In simple terms, integral development is an on-going practice through which we broaden the range of possibilities for ourselves and those we seek to influence. It can be applied in multiple ways, on any scale and in any domain of life.
A cripple and a blind man - an ancient Sufi story
A blind man wandering lost in a forest tripped and fell. As the blind man rummaged about the forest floor he discovered that he had fallen over a cripple. The blind man and the cripple struck up a conversation, commiserating on their fate. The blind man said, “I have been wandering in this forest for as long as I can remember, and I cannot see to find my way out.” The cripple said, “I have been lying on the forest floor for as long as I can remember, and I cannot get up to walk out.” As they sat there talking, suddenly the cripple cried out. “I’ve got it,” he said. “You hoist me up onto your shoulders and I will tell you where to walk. Together we can find our way out of the forest.”
The parable of the cripple and the blind man in the forest is an allegorical depiction of how we can transcend our culture's penchant for compartmentalizing everything that we experience. We treat mind and body as if they were independent from each other. We easily dismiss the role that intuition and emotion play in our most ordinary actions, including our decision-making process. We describe what we do 'for a living' in accordance with a specific job title or function and seldom reflect on the true essence of our craft. We adhere to the doctrine of "work-life balance", thus perpetuating the artificial division between our professional and personal endeavors. We define "value" on the simplistic notion of immediate financial returns and commonly forget to ask about our deeper human goals.
Imagine a CEO who routinely takes walks in nature, not to disconnect but to recharge and become a more effective leader. Imagine a web developer who measures the success of design based on net positive contribution to users' lives, not just the number of downloads or amount of time people spend on the platform. Imagine scientists and religious leaders coming together to solve some of the world's toughest problems instead of debating or delegitimizing each others' views. Imagine schools placing as much emphasis on teaching mindfulness as they do on conducting standardized tests. Imagine an economic system that compensates nurses as generously as it does football players.
Integral development is about re-evaluating the extent to which some of the boundaries that have shaped us in the past can be useful moving forward, and freeing up space to incorporate new competencies that enable us to lead more meaningful, harmonious and intentional lives.
As individuals. As groups. As a society.