What is Integral Theory?

A good deal of my friends and most of those I work with all know that I utilize a philosophical theory to inform my actions in all aspects of my life.  This quick article and the video at the bottom is just a quick summary of what integral theory is and why is it important including some of the benefits why getting involved with this particular framework is highly useful in creating a meaningful life.

Almost 20 years ago, I accidentally grabbed one particular book off a shelf. I thought I was looking for Steven Hawking, I found Ken Wilber. The book was called, “A Theory of Everything.” It was the first book I picked up in what became a long series of books by Ken Wilber and several other authors all coming from this new field, especially at that time. It would have been the late 90s and the idea had only been around about 20 years or so.

The first book it took me a long while to get through. The concepts that were within just blew my mind and aligned with how I had began to perceive the world all on my own. It basically validated a lot of the conclusions that I had come to in my experience.  Further more, this framework allowed me to begin to organize and to conceptualize all the different perspectives which greatly enhanced my life, my work, my relationships and any place that I applied this framework.

In a nutshell, integral theory can be boiled down into a few main or major concepts. Sometimes it’s referred to as AQAL, which stands for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states and all types. Over time this initial set of concepts has expanded and deepened with greater clarity and understanding of other aspects such as traits, stages and a variety of different subtopics.  If you wanted to get started with this, the best place to begin would be in playing around with the stages and understanding the four quadrants since these two concepts are the bedrock of the philosophy and will give you a general sense of how best to utilize this map or way of viewing the world.

Ken Wilber is the one who came up, or better yet, drew upon a series of ideas and recognized the underlying significance.  One of the reasons he talks about why he this was important to him in the first place was that he was tired of seeing opposing camps, one macro, one micro, one internal, one external, one the collective, one the individual and believed there must be an underlying theory of everything.  So he set out to tease out that pattern, wrote them all down and began to test his theories.  They tested well and the body of work grew and the idea spread.

The entire field of integral studies has expanded out into integral business, integral spirituality, integral psychology, integral ecology, integral education, and the list goes on and on. If it is a discipline, if it is a profession, it can be applied.  I took just a few of the elements of the integral theory and applied it at my time when I was with the York City Bureau of Health. I applied the concepts to my programs and I saw dramatic and significant increases in the effectiveness of these programs, since in using this as an organizational tool allowed me to see the bigger picture and to develop a detailed (but not too detailed) map.

But how is this useful to you as an individual? Well, within the integral framework, there are concepts you can of course apply to the external world, but you can also apply a lot of these concepts to the internal world.  Your internal world with an example of how to use mindfulness with specific goals set.  Understanding your thoughts, where those thoughts come from and the culture which influenced them all comes alive when you play with the two recommended starting points, the four quadrants and the stages of self development.  It helps us to understand where what makes us who we are, who we are and where the ideas came from. Even if you can’t conceptualize and pinpoint the exact idea. Knowing that it’s there, you can then begin to look for it.  Once you know its there you can change it or at least account for its effect on your life.

Many of the topics on this website, within my video channel or within my podcasts are rooted in and come from my understanding of integral theory and they can be applied, as evidenced with the tools I demonstrate, to our behaviors, our rules and the tools we use for engagement.

There is far, far too much. I could go on, and on, and on about the different aspects of what integral theory is. But I just wanted to give you a brief overview. And I’ll sum it up like this:

Integral theory basically gives you a framework or a map where you can begin to look around your world, find things that you didn’t even know was there and begin to organize your thoughts, your beliefs, your concepts, your rules and your tools in such a way that you not only become more effective and efficient at the things that you do, your perspective becomes broader.

I found that when you expand your perceptions of the world, those problems that appear too big suddenly fall into perspective. If you can broaden your vision around that issue, that challenge. Everything else … though the challenge itself, even though it hasn’t changed appears to, and in reality has diminished because we are now paying attention to a much broader scope.

So I invite you to take a peek and ask yourself, What would it be like to have the ability to broaden your perspective to bring more into your realm of understanding? What would it be like to have a different way to be able to connect to other people, see the conversations for what they are? Is this the kind of life that you would like to build for yourself? For your family and for your community? If so, then I highly suggest looking into integral theory.

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