Circling: How to Party Well & Grow While Doing It

Jun 28, 2017

by Jordan Myska Allen

The following essay was just published in the German Integrale Perspektiven magazine... PDF of the article downloadable at Circling: Feste feiern und sich dabei gut entwickeln.

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Party Well?

The other day I listened to Ken Wilber interview in which he summed up Integral Spirituality in two simple words: "party well."

Cutting Cosmic Grooves

Why? Because some part of us is at the leading edge of an entirely new way of humans relating to the world around us.

A stage of development arising in all four quadrants—turquoise, 5th order, construct-aware; a stage that can see our hard-won autonomy and hold it lightly; can stand outside of paradoxes like autonomy and communion, leadership and surrender, one-taste and unique self; a stage where the self identity is one of constant change; a stage where we become aware of awareness as an object.

We integral theorists can see that this structure-stage is not a pre-given reality; to some tiny extent our very being is co-creating it as I type/you read the words on this page/screen. Yet we can also see that once new grooves are cut into the cosmic record, it’s very difficult to change their tune.

This means that for those of us living consciously, every choice we make matters (with full acknowledgment that part of this new way is learning to surrender our own agenda to something much larger than our individual selves).* So if we’re too Puritanical, we’re laying down a track that isn’t that much fun to be on.

We want to groove.

We want to party.

But how do we party well?

Enter Circling.

What the Heck is Circling?

Circling, like Integral Theory, holds the basic premise that no one can be 100% wrong. We welcome everything that arises in our fields of awareness and share that with other people.

It’s like meditation in conversation. Our relationship(s) is(are) the object(s) of our awareness. What does it mean that our relationships are the objects of our awareness?

It means we place attention on how truly interconnected and indivisible any given moment is—you can check this perspective for yourself now:

  • Is your physical body intimately connected with your physical surroundings (and therefore relating with them)?
  • Is your current emotional state inextricably linked to other humans, your histories, and the world at large?
  • Are your thoughts and identities and meaning making inescapably co-created by everyone and everything you are interacting right now?
  • Is our pure, empty awareness in relationship with the objects that arise inside and as it?
  • Is the universal totality of this present moment in relationship with the moment before it? And with the unborn moment to come?

In Circling we sometimes bringing attention to parts (I notice I’m frowning—I’m worried that readers won’t like me. How does my sharing this impact you?), sometimes more to the whole (what’s it like for us to be together?). We sometimes speak these out loud, sometimes express more nonverbally, sometimes let silence speak instead. We trust whatever is arising and use it together—playing conversational jazz, intersubjective improv, spontaneous relational yoga; the self is ironically liberated in our honest admittance of how much we need each other. We focus on relationship:

  • Partially because the sharing helps us find powerful distinctions and see through our meaning making.
  • Partially because this trains our capacity to discover and transmit presence anywhere, at any time, with anyone.
  • And partially because it’s just not as much fun to party alone.

That’s part of what we find so amazing about Circling—we keep discovering these timeless pieces of wisdom but we do so by relating with others. We get to share our insights as they arise in us, and we get to share in them as they arise in others. The joy of it is immense.

What does it mean to really include the whole?

Yet to party well in Circling means you open up the gates and you let it all in. Heaven, Hell, and everything in between. A full embrace of connection and loneliness, ecstasy and despair, anger and peacefulness, love and terror, inadequacy and utter-enoughness, brokenness and the wholeness that holds it.

So whatever is happening in you, you’re fully met, in your full depth. And you’re forced to fully meet it—through surrender.

As awesome as it is, it’s not to say that Circling or bringing meditation and transformative practice into relationship is ever enough—it’s just that we’re willing to face the not enoughness and say “that’s ok too” because it’s real and it’s part of the human experience and we can feel that and commune in it just as much as any other experience.

That’s the beauty of Circling—you do it together. And you discover rare truths. Like you start to see how we’re always all already together and connected. That the feeling of disconnection itself points to some beautiful way of being in relationship with what is present; and when we are willing to feel into it it will guide us to a deeper, fuller embrace of what’s already here, waiting to be seen and heard and felt and known.

The Five Principles of Partying Well

So let’s look at some of the Principles we use to guide people into presence in connection, in the hopes that you can play with them to deepen your line of party intelligence. :)

We’ve found them to be useful pointers to practitioners at every stage of development:

  • For example, at the 3rd order/amber/blue level they provide guidance while inviting growth beyond a paradigm of “right & wrong” into self-authorship;
  • At the 4th order level (orange, green, teal/yellow) they support a deepening autonomy while guiding one to recognize the always-in-process nature of being made up by our contexts even as we’re making them up,
  • And at the 5th order level (turquoise+) they point to how this constant flux and raw immediacy of experience can be a damn fun party.

Owning Your Experience:

This principle invites us to take responsibility for what’s happening inside of ourselves—at deeper and deeper levels as “what’s inside” continues to expand and include more.

If you don’t take responsibility for what’s yours you suffer. Just notice where you’re blaming someone else for something happening to you and this becomes self-evident.

You might have to contend with harsh realities of where you are truly powerless, or where you have been projecting your power onto the “other” that you’re so upset with.

Owning it you are likely to feel more pain, but it will bother you less.

Commitment to Connection:

You don’t want to go to a party where everyone is speaking in hushed tones, trying to calm everyone else down and make sure everything stays peaceful and copacetic… well at least not all the time.

You want a raucous, loud, lively party with spirit and flavor and sexyiness and attraction!

And you can’t get that without welcoming different perspectives and letting them play and dance in the tension together.

This principle of committing to connection invites us to stay present with whatever is arising in a connection—not just when it feels like bliss or comfort—even if it feels difficult. We’ve consistently found that not only does it make for more alive and intimate connections (good parties); it is a recipe for alchemy: what seemed unresolvable lead turns into flowing gold.

Trusting Your Experience:

The best partying comes from not-knowing what’s going to happen; sitting in the mystery but forging straight ahead. Like a good lover, life will delight you with what you least expected if you’re willing to let her.

So we encourage the leading edge of consciousness to hold our maps and ideologies and assessments lightly, and instead be willing to simply trust what arises even when it doesn’t (at first) seem to make any sense.  

Staying at the Level of Sensation:

This one is pretty straightforward: If you’re going to party, you want to feel it.

Your head. Your heart. You gut. Your genitals. How to party well? You want to bring your whole body-mind-psyche into your awareness and let the moment light you up. You can do that at any moment: you might even try it right now.  

Being w the other in their world:

This principle is one of the hallmarks of Circling—it’s in invitation to the deepest empathy you can discover. To really try on someone’s experience of reality and feel it as your own, to feel the innocence and perfection of it—if you were them, you’d be doing exactly as they’re doing right now, thinking and feeling exactly what they’re thinking. And therefore there truly is nothing wrong with it. You can simply wonder at it’s complexity and being ness.

Why is it a party? ? When you can really let someone else move you, there’s almost nothing better… you go beyond yourself like in a good movie or stunning concert.

It’s not just amazing to wear another’s hat. It also gets you out of your own ego-trap, your own solitary perspective, your own certainty that you’re right(est). So there’s a moment of wonder, but it’s also transformative via making your subjective experience an object in a new, wider awareness.  

Let’s now imagine being at an actual party

You’re all revved up and ready to go with your integral theory.

You talk to some modernists (orange) and you try to critique their flatland rationalism. You try to show them the pre-trans fallacy.

Next you talk to some postmodernists (green) and you’re trying to point out their performative contradictions… how they welcome everyone except those that don’t welcome everyone—which is everyone except other greens (and red).

You might even meet some integral people and you try to show them how their map-making and developmental urgency seem to just be ways of avoiding an inner emptiness and inadequacy.

And it’s just not awesome.

It doesn’t feel like a celebration.

There’s not much communion.

But then you’re like, “oh yeah, I read that article by that random Texan guy Jordan about Circling. Let me try to just stay present and feel into the relationship. Let me try just one of those principles and see how it goes.” And whoa—you get down to these universal, archetypal levels, and it’s amazing. You feel into how that annoying fundamentalist Christian is actually making a deep stand for what they believe is true, and they’re standing in their masculine power against all odds, willing to sacrifice everything for what they believe is true. And suddenly you want to cry, because it touches that place in you, and it touches the opposite place where you’re not willing to give it all up.

You go deep with everyone around you. And you’re getting lessons after lessons after lessons about yourself, your edges, and insights about life from everyone and everything.

That’s a fucking party.

And that’s what I want our global integral ecosystem to create.

The maps can and will help us do it. For God’s sake let’s not throw out the maps.

But let’s also not let the maps overwrite the rawness of being alive; the absolute mystery and chaos of each moment, the forever incomplete nature of each moment being subsumed by and creating the next.

In Sum: What does it mean to party well?

What does it mean to party? It means to celebrate life. That’s what the integral map and Circling are both really pointing to; how can we open to celebrate the infinite fullness of being present at every moment?

And how do we do it well—healthily, vigorously, and in a way that allows for a continuously blossoming of more goodness, truth, and beauty?

I don’t know.

But I non-humbly suggest that a continual surrender into the mystery will guide us.

That we do so in a way that embraces more wholes in an ever widening awareness of wholeness.

That more presence in our relationships will be a big piece of the puzzle.

And that a spirit of playfulness will support the seriousness of this kosmic endeavor.  

* (In other words, we’re laying down the tracks to the train as it’s moving. But since one track leads from the next, once they are down it’s pretty hard to go back and change them. For example, when Red was first emerging, people were forging a path that did not yet exist; now we all go through the same basic structure of Red)


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