Stephan and Miriam Martineau share what I would call enlightened determination. As relatively early pioneers in post-postmodern experiments in collective consciousness within an integral framework, Stephan and Miriam have given their lives in service to building an awakened community of like souls. In 1992, they formed Morning Star, a community in Northern B.C., dedicated to living experiments in collective awakening. What does that mean? It means when human beings gather with sincere interest in authentic communion beyond the fears and desires of their individual selves, something remarkable can happen. Those who haven't had this experience can only wonder or wish but can't properly understand.
What makes these two unique is their determination to hold this context in the face of all sorts of tumult. Broken promises, uncertain motives, all the clutter of human folly. They are willing, at all costs, to face into the wind's teeth, and bare the costs of living and loving in an imperfect world.
Morning Star 'folded it's wings' earlier this decade, and since then Stephan and Miriam (now with a beautiful daughter) have continued to experiment with new ways to gain traction and contribute to a new cultural emergence.
In 2003 they started Next Step Integral, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of human consciousness. For four years now they have hosted the Integral Education & Ecology Seminar, a 5-day immersion in the lived framework of an embodied integral life.
Why are we promoting this seminar on this site? Because no matter how much you read or philosophize about this stuff, only a dunk in the deep end of a workshop like this will connect you to the living experience and emerging community of what it is we on this site are trying to point to, support and co-create. Stephan, Miriam, Next Step Integral and the Integral Education & Ecology Seminar represent a grassroots, affordable, potentially life-changing and always noble experiment in what we can do when we give ourselves - truly, not rhetorically - to something larger than ourselves, if only for a few days. What follows are comments from practitioners of this past summer's retreat. We'll keep you abreast of when and where the 2011 seminar will be held.
Juan Pablo Rico:
I live in Mexico City and work as Organizational Development consultant for low carbon economy and biodiversity projects in Latin America; the Integral Sustainability and Education Seminar at Mount Madonna helped me to see-feel more closely the theory and applications from some of the most important players in the integral sustainability field, something that is very empowering for my work.
Being at the seminar was a breakthrough experience for me, people and activities challenged me out of my comfort zone in the personal (how I experience reality), interpersonal (how I relate to others) and impersonal terrains (good theory and applications), and it also provided a good dose of delightful support: excellent food, beautiful forest and premises, bonding activities with great people.
The experience provided me with mental and emotional clarity, renewal in my intention to be a strong player in the integral sustainability field and very cool friends.
I’m lucky enough to be a mid-career English professor at a small liberal-arts university in eastern Canada, where quality of teaching is highly valued. About a year ago, however, I felt I had reached a kind of plateau: despite having
won several teaching awards—including a 3M National Teaching Fellowship—I felt a strong need to reinvent myself as a teacher, to make some kind of quantum leap to a new level. In a nice piece of synchronicity, it was at this time that I discovered the works of Ken Wilber and soon realized that Integral Theory held the key to the new approach to education that I was seeking. It didn’t take long after that to discover the “Next Step Integral” website and to sign up for last summer’s Integral Education and Ecology Seminar at Mount Madonna in California.
What a way to launch a sabbatical leave! Here was an opportunity to completely re-conceive the enterprise of teaching within the context of a comprehensive life practice, and to do so not alone, but with a community of like-minded seekers, many of whom I had come to admire intensely from their writings on the Internet. Caught up with these possibilities, I asked my wife to come too: she has a degree in Adult Education and works in our university’s Wellness Center, and we realized we could get her there by offering to co-present a report on the seminar at a university teaching conference in the fall. Even better, it was our 25th anniversary, and we had always dreamed of attending some kind of yoga retreat in California. A cabin at the Mount Madonna Center would be the perfect place to celebrate our marital journey.
In retrospect, the seminar was everything we could have hoped for—and much more that we didn’t expect! I’m used to attending academic conferences where the content of the sessions is the most important feature, with a little socializing thrown in as an added bonus. But this, by contrast, was a program carefully sequenced from beginning to end to reach and potentially transform all levels of the mind, heart, and body. From the warm and heart-felt welcome we received on arrival, through the expertly-led contact groups each day that allowed participants to debrief and bond deeply, to the movingly orchestrated sequence of closing rituals and farewells, the design of this seminar modeled precisely the quantum leap in educational practice that I was seeking.
Imagine waking up and having Terry Patten lead you in Integral Morning Practice! Or experiencing how John Gruber (surely America’s most enlightened high school teacher!) constantly radiates his seasoned vision of transformative education. Imagine sitting at the feet of Zen-master Diane Musho Hamilton as she leads you into your Shadow—and back again, safe and sound. Or being gathered into a guided meditation by Integral Ecologist Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and taken to a place of almost unbearably expanded awareness. Or having your heart cracked open by Healer Deb Zucker. Or being routinely amazed by the evolved forms of partnership and parenthood embodied by Miriam and Stephan Martineau as they worked to co-create the seminar while including their young daughter at every point.
But everything has its shadow, and for me this took the unexpected form of my wife’s distress. She came to the seminar unfamiliar with Integral theory, and so the AQAL lingo often seemed to her cliqueish and off-putting. She was not in my contact group and hers didn’t seem to meet her needs as deeply as mine did. She is also a more pragmatic and earth-grounded individual, and thus more likely to be listening to the voice of the Skeptic at precisely the moment that I am turning rapturously to the urgings of the Inner Devotee! Suddenly a large part of the practical work of the seminar for both of us was relationship work. However, what better way to immediately apply the material of the seminar to life practice, and to mark an anniversary in our commitment to intricate human partnership? And what better place to do this work than the Mount Madonna Center, with its long redwood-forest walks, its resonant temple bell symbolizing the open heart of intense spiritual practice, its yoga classes and superb vegetarian food, its mystical mountain air—and, yes, its wonderful California hot-tub—all of which helped to facilitate a deep soul re-connection with my marriage partner. I came away with a renewed sense of how an evolved educational practice must emerge—can only emerge— from a ground of intense, personal, on-going, “Integral” life practice.
I can only hope that my students—once I return from sabbatical—will take away a similar set of rich and unexpected outcomes from my teaching as my wife and I did from this seminar. The content of education, of course, is always of value, but we need to be constantly reminded that it is the process of education that truly teaches and transforms. The Integral Education and Ecology Seminar had an abundance of nourishing, thought-provoking content, but its greatest gift for me—and, in the end, for my wife as well—lay in its superbly designed process. This process was at once a container and a journey—an “all-quadrant” crucible in which a range of unprogrammed, individual, and often invisible transformations could take place, and a multi-dimensional pathway that led each participant to the point of creating the “next step” in his or her own life-journey. The next step for us was to discover we could collaborate successfully—on Integral Education! Our workshop, entitled “Teaching from Both Sides of the University,” was warmly received, and now we’re planning an expanded version for next spring’s national teaching conference. So—those quantum leaps we long for? By definition they’re unpredictable, sometimes leading us right back to where we began, but now at untold levels of deeper, more “integral” engagement and co-creation.
I attended the Integral Education and Ecology Seminar because I realize that our future depends on the education of our children. My professional background is in design, however, it was as a mother that I was motivated to found a high school when I wasn’t satisfied with the local choices for my four kids. Sage Hill School is celebrating ten years since opening in 2000 and I am now working to catalyze sustainable innovation in K-12 education and shift the culture of schools. The seminar deepened my understanding of the integral perspective, which now informs my thinking and my work. The Theory U framework for the week demonstrated the powerful creative potential of experiential process. Most importantly, I now realize that affecting positive change requires personal transformation.
I experienced my heart opening over the course of the week through daily practices and in connecting deeply with the integral community. It was a privilege to be in the company of the presenters and the generation next students attending the seminar. Their intellectual capacity, humility and sense of responsibility for the world gives me hope for the future. The biggest surprise for me that came from attending the seminar is my new interest in Integral Community as a sustainable and generative way to live on the planet.
It’s hard for me to find words for my experience at Next Step Integral’s seminar on Integral Education and Integral Ecology. Prior to attending, my intellectual knowledge of Integral was basic, and my interactions with the community limited. This seminar provided me with an incredible glimpse into the possibilities that unfold with Integral Consciousness and Integral Community; I was the youngest participant there and often found myself quietly in awe of the people I met and the community we co-created. I most potently recall the grace and care of the coordinators, the mist of Mt Madonna that echoed both the immanence and transcendence of this experience and the laughter and light of the participants and presenters.
This compassionate welcome into the Integral community expanded the container of what is possible and helped me to ground my awareness and channel my ambition. I could not have asked for a better entry point, as my vocational fields of interest are education and ecology. Since returning to my university, I have applied what I learned at Mt. Madonna to my undergraduate honors thesis. In this project, I apply Integral Theory and Liberation Pedagogy to an environmental justice issue at a High School in my neighborhood. Further, I formed several strong bonds with inspiring personal and professional mentors that have held strong since. Overall, I am so thankful to the space provided by Next Step Integral and look forward to continuing my involvement in the Integral world.
Terri O Fallon:
The Integral Education and Ecology Seminar was held at the Mt Madonna Center from August 3-8, 2010. This five-day seminar was structured using Otto Scharmer’s U model design, beginning with introductory presentations and practices that evoked an open mind, moving through the presentations that supported an open heart and deepening into the spaciousness of open will and presence. Coming out of the bottom of the U brought the invitation of creativity to build personal prototypes for implementation and finally to make plans of how one could work with the material learned when they went back home.
In addition all four Integral Quadrants were honored; the Lower Right Quadrant U structure is exquisite as a general frame for the seminar, and honors the Upper Left Quadrant, gross subtle and causal states and worlds of existence while also evoking a variety of developmental levels. Upper right perspectives were evoked through physical activities, walks into the woods, singing, and physical games and dancing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable area that is evoked in this seminar are the perspectives from the Lower Left Quadrant; the building of a We with a capital W.
It is difficult to describe how, in five short days packed from morning to night with evocative presentations, a living, learning, and vibrant community can naturally arise; where friendships within learning partnering can flourish; and long term memories of a magical time and space of deep learning and camaraderie can continue on even after participants go home. Truth is, they carry this community with them and the experience of how learning and meaning making can happen in such an animated way, every day in our lives. Perhaps that’s why so many people return, again and again, every year.
I first attended a seminar sponsored by Next Step Integral back in the summer of 2008. At that time, the focus of the seminar was only on education. As a public school classroom teacher with a Master’s degree in Holistic and Transformative Education, I was intrigued by the description of the seminar, but was only able to attend for one day. This barely gave me a glimpse into what integral education is all about, but I came away from the seminar with a sense that it was something akin to holistic and transformative education on steroids. Though I left the seminar with a mind full of thoughts and unanswered questions I also left feeling quite intrigued to learn more. The quality of the people and of the interactions I had with them clearly told me that there was something to this integral education stuff and that there was much more to learn. This was more than enough to get me to return the next year where, even after being steeped in workshops and discussions about integral education for five days, I still felt like I was barely beginning to understand it and that there was much more to it than the meagre understanding I had acquired. I remained intrigued, though, and open to the possibility of attending the seminar for a third year in a row
As a high school science teacher with a passion for environmental and sustainability education, I was utterly thrilled to see that education and ecology were going to both be themes of this year’s seminar. I looked forward to the seminar for months and I was not to be disappointed. The combination of the setting, the interpersonal connections, the integration groups, the food and, above all, the quality of the workshops, plenary sessions and of the presenters were simply phenomenal. I must have been ripe for the experience because I felt myself being drawn into the integral community and into the wisdom, beauty and integrity of both integral education and integral ecology. I felt I had found my people and was settling into a new home within myself as a result of what I was learning and experiencing. The seminar was not just a brain dump like so many other seminars I’ve attended. Rather, at least for me, it was a watershed event that has literally catapulted me into the integral community in the Seattle area and into a new way of thinking about and holding not only education and environmental problem solving, but also life in general. The seminar had opened something up in me and found myself ready, willing and desirous to go much deeper with what I had learned and experienced there. Fortunately, I did not need to look very long or very far to satisfy that desire. At the seminar I learned about a program called Generating Transformative Change that is offered by Pacific Integral. After some thought I decided to enroll in the program. We are now six weeks into it and I am thoroughly enjoying the community we are creating and what I am learning about myself and about the process of personal development and transformation.
Aside from the personal benefits I received from the seminar, my cognitive understanding of integral education finally matured and I began to see just how powerful of a tool the integral perspective could be for creating meaningful education programs that truly meet the diverse needs of each and every student. I am now attempting to use what I learned at the seminar to better inform the curriculum I develop and, especially, to design a grant funded project to integrate sustainability into science curriculum in the school where I teach. This is all rich and exciting for me and it has truly rejuvenated my efforts as a classroom teacher and program developer. Before the seminar I was somewhat dreading going back into the classroom, uncertain of whether I could handle another year of the stresses associated with being immersed in a traditional public school in a conservative, rural community. By the time I had returned home from the seminar, though, I found myself not only ready and willing to dive back into the classroom, but eager to do so! The seminar gave me a wonderful new perspective on education and I am thrilled at the benefits that the integral perspective has given to me personally and professionally. I look forward to learning more about integral education and ecology in the future and to infusing my work as a classroom teacher with the integral perspective. And I am extremely thankful to those at Next Step Integral who provided me with a partial scholarship to attend the seminar. I feel blessed enough to have simply attended the seminar. To have attended at half the regular price was truly a gift and is deeply appreciated.