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Listening as Path, Muse as Teacher: An Inseparable Union of Integral Artistry, Integral Spirituality and the Integral Feminine

Graphic__music_-headphones-_heart_10-Pendu-JaTT.inLiving, resting still, within the very heart of the integral mandala, within the heart of the world wisdom traditions – spiritual and secular alike, is the devoted practice of listening as path. Who is listening? Who is being listened to, and in what register? What is being listened for, and according to what calling? Therein lies the labyrinthine, polyphonic path. Many have heard the call. Ultimately each of us will come to, and release, again and again, our own sense impressions, rooted in our own direct experience. Integral Methodological Pluralism¹ shines a striking light on these living questions, inviting us into a deeper and ever more subtle contemplation of this path of listening.

As integral artists, as integral musicians, as integral yoginis of many disciplines, we are called to listen to the Muse, the creative presence by any other name. She is our esteemed guest. She is a far cry from Echo, the musical nymph of Greek legend who was cursed by the jealous goddess Hera to only repeat the words of another. We know that difference in our blood and in our bones. As feminine beings, listening can be complicated. We long for that original voice that is at once uniquely ours, and also belonging to the Original face before even She was.

Ken Wilber’s map of consciousness, as navigated through the discernment of Integral Methodological Pluralism, offers us a particularly helpful turn of mind, a meaningful discernment, inviting us to find our own way through the maze. What happens when I allow myself as host (in the first person, what we designate in integral psychotherapy as the proximal self, what we experientially tune into as ‘I’, the essential organizing ego) to utterly attune to the Muse as guest (in the first person, what we designate in integral psychotherapy the antecedent self, the esteemed Muse that alights from the Matrix of Mystery)?² Yet this seemingly simple turn of mind, this direct question – who is the first person of the first person? – this getting outside of oneself to hear Her speak, in a paradoxically familiar voice, is a complicated movement. Putting it on the map can make all the difference. By creating that space within, we are invited to put the ear of the host, in the form of our tongue, to the deeper voice of the Muse as guest.

This creation of space for the host and guest to meet within allows for the visit of creative presence. For me, this is the process of songwriting. Experientially, poet David Whyte, describing the not dissimilar practice of writing poetry, calls it learning to eavesdrop on yourself.³ Psychoanalyst James Grotstein, puts it this way: “The tongue is the listener to an inner ineffable voice”.4

However we come to attend the visit of creative presence, it is essential that the Muse has a space to be heard – to sing her heart, to speak her truth, to write her observations, to transmit her wisdom. Indeed, our life, the life of the feminine, depends on it. We must learn to receive her as a teacher whose gift to us is, at the point of receiving, yet unknown. We must summon our reverence for that inner ineffable voice, before we have any particular cause to listen. In this process, across time, we come to understand that our very listening is embedded in the creation. Like the bed within the oyster shell that receives the grain of sand just as it does the coalescing pearl, we practice equality. We come to recognize, through cultivating listening as path, for its own sake, that the Muse is forever speaking in polyphony and, equally, that she is forever mute.

Less troubled by this over time, we learn to respect her self-secret silence as the void at the center of the labyrinth that, while sounding to some as self-same echo, is in actuality her very own voice – the voice that gives rise to the second note in the chord, appearing to be solo yet never unaccompanied. In that resonance, in that reverberation, we can call to mind Integral Methodological Pluralism. It is a map for the resonances, across space and time. The first person of the first person of the second person of the  third person… A cacophony turned chorus now lulled, through patient hosting, careful  listening, into an appearance from/of/as the Muse. It is there that the three sisters meet – Echo, who we run from, Hera, who drives us out, and the Muse, who we come to learn dwells within. We are forever changed by the visit that we ourselves have called in, coming to know these three sisters as an inseparable union.

Check out Willow’s full treatment on this subject here.

1. Schwartz, M. (2010). Frames of AQAL, Integral Critical Theory, and the Emerging Integral Arts. In S. Esbjorn-Hargens (Ed.), Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL Model. State University of New York Press.

Wilber, K. (2007). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

2. Forman, M. D. (2010). A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy: Complexity, Integration, and Spirituality in Practice. State University of New York Press.

3. Whyte, D. (2012b, May 10). An Evening with David Whyte: Life at the Frontier. Presented at the The Stanford Storytelling Project and Stanford Continuing Studies, Knight Management Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.

4. Grotstein, J.S. (2007). A Beam of Intense Darkness: Wilfred Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis. Karnac Press, p. 117.

wpWillow Pearson is a vocal artist, recording artist and composer, whose original music draws on the diverse influences of pop, alternative rock, jazz, soul, world music and the therapeutic arts. Her musical voice is led by lyricism, harmony, and improvisation-within-form. Her musical spirit is at home wherever the human heart beats. A Canadian-American singer/songwriter living in the Bay Area of Northern California, Willow’s work has been described as a place “where Eva Cassidy and Mary Boine meet the Buddha in some undiscovered country”. She is known for her dynamic yet intimate presence in live performance. The range of expression that Willow brings to her music—vocally, lyrically, and emotionally—is the essence of her craft.

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