Tag Archives: Ajahn Brahm

Who are the voices in integral spirituality in Australasia?

My inquiry began with a question from my friend Marty from Auckland. He seems to have been very inspired by the recent emergence of Center for World Spirituality (CWS). It seems to have emerged from the dense socio-cultural networks around Integral Life, the Integral Spiritual Experience (ISE) and most especially iEvolve. An unsurprising core faculty: the same folks in iEvolve, in ISE who used to be the core team on Integral Institute’s seminar offerings: Marc Gafni, Diane Hamilton, Sally Kempton, Terry Patten.

However one aspect is a little surprising. Many prior “world” or “global” integral initiatives seem to me to use those qualifiers to describe a target market; most seem to have struggled to extend their leadership beyond a narrow corridor between Boulder, CO and San Francisco, CA – sometimes extending as far afield as New York. CWS by contrast has several European teachers involved in the leadership group, which to me is a welcome expansion.

Of course, my attention is always taken by who’s left out – and I’ll own that as an attentional bias – in this case: Africa, The Middle East, Asia and Australasia. In discussion, Marty has patiently explained to me (from his experience handling internationalisation at Microsoft) that the rest of the world doesn’t get left out by overstretched organisations like Integral Institute, Integral Life and CWS out of malice or neglect. It’s a kind of operational ethnocentrism – it’s just too hard to keep reaching out to a world you can’t really properly see, meet or evaluate.

I (probably much less patiently) explained to Marty that I’d be more relaxed about that if I saw more apparent effort to try. We agreed that it seemed worth inquiring into whether CWS was interested in having leaders from Australasia involved and developing a list of potential names from this region to propose for them to connect with. Maybe some of us could help out with making those connections.

I think it seems to both of us that things are more likely to emerge if we start from possibility rather than operating from wounds.

So, I decided to ask my networks. I figured I’d back my integral friends to know who was who. I asked my Facebook friends and I asked Sydney Integral…

Who are the integrally-oriented or integrally-informed spiritual leaders or teachers, either in one of the traditions (eg Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, etc) or outside?

Who have you sat with or read about or encountered or heard of in our region who you’d say is an integral spiritual leader?

Integral spirituality events in the US always feature a lot of interesting people from the USA and Canada, does that mean there’s no-one in the Antipodes doing this work?

I got a bunch of terrific responses (if you’re my friend Facebook, check out the discussion on my wall) – some of them pointing out specific people, many of them interrogating the implicit leader-follower dynamic of the question and suggesting that spiritual learning may be most effectively found outside the realm of self-identified “teachers”.

Peter Hayward made the interesting comment, “I suspect we have a number of spiritually informed teachers who concentrate on a certain praxis domain that is informed by spirit and a deficit of teachers for whom the praxis domain is spirituality itself”.

We certainly have a few of the former, among the more visible: Peter himself and Joe Voros teaching the Strategic Foresight program at Swinburne, Tim Winton’s sustainability work at the Permaforest Trust in Byron Bay and Will Varey’s development of the learning community around his concept of apithology. Ron Cacciope’s Integral Leadership Institute in Perth has a significant profile in business circles. The emerging Integral Spiritual Network being developed  by Tamara Androsoff, Tom Dünser [EDIT: and Andrew Rockell! Sorry Andrew!] out of Auckland Integral is in an early stage but already seems influential. There’s the freshly minted Keep Evolving group here in Sydney.

There are local community leaders in Auckland (Tamara, Marty, Andrew and Tom), Brisbane (Ralf  Mühlberger and Terry Bishop), Melbourne (Brendan Cartmel), Perth (Will Vary) and Sydney (Trish Nowland who skilfully elicits leadership from a merry band of supporters) – each of whom exemplifies a complex dance of leadership in community.

There are dozens of therapists, coaches and consultants who ground their practice in spirituality and operate out of an integral orientation. Take a look at the regional directory for some specific names.

The other issue that came up a few times is how “leadership” might appear differently in our local culture. Wendelin Küpers contributed his recent Integral Leadership Review paper, “Up-lifting the Integral Down Under” which (amongst other things) reflects on the culture of Australia and New Zealand in particular notions of prominence and leadership. I found it interesting to reflect on the tricky task of integral community leadership in this culture while reading Wendelin’s paper.

So, given all that, based on what people have said to me on Facebook and privately and on a few of my own views, here is a non-authoritative, non-exhaustive list of folks in this region who might be considered integral spiritual leaders. “Leaders” in the sense that they have guided a substantial number of others. “Integral” either in the sense that either they explicitly use an integral model (like Wilber’s AQAL) or that they seem to teach from an integral perspective. I’ve added quotes or some explanation where I can for context. They’re listed in no particular order.

[EDIT: In case it isn’t obvious, I haven’t spoken to any of these people about any of this. Some of them may be horrified at being included in this list. I apologise in advance if that’s the case, I’m happy to remove your name on request]

  • John Heron in Auckland – http://www.human-inquiry.com/jhcvpubl.htm“… an evolutionary – committed to the process of co-operative inquiry, in whatever field it is applied, as a basic form of relational and participative spiritual practice.”
  • Ajahn Brahm in Perth – http://www.ajahnbrahm.org/Much-loved voice in Theravada Buddhism. Very influential beyond his community, phrasing the dharma in way that is accessible to the lay public.
  • Bhante Sujarto in Sydney – http://metta.org.au/individuals/152/bhante-sujatoThai Forest Tradition monk who has taken a lead role in advocating for the revival of women’s ordination in his tradition.
  • Subhana Barzaghi in Sydney – http://www.subhana.com.au/about/Zen and Insight Meditation teacher and psychotherapist. A major leader in the Sydney Zen community whose influence weaves through the community of local integral folk.
  • Philip Oude-Vrielink in Melbourne– http://www.integralalchemy.com/Business consultant and Big Mind facilitator who constantly offers affordable Big Mind, Big Heart days throughout the region, where possible in collaboration with local integral groups.
  • Dr Jean Byrne and Rob Schütze in Sydney Perth– http://www.yogaspace.com.au/Integrally-informed Ashtanga yoga teachers with a range of other expertise and interests.
  • “Sailor” Bob Adamson in Melbourne – http://www.sailorbobadamson.com/Widely respected Advaita teacher.

If you disagree with including someone for some reason or there’s someone you think belongs on the list who isn’t there, email me or weigh in on the comments. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.