Unlike all other living beings we are born with a unique consciousness that brings with it the capacity for language, creative imagination, self-reflection, and a universal loving-kindness and compassion. These capacities are reserved for humankind alone. If we choose to fully develop them, they enable us to realize in our lifetime an expansive and sustained health, happiness, and wholeness, a human flourishing of body, mind, and spirit. No other living being is endowed with these precious possibilities. We are destined for more than ordinary health or an ordinary life.
Once we hold the preciousness of life and the possibility of human flourishing near and dear, its remembrance no longer fades with the busyness of daily life. Then all thoughts, speech, and action begin to be measured by a different standard. Rather than patching together an ordinary life and ordinary health from the partial opportunities laid out by our current culture, we begin to demand more from ourselves. We are willing to set out on this new adventure in search of life’s greatest treasure, a human flourishing of health, happiness, and wholeness.
Integral healing is the proper approach for our time. It provides an important leap in vision that is equal to our current understanding and capacity, allows for an open ended future, and assures a more encompassing health and life that go far beyond what is possible with conventional approaches. The integral approach is like a compass that orients and guides us toward an innovative and expansive healing process. It is distinguished by five guiding principles: holistic, evolutionary, intentional, person-centered, and dynamic. The first two are the core principles that define and distinguish the integral process. The final three are the application principles that guide us in applying the integral model to our life. The final goal of integral healing is human flourishing—a profound, hardy, and sustained health, happiness, and wholeness. Let’s now examine the five principles that together provide a map to an integral approach.
A seed requires the proper soil for its germination. If we plant it in clay or sand, it will not grow, but if we plant it in rich earth that is continuously cultivated, a beautiful garden will naturally arise. To gain full access to the possibilities of integral health, we similarly need to prepare a proper set of conditions. At birth, we can only reach out to meet our need for survival. With conventional education, we learn about conventional health care, treatment, prevention, and health-promotion strategies. But as we become sophisticated adults, we develop the capacity to consider, choose, and realize a more expansive integral health. For this possibility, we need to shift our priorities, cultivate the ground of our life, focus inward, and expand our consciousness. With these efforts, the seed of integral health can fully bloom.
Without integral practice, we experience only a portion of the health that is available to us. It is the portion that is in accord with the beliefs, values, and practices of our culture. However ,if we gather together the wisdom and methods developed throughout time and across diverse cultures, we will gain an understanding of the human possibility that far exceeds the vision, knowledge, and approaches of any one culture.
In this way, we will uncover a vision of health, happiness, and wholeness that is comprehensive in that it covers all aspects of human experience, sustained in that it is immune to outer adversities, and expansive in its reach for extended capacities and human flourishing. Never before have humans been able to access, catalogue, and utilize the scope of knowledge that is now available to assist us in attaining a far-reaching health. Our access to the accomplishments of diverse cultures; new and advanced research into somatic, sensory, cognitive, and contemplative capacities; and an interest in integral theory enable us to envision health that reflects the full flourishing of the human possibility.
Ordinary, or relative, health is based upon our biology. It is our conventional understanding of health. We are healthy when our body is free of the signs and symptoms of disease or disability, and unhealthy when they are present. This is what is meant by relative health—it is relative to our biological functioning. Health based on the condition of the body is always in flux, uncertain, temporary, and invariably deteriorates with aging and imminent death. In fact, ordinary health changes moment to moment as our body subtly undergoes the less apparent and subtler aspects of aging.The second aspect of health is integral, or ultimate, health. It is based on our level of consciousness. We are healthy when our mind is both free of mental afflictions and suffering and when we experience an enduring well-being, happiness, and wholeness that is independent of our biology and outer circumstances. Integral, or ultimate, health is sustained regardless of the adversities of life, aging, and death. It is intentional, self-cultivated, and flourishes over time. This aspect of health is the unique and precious possibility of human life.
Butter is the hidden sweet essence of milk. But for butter to emerge from milk, the milk must be churned. Health, happiness, and wholeness are similarly the unseen sweet essence of human life. To reveal this essence, we must develop ourselves and our life. As we have learned in this book, we can accomplish this by aspiring to a higher vision of health and engaging in integral practices that extend and expand our capacity and ability .In this way, we can evolve a new level of health that then gives rise to the unique treasures of human existence.
There are those, including the doubting voices within each of us, who will see this expansive vision as a fanciful and unrealizable utopian ideal. The habituated mind prefers to cling to familiar and limited ways of thinking about health and healing. But that is not what our times are about. In our deepest, most silent places, we each know that far more is possible than we have ever dreamt of. At this time in human development, we are called to live a life of the highest meaning and purpose.
The fruits will begin to emerge early in your work. We know from personal accounts and modern research that each step—our initial turn inward, our preparations, and our early efforts at practice—will lead to a noticeable, progressive enhancement of health, happiness, and wholeness. With time, your faith will be transformed into confidence, and with each passing day thereafter, your confidence will be further transformed until it becomes an unshakable certainty. Like a ripening fruit, you will not be able to reverse course. You will harvest the fruits of a well-lived life.
Integral development is the way we uncover the genius of the human possibility for a precious and profound health, happiness, and wholeness.. It is the only antidote for a troubled life and a troubled world. When we engage an integral process the work we do inside is the work that the world so urgently needs. Where there is inner peace, there is outer peace. Where there is inner harmony, there is outer harmony. Where there is inner health there is outer health. Healing ourselves is healing others. An integral life begets an integral world. In this way we become the doctor, the nurse, and the medicine to our self and to the larger community of humankind.