Let me begin with a story I used to tell my students: The stranger goes to New York City and asks a homeless person, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the street person answers, “Practice, practice!” So there it is. How do we get to the Carnegie Hall of our lives? How do we evolve into the best version of ourselves? How do we respond to the moral, spiritual, and ethical dictum laid down by Abraham Maslow, what you can become, you must become. The answer is practice. Deep, dedicated, integral practice.
Back in the 80s, Howard Gardner came up with the idea of multiple intelligences. The idea is easily graspable—namely that we have many types of capacities or intelligences, and we’re really good at some, mediocre at others, and really poor at others. Taking this idea as a given, the other given I present to you is that any of these intelligences can be radically increased through deep practice. So, which intelligences are absolutely essential and why are they essential? If you are a baseball player, learning how to hit a baseball would be a good thing to know. But if you are trying to evolve yourself into a self-actualized and self-realized human being, what are the essential intelligences necessary to develop and how do we do that?
The four essential intelligences that need to be identified and worked with in an ongoing, deep, integral/holistic practice are the following (I’ve thrown in a 5th intelligence I’ve found to be essential also, but more about that later):
- The body
- The mind
- The emotions
- The spirit
Furthermore, a deficit in any one of these essential human intelligences will cause pathology and suffering. So let me say a bit about each of these intelligences and how we can develop them with a daily, ongoing practice.
- The Body – Basically, we all need to become lifetime athletes—this includes nutrition, supplementation, and exercise: stretching/yoga, cardio, and strength training. If there is any doubt in your mind about the importance and the efficacy of an ongoing exercise program, please see the national bestseller Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John J. Ratey. Spark makes an unarguable case that exercise is transformational and will prevent and heal a myriad of pathologies and diseases as well as keeping an individual healthy, happy, and productive.
- The Mind/Intellectual Life – Just as you are what you eat, you are what you read, what you study, and what you learn. As a young man, I figured out that if I wanted to have a future perhaps doing something that mattered in the world, I would have to live my life as if that possibility really existed. This meant that I struggled with the great books, tried to read deeply and extensively, and made it a habit to ask questions of wise and learned people and to listen carefully to their answers. I remember thinking, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but if the phone call ever comes, I’ll be ready. If we strive to educate ourselves as ongoing scholars and students of wisdom, science, and the arts, we will have a great reservoir of wisdom, beauty, and knowledge to sustain us throughout our lives and our life missions.
- Emotions – Our traumas and conditionings, negative stories, mistaken beliefs, or simply the inability to know what to do with emotions such as anger, grief, boredom, horniness, etc. can lead to devastating consequences, such as depression, addiction, and myriad other psychological and physical disorders. Our practice must allow us to deal effectively and somatically with our emotional life and our wounds from the past.
- Lastly (or almost lastly), we can take the wisdom of Western ego psychology to the nth degree, but if we do not have a viable, vital spiritual connection, the individual pursuit of authentic happiness and health can be characterized by the image of a dog chasing its tail. I am not suggesting that you join a religious institution and accept a series of dogmatic teachings (although that’s perfectly okay, if that’s what you want to do). What I am suggesting is that you practice a daily, ongoing, meditative, contemplative training that takes you into your own deepest self and experientially connects you with your higher self, higher power, or spirit/God (“A rose by any other name…”).
- Perhaps the last essential intelligence that needs to be exercised is that of ethics. This involves a deep inquiry into why we actually do what we do and whom does it serve. My experience with my own practice and my students has taught me that as we clear out our emotional baggage and deepen and mature our spiritual lives that our ethical motivation becomes more deeply embedded and more universally compassionate over the years.
This may sound quite complex, and in one sense it is; as one sage said, there’s a simple answer to everything that doesn’t work. The answer needs to be complex enough and holistic enough to achieve the desired mission, which in this case is becoming fully optimized, evolutionary human beings, meeting our responsibilities—to ourselves, our families, our planet, and the generations to come. Through our interior and exterior practices, we now have the potential to reach a level of development that allows us to show up in the world in a way that is creative, healthy, wise, skillful, and compassionate. As John Lennon said, we begin to become part of the solution and not just part of the problem.
So, again, how do we clean up, grow up, wake up and show up? We become lifetime athletes, one step at a time, one day at a time, and we pay attention to our interior development. Ideally, we put as much time into exercising our interior growth as we do our exterior growth. This would mean roughly an hour of intense exercise each day and an hour of profound meditation. The exterior part of the street is pretty straightforward: join a gym, clean up our diet, use supplements if necessary (and they usually are), and work out a minimum of 5 times a week. You might think this is too much and too hard, but I guarantee that if you do this for a couple of months, your experience of life will be transformed in extremely positive and exciting ways.
To grow your interior life, I suggest an hour of profound meditation daily. You may think, how does one meditate for an hour? I can’t even sit still for 10 minutes! Well, thankfully, science and technology have come to our rescue here. Brainwave entrainment technology is something I have been working with for more than 10 years, first as a practitioner and then as CEO of iAwake Technologies, a company that creates and distributes this powerful, life-changing technology. What this technology does is take you almost instantly into deep meditative states, just by listening to specially designed audio tracks. What formerly took years and years of daily monastic practice to achieve, we can now experience in the first five minutes of using this technology. In addition, we begin to feel the healing effects and fruits of a deep meditative practice in the first few days of meditating, if not immediately.
We can keep these meditative tools on our computers, laptops, iPods, and smart phones and take our contemplative, transformative, meditational practice wherever we go. Besides giving us the benefits of traditional meditation (only much more rapidly and powerfully), these tools also have positive effects not customarily associated with meditation, such as aiding us in somatically releasing trauma and wounds from our past. Brainwave entertainment can also markedly increase our intellectual capabilities—simply put, we get smarter. Also, our creativity is greatly enhanced and our capacity to perform in our chosen fields is dramatically increased. So whether you are a brain surgeon, an athlete, a lead guitarist, a parent raising children, or an executive trying to guide a company, you will be much better at what you do, and you’ll be happier doing it.
Is this easy? No. Is it essential and worth doing? Yes. The old belief system and paradigm was that you are born with your genes, born with your gifts, and if you got it at birth, you got it. If you didn’t, sorry about that. What we now know is that if we practice skillfully, using the science and the technologies of the present as well as the wisdom of our ancestors and the great spiritual traditions, we can put together a conscious, evolutionary, and transformative life practice such has never been available to those who came before us. The call is to wake up spiritually, grow up and clean up ethically and emotionally, and show up. Find your inner voice and wisdom, your life purpose, and get to work. No more excuses, no more equivocation—just action and responsibility.