When people first come across integral theory* they are often stunned, enticed, surprised and excited by its simple beauty and explanatory power. I certainly was! Suddenly, through accessibly integrating global knowledge, many tensions in ourselves, families and society come into clear illuminated focus. Sustainability and health are great examples - integral's mapping power illuminates stuck situations**. It creates hope for changes that are perversely hard to implement.
Excited, we apply it to everything around us. Then we look for greater traction and impact.
If you are like me, you’ll have seen some wonderful shifts. Just working with one prominent piece of integral, its quadrants, can be highly revealing, catalysing transformations. Groups, clients and friends quickly get the quadrants and love the clarity this brings to discussions. This occurs if the structure is being used explicitly - we’re talking integral theory and its application to others - and delightfully it still works if it is simply informing the design of an interaction, project or program.
Yet, our experience with this clear integrating model is uneven. Sometimes it flies powerfully. Sometimes it seems it could do so much more. Seemingly, how to best apply the quadrants is largely uncharted territory.
Enter TetraDynamics. I’m privileged to be observing the latest application of this -approaches like integral seem fundamental to managing and dealing with many of the environmental and social imperatives we face today - the sold out program is a wonderfully exciting thing. But, what is TetraDynamics?
The Four Quadrants are deceptively simple. They are comprised from the intersection of two of our life’s most fundamental polarities: insides and outsides; parts and wholes... TetraDynamics highlights the many different kinds of relationships (Dynamics) that are possible between each of the four quadrants (Tetra).
Over the next 12 weeks this blog series touches, very lightly, on some program highlights. By its very nature, a short blog is a lot less than a whole course or two hours of discussion and application. However, as a first step, think about how quadrants can be used to understand integral theory itself. We can:
- Look at ourselves and discover the reflections of integral quadrants in ourselves - the “I” piece, if you like - self understanding.
- Greatly deepen our understanding in discussion and interaction with others - a "we" piece - impact and action with others.
- Get busy creating a better methodology for using these integral quadrants - an "it piece" - as they are so powerful.
One of the astonishing strengths of this model is the reflections, our own embodied understanding. Part one above, if you like, is a key to change. Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, TetraDynamics creator and program leader says:
When I activate these dimensions in my own being [it becomes] not just a head trip of boxes for interesting insight... I can feel it, I can experience it, for me this is what makes integral analysis so delicious. While, even as a strong mental type I can dissociate from this which is why I work on the embodiment to try and bring it down and stay related.
Before I lose the more cognitive folks, consider how this reflected insight, of understanding felt within your own body, may assist during challenging situations. At the very least, the clearer and more connected we are, the more likely others are to engage.
Or try it for yourself, take Sean's walking integral meditation on a 25 minute walk:
- Spend the first 5 minutes walking noticing your own subjective awareness, what is arising in your experience, your feelings and emotional states
- The next 5 minutes focus on the intersubjective dimensions - birds, hikers, the dynamics of your relationships with other beings
- For the third 5 minutes pay attention to the objective data coming through your senses - what you see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
- Then look for patterns - the systems that support you being and walking in this place - for 5 more minutes.
- Finally, spend 5 minutes brining it all together - experiencing (gets easier over time...) all four of the elements simultaneously
There are a cascade of similar reflections, reaching out into the systems and circumstances and societies you care about, that the next blogs looking at TetraDynamics will touch on.
*An integral quadrant introduction is here ... "The quadrants represent lenses with which to better understand any occurrence; they reveal dynamics and forces in the interiors and exteriors of individuals and collectives. Together, they offer a map of psychology, behavior, culture, and systems." (pdf)