Five skills for integral living and ways to cultivate them


In yoga we can experience that more physical flexibility feels good for our body. I guess it must be similar for mind and spirit. But how can this yoga for mind and spirit be practiced in order to handle life’s obstacles flexibly? In my personal experience the integral approach is an interesting way to go.  There are six essential lines of development: cognitive, moral, spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, body and five skills to help us grow these: presence, discernment, attention, awareness, perspective.

Skill 1 Presence: A foundation for your deepest personal vision, emergent possibilities, spiritual freedom, deep gratitude and awe.

Presence is your ability to be fully awake and alive to what’s occurring in the moment right now, without distraction, thinking and other forms of mental “story-telling”. Presence is cultivated through acceptance of what’s happening in the moment and is lost through inner resistance to the present moment. Presence helps you cultivate sensitivity to how different “states” of feeling and being impact your life. Presence is a basic foundation of full human experience, leading edge consciousness, and gives rise to skill 2.

Skill 2 Awareness: A foundation of patience, emotional balance, artistic appreciation, bodily health, nutrition and vitality.

Awareness is your ability to fully inhabit your body and acknowledge your sensations, feelings and perceptions. An important skill for the evolution of bodily (somatic) intelligence and emotional intelligence, awareness is you ability to sense your emotional state and different states of perception that color your interpretations and judgments, including hidden elements of your life called your “shadow”. It is also important for leadership, art appreciation, parenting, great sex and sports.

Skill 3 Perspective: A foundation of mental clarity, moral maturity, empathy, mental agility and life fullness.

Perspective is your ability to “see” and understand your own unique perspective and to take others’ perspectives when desired. The integral approach is particularly effective at helping you build your ability to truly “inhabit” other points of view, to transcend your own perspective, to understand the narrowness and limitations of any given perspective, and to see the bigger picture in any situation. Perspective-taking talent helps especially with relationships, leadership, performing arts, critical thinking and political engagement. It is a benchmark for the evolution of consciousness generally and a critical skill for moral, spiritual and interpersonal intelligence.

Skill 4 Attention: A foundation of authentic decision-making, achieving results, focusing your energy and sustaining your focus.

Attention implies not just one’s ability to act but one’s ability to attend fully to what is needed at the moment in one’s life: this implies the ability to act with clarity of intention, responsibility and energetic focus. Attention is an important skill in authentic relationships and can be a gateway to “flow” states of consiousness. Attention is an important enabler of every line of intelligence but very important for moral intelligence (“what should I do in this situation?”). Attention contributes to every career and skill path and expecially to creative work and high-stakes, high-skills, and/or high-focu jobs and roles.

Skill 5 Discernment: A foundation of insight, clarity of judgment, appropriate compassion and self-authorship.

Discernment is an ability to perceptively and objectively judge a situation with wisdom and deep care. At a time when our lives are  more complicated than in the past – in terms of work, parenting, money, relationships, political forces, environmental concerns, and many other ways – deep and mature discernment is one of the most lagging features in current adult development. Discernment allows us to integrate the other skills – starting from presence, becoming aware of our own perceptions and feelings, recognizing multiple perspectives, and then attending to what’s important – such that we have the broad-view wisdom to make proper judgments at a time when judgment itself is under attack.

There are many ways to develop these skills but here’s my personal top 5:

  1. Understanding the integral map (quadrants, levels, lines, states and types) and having an inclusive, maybe somewhat paradoxical approach to life.
  2. Knowing about and experiencing different states of consciousness (e.g. meditation).
  3. Daily practices for subtle body energy (e.g. chakra balancing, 3-body workout, EAST-practices)
  4. Shadow work (e.g. via therapy, 3-2-1 shadow process, PRI-techniques, core quadrants)
  5. Understanding different energies of Yin and Yang, the play of polarity and different levels in relationships (e.g. Intimate Communion, David Deida)

If you need more info, you know where to find me!

Sources: Integral Life Website & personal experiences


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