

I know, I know. "But if I make my privilege more conscious I'll have to exercise more responsibility in how I wield my power that I don't want to know or admit that I have." Exactly.

Solving the problems presented by prejudices such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and cissexism requires that you do this. Find your resistances, deal with them using the tools of your choice, and get on with deconstructing yourself. This is the only way you will become part of the solution rather than part of the problem in culture and society. Integral doesn't explicitly provide tools to do this—because Green already has and integral includes them—any more than it provides tools for you to carry out scientific experiments without using the rational tools of Orange.

So while we watch Green expressions carefully for problems, let's also watch for insufficient Green as well. And let's not forget to celebrate what's so powerful and still very much needed in this world about Green while we're at it. After all, you wouldn't want to go back to living in the 50s would you?


Event: Conversation with Chris Rainier

globes_coronelli_012A friend remembered my post about language preservation & sustainability and pointed me to this upcoming lecture at the California Academy of Sciences:

Chris Rainier
In Conversation With Mary Ellen Hannibal

Enduring Voices – All Roads Photography
Documentary Photographer – National Geographic

Wednesday April 6th 2011, Herbst Theatre

Rainer is the photographer for National Geographic's Enduring Voices project, a multi-year effort that strives to research and revitalize the world’s most endangered languages. Every fourteen days... a language goes extinct on Earth and with it humanity loses all of the oral knowledge of the local people and their environmental history to include ethnobotany, biodiversity and their relationships to the land which sprang from centuries old indigenous traditions. Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many of which are still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts.

Tickets are $20.


Event: BACE Timebank 1st POSSE Party

Party buttonOMG, someone turned POSSE into an acronym: Potluck Orientation Swapmeet Skillshare Event.

The Bay Area Timebank is hosting an event where you can get oriented to the timebank and what it's all about, meet timebank members and even exchange goods and services, and have a good time.

Who: You, and anyone you want to bring
When: Fri, Jan 21, 2011, 6-9pmish
6:10pm Orientation
6:30pm Potluck, skillshare, swapmeet
7:30pm Party!
Where: Blacklight Ventures, 1543 Mission St. 3rd Floor, San Francisco

This is what they say about it:

Please join the Timebank membership for its first POSSE Party in the SOMA and bring your favorite dish to share or instrument to play. If you are new to the Timebank, show up early to our orientation at 6pm. If you have skills like sewing, bike repair, massage, bread-making, Spanish lessons, or goods like homemade jam, produce, kombucha or textiles, you can earn hours at this event just for showing up and sharing! And do not forget to bring your dancing shoes and friends who might be interested in joining the Timebank! These POSSE Parties will be initiated by Timebank members in other neighborhoods on a regular basis. Contact timebankinfo (at) to host one in your neighborhood. It is your Timebank!

Also, if you want to volunteer, they need help, especially if you are a Ruby on Rails developer. They say:

The next Timebank meeting is on Mon. Jan. 10 at 8pm, Noisebridge 2169 Mission St. 3rd floor SF. For meeting announcements, check the calendar at the bottom of the Timebank home page (logged in view), join the volunteer listserv, or contact mira (at)

Come to a meeting to volunteer! We need your input in the design, outreach, and oversight of the Timebank. We are an unfunded, volunteer-based, community-run Timebank, which means we need YOU! We can definitely use help in doing outreach at events, meetings, and to organizations that serve the community. We also need small donations for making brochures and cards with info. about the Timebank.

The Timebank needs help with it's website development in Ruby on Rails. Please contact us if you have the skills and the time to participate.


On ayahuasca and spiritual bypassing

Ayahuasca necklaceISE2 only touched on the issue of spiritual bypassing briefly, but that was enough to remind me that I've been meaning to write about some issues in modern ayahuasca use. In short, spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual concepts to avoid dealing with your shit. Examples include rationalizing issues away with ideas such as "it's all an illusion anyway" or ignoring things by telling yourself, "God will handle the details." Similarly, it is dangerous to believe that ayahuasca practice alone will cover all your bases. This also applies to work with other plant medicines such as mushrooms.

Ayahuasca is powerful in so many ways—from physical and psychological healing to spiritual development and more—that it can be tempting to think of it as all-powerful, or at least close to it. When I first saw Ken Wilber categorize ayahuasca as an Upper Left quadrant practice I resisted at first—after all, ayahuasca is a powerful practice that has positive impacts in all four quadrants. But then again, so does meditation.

The parallel extends into, for example, the criticism that UL practice alone is not enough to address injustice in the Lower Left quadrant: all the meditation in the world doesn't wake an ancient Chinese monk up to the fact that his culture is horribly sexist. Similarly, years or decades into ayahuasca practice, curanderos regularly get into trouble with scandal around sexual misconduct and ego issues around money, power, and fame. Just like the eastern gurus we've read about in the papers for decades.

So I had to accept that, in this respect, ayahuasca is more similar than not to meditation practice. Something I hear from people who work with plant medicine is, "The plant takes me right where I need to go, even if it's not where I want to go," but I think this is a function not just of the plant but of the individual working with it and that person's willingness to go where they need to go. The people who say things like that tend to have some experience (often plenty) delving into their uncomfortable places; some have even reached an attitude of fearlessness and eagerness toward shadow work. Of course plant medicine takes them to these places when they need to. But not everyone shares these experiences. Many find their resistance to doing their work still intact even after multiple ceremonies. Sometimes the plant tries to take them where they need to go but all they get is a tummy ache from resisting and they wonder why the plant didn't work for them.

This is why it can be so valuable to work with ayahuasca within a traditional lineage, such as the Shipibo or other tribes, or a community such as the Santo Daime. A teacher or community that has been there before can guide you around and through such traps. Often they are also better able to see our shit than we are. If working with a group is not feasible, supplement your ayahuasca practice with regular shadow work: engage with a psychotherapist, trusted spiritual teacher, integral life practice group, whatever works. But do it, and do it with a guide or teacher at least until you have enough experience under your belt to continue on your own.

As a nondual practice, ayahuasca will not solve your shadow problems unless you take it there intentionally. Ayahuasca seems quite comfortable with shadow and darkness. It is a common mistake, especially among a certain kind of California New Ager, to assume that "there's nothing but the light."

As an UL practice, ayahuasca will not solve your LL cultural problems, although it can help if you are able to help yourself, if you direct it there and have LL tools under your belt to help you.

As a spiritual practice, ayahuasca will not solve your psychological and other problems unless you are ready and able to go there. The more skillful you are with your own psyche outside of ayahuasca, the more you will get out of your ayahuasca experiences.

In the words of my grandma, a woman who trusted God deeply but never forgot her own responsibility, "God helps those who help themselves."


Shiva/Vishnu on Family Guy

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