Excerpt from Living an Extraordinary Life, The Magic of Integral Transformative Practice
The following is a book excerpt from the upcoming Living an Extraordinary Life, The Magic of Integral Transformative Practice by ITPI's Christina Grote and Pam Kramer
I have come to believe that virtually every one of us has experienced, and that everyone of us can cultivate, moments when the ordinary becomes extraordinary, when mind and body are graced by something beyond themselves.
—Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body
From the earliest inception of ITP, the founders’ vision was to not only develop our ordinary human abilities but to explore the possibility of realizing our supernormal potentials through dedicated, long-term integral practice—natural human attributes that are currently beyond the realm of normal human functioning. Today, we call this dimension of the practice ITPx.
During the thirty years of its existence, as of this writing, ITP has benefitted many as it is infinitely adaptable to actualize an individual’s vision for their life journey. For some, it has served as a landing pad where they can integrate their extraordinary experiences and find balance in community with others. As it is a living, evolving practice, we continue to explore new territory and more effective methods of transformation. With what we are calling ITPx we intend to reconnect ITP to its founding vision— an adventure into humankind’s evolutionary frontier, a launchpad, as George Leonard called it, for places yet unknown. The use of X is somewhat playful, standing for the extraordinary, the unknown, the experimental, the exponential, or perhaps for exploration. The X factor also alludes to the likelihood that the extraordinary capacities that arise are of a different order than those that come from ordinary development. They represent a quantum leap, most likely facilitated, as Murphy believed, by diligent integral practice oriented towards the extraordinary, and ultimately by self-transcendence.
There is more!
More to life, more to practice, more to our humanity, more to our potential. More to you! However far you’ve come in your individual journey of transformation, however far we’ve come in our collective evolution as a species, there are horizons as yet undiscovered and perhaps as yet unformed. Some of them you may be able to glimpse out ahead of you; others may surpass your wildest imaginings. Some are paths that have already been trodden by a few courageous pioneers; others have yet to be discovered, defined and created. Perhaps you too will venture into this new territory.
At the heart of ITP, as discussed throughout these pages, is the well-founded belief that each of us has latent capacities beyond our normal functioning, there to be noticed, discovered, and developed if we choose to do so. According to the philosophical basis of ITP, our divine nature, or spirit if you will, was involved in matter at the time of the Big Bang (involved here meaning the sense of actively participating, of being enfolded by) and with this involution came the potential for a greater life than we now commonly experience. As evolution progresses, it becomes more likely that our latent capacities will begin to emerge, as they are already present within us. They are not something we need to go out and look for but are part of who we already are, our birthright as human beings, an expression of what Murphy calls the great goods of the divine. Echoing the words of German philosopher Friedrich Schelling, the divine within becomes the divine without as evolution reaches its fulfillment. As we reach towards fulfillment of our potentials in our own lives through the vehicle of integral practice, our divine nature shines more radiantly. The gifts within us begin to express more fully.
In tandem with the cultivation of these gifts, ITP emphasizes developing our spiritual nature. Beyond our personal more, there is another—the More with a capital M, meaning the divine, God, Source, or higher Self, the term used by American philosopher William James and British classicist and psychical researcher Frederic Myers to characterize the divine backdrop against which and within which all of the world’s activity, or play, is happening. And at the same time, the More is “playing the world game,” as Murphy put it, here and now, as you.
The widespread appearance of these capacities could herald a new stage in human evolution. If this is so, what’s next for us? What are we capable of? And how can we nurture the potentials that slumber within us? We don’t really know the limits of our capacities, as most of us have not been encouraged to explore them. How many of us were told as children, or adults, that there aren’t colors around people? That we can’t possibly be seeing angels? Or that Grandma didn’t visit us when she appeared at our bedside shortly after her death? In general, people in Western cultures are discouraged from believing that such things happen, and yet they do. If we give ourselves permission to explore them, many more could surface. It seems that increasing numbers of people are noticing the flicker of some new ability arising within them, and this could be a sign that humankind is ready for this next evolutionary step. Now more than ever, it is crucial to have a theoretical framework for understanding the signs, and sound practices with which to integrate and develop the emerging abilities in a balanced and healthy way.
In The Future of the Body, Murphy makes the case that through the course of evolution there will likely be a natural progression of our basic human attributes from the ordinary to the extraordinary, although progress is not guaranteed. Further, he suggests that we, and the entire universe, seem predisposed to bring forth the great potentials that were involved at the time of the inception of the material universe. And we can help this process along. Our personal practice, combined with the intention to be a part of this unfolding, furthers this evolutionary progression. Both Leonard and Murphy believed that humanity and the cosmos are united in common purpose, drawn by an ineffable pull to bring forth the beauty and goodness embedded within. By consciously aligning ourselves and engaging with this universal seeking through the cultivation of our latent capacities, we are fulfilling our evolutionary purpose.
Even our most basic desires to be better parents or partners, to be more competent in our professions, or even to make a better lasagna, contain the seeds of this self-surpassing—our deepest yearnings towards an extraordinary life. But when we become aware of that drive deep within us and begin to engage with it in all aspects of our being, we can—if we choose—take it further. We can begin to develop not only our normal, everyday capacities, but our supernormal potentials.
The supernormal capacities that Murphy identifies range from extraordinary movement and communication abilities to unitive awareness and selfless love. Most of us have at least heard of, or perhaps even know, people (or ourselves!) who exhibit unusual abilities—people who have deep empathy with others; have precognitive dreams whose foretelling come true in real life; can hear colors; commune with plants or beings on other planes; or experience an extraordinary level of love, joy, and a sense of deep connection with all of life.
Experiences like these are more common than we suppose. In fact, 75-80 percent of Americans say they have had extraordinary experiences, although they may not be telling their friends and family about them. These capacities are natural to us, but they are considered to be “super” natural, or supernormal, because they are not widely developed as of yet, at least not that we know of.
Supernormal capacities have been experienced and observed in human beings most likely since the emergence of homo sapiens. There is evidence that hunter-gatherers needing to find game for the night’s meal used a form of clairvoyance to “see” them, a technique that may still be in use today among indigenous peoples. Ancient Indian texts, from the Upanishads to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, describe siddhis (attainments), or powers, with recommended techniques to develop them, such as yoga and meditation to calm the mind. These texts describe many types of siddhis ranging from the ability to see inside one’s body down to the cellular level (animan siddhi), to precognition, to traveling in other realms.
Catholic literature speaks of the charisms (spiritual gifts) of the saints. Examples, which have been subjected to considerable scrutiny by the church, include stigmata; luminous phenomena such as halos; extraordinary fragrance emitted by a person’s body; and the incendium amoris, or bodily heat, generated by ecstatic devotion. Hundreds of people witnessed the seventeenth-century Catholic Saint Joseph of Cupertino levitating, and their sworn testimony is among the most convincing evidence we have of this particular extraordinary capacity. Overall, the evidence that Murphy and others have gathered leads us to believe that many of these capacities may well real.
One of the benefits of this kind of survey, he says, is that it provides us with models, examples of those who have experienced the further reaches of the human frontier. This knowledge can help us to realize that there is much more to us, and more going on around us, than we realize. These capacities may be our birthright, but we need models such as the ones Murphy and others have provided to be able to expand our vision and thus our horizons of what we believe is possible for us. We are unlikely to achieve what we don’t believe.
As mentioned earlier, we are differently gifted, and we may be predisposed to experience some of these capacities rather than others. As you learn about them you may notice a resonance, something stirring within you, and may want to learn more. Some people are born highly developed in certain areas, but we believe that it is possible for all of us to develop at least some of the attributes described here through balanced, integral practice. A greater life is pressing to be born in us, and knowing there is good evidence for these capacities can inspire us on our journey of transformation.
In ITP, we do not seek these capacities because having them makes us more special than other people (we aren’t) or to give us power over others. We seek them because in potentia they are already there, involved in us, a mostly hidden part of who we already are, and they are called forth as we evolve and our divine nature shines more brightly through us. We seek them because, if used for the benefit of our community and the world at large, they can help us to move society in the direction that we envision—toward a more peaceful, loving, and just state in which the potential of all beings is honored and supported. Looked at another way, we may not be seeking these capacities at all; they may be seeking us, urging us on to bring forth a greater expression of what it is to be a human being, not just to benefit our own species, but the entire Earth as well.