Waking up is easy. Awakening is a lifelong journey.

Yesterday, Balroop commented in response to the post about the photo of my mother, “we tend to remember certain moments more vividly and then keep them in our heart. I am glad you looked at this picture. That is how perceptions change.”

Integral Theory teaches that to truly understand something, we must view it from four main quadrants, or realities, made up from our understanding of the Singular, Plural, Interior and Exterior quadrants.

In that photo of my mother, from my singular perspective of, ‘this is my mother’, I have my understanding of our relationship and where I fit in that dynamic. From the Plural, there is ‘our relationship’ and my understanding of it. On an Interior level, there are my feelings, memories, emotions, thoughts and ideas about my mother and our relationship. And the exterior brings in my perspective of seeing that relationship, and that photo, from the outside looking in.

Which all goes to say, as Balroop suggests, perceptions change when we change our position of how we look at something.

I see this a great deal in the homeless-serving sector where I work.

People join our team, coming from an organization outside the sector. People enter this work believing in the possibility of making a difference. Wanting to ‘do good’. Wanting to make their contribution to society count. They carry with them thoughts and ideas, understandings and perceptions of homelessness.

One of the most common forms people use for addressing someone experiencing homelessness, especially if they come into the sector from another field of work, is to use the phrase, The Homeless.

To shift from calling a group, The Homeless, to using the phrase,’ individuals experiencing homelessness’, requires being able to see ‘the label’ as just that. A label.

It is not the person. It is not the group of individuals sharing the common condition of homelessness.

To be able to let go of ‘the label’ requires being able to stand in each quadrant and ask, “Where do I stand in this thought? What preconceived ideas, notions, thoughts, feelings do I bring with me?”

And then, to go through the exercise from the position of the other two main pronouns. “We.” “It.”

For example,

  • “Where do ‘we’ stand in this thought. What preconceived ideas, notions, thoughts, feelings do I carry from the ‘we’? The perspective of my learned understandings through societal messages? How does ‘group think’ inform my thinking of it this way?” (societal consciousness, morals, values)
  • Where does ‘it’ (the label ‘the homeless’) stand in this thought. What preconceived ideas, notions, thoughts, feelings have I/We instilled into the label that inform my thinking of people experiencing homelessness this way?” (societal consciousness, morals, values)

I am not an Integral Theory master. I do love the science behind it and how it challenges me to not see in black and white or one-dimension but to pull myself out of direct line of sight thinking to seeing the many facets, and dimensions of situations.

In looking at my mother’s photo, I am reminded of the power of memory to hold my thinking in place and limit my being present in my life today. And in the power of that awareness, to expand and deepen my understanding of the limitations of what I am holding onto and its affect on my life today.

Waking up is easy. Awakening to our own power to create lives of meaning, substance, value… that’s a lifelong journey.


8 thoughts on “Waking up is easy. Awakening is a lifelong journey.

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