Exercise the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual
What is an Integral Life Practice? Very simply, it is a way to exercise the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of the self. It’s a commitment an individual makes to actively pursue development in these four key areas of life (body, mind, psyche, spirit) at every level: personally, in relationships, and with the larger world around us.
The basic premise of this type of lifestyle is that by cross-training different aspects of ourselves, we actually increase our growth in each individual area so that the sum is greater than the parts. A runner who spends all of their free time just running (body) will improve less quickly, be less healthy, and experience more discomfort than they would if they also meditated (spirit), went to therapy (emotion), and read a book that challenged them to think in new ways (mind).
The idea behind Integral Life Practice (ILP) is that you can customize it based on your preferences, and scale it based on your lifestyle.
I’m not here to tell you that spiritual practices from Judaism are better than Hinduism or that Karate is better than Basketball; I’m here to tell you that if you’re into Judaism you’ll deepen your relationship with God if you’re also doing something to grow your body, mind, and psyche. If you’re into Basketball you’ll improve your game by engaging your mind, psyche, and spirit. You pick what works for you. (I’ll share mine below).
In some ways this is obvious. We recognize how much the “mental” game affects our sports performances, and how learning to be more conscious of our breathing in meditation would help us get more oxygen to our muscles—but many times the benefits that come from such a balanced life practice are unforeseeable.
How does the monk benefit from working out? How does the academic understand get tenure by getting more in touch with their psyche? I can give you simple rationalizations (how much harder is it to get tenure if your peers and students think you’re a total jerk?), but it will be more powerful for you find them out in your life by doing it. You might also notice that most revered people in these realms, throughout history, have chosen to live this way, regardless of what they called it.
I’m too busy—how can fit all of these things into my already hectic life?
This is where customization and scalability come into play. Just like CrossFit makes it easy to stay incredibly fit with less than 20 minutes of working out in a day, but many CrossFitters like to work out much longer than that, you get to pick your practices based on your lifestyle.
For my psyche I journal daily, and sometimes I only set aside 5 minutes to do it. It’s incredible some of the revelations I’ve had in five minutes of reflective writing. Other times I’ll journal for a whole two hour airplane ride.
Of course there are many ways to make this more complex, many caveats people can add, many specifics that could make it more or less powerful for you. I invite you to start small and investigate it with an open curiosity. Try a couple things, and re-evaluate—I redo my practices every month. I invite you to get a friend to hold you accountable, and I encourage you to keep a simple log so you can track your progress and see which areas you tend to avoid. You might be surprised by what you find.
After sharing this simple idea with dozens of friends, hundreds of clients, and thousands of fellow enthusiasts across the world, I guarantee that you’ll benefit from trying to work this into your life.
My Current ILP*
(Subject to change each month upon personal reflection and with my ILP partner)