I resisted it at first.
I already have very meaningful work teaching and writing and coaching people in living a more conscious integral life, particularly helping them deepen in Integral Life Practice. I teach meditation, shadow work, exercise, taking meta-perspectives, and understanding Integral theory. I work with truly amazing individuals in the process of doing this. It's not like I needed to find "relevance" in my work, after all....
But I found myself feeling called to go to Iran. Why? I don't have special expertise in Middle Eastern languages, culture, politics, or religion. I'm not even a conventional political activist.
Why should I be going to Iran?
Iran is a very interesting place. It's the most highly educated populace in the Middle East; a place of tremendous intellectual and spiritual ferment, with 60%+ of its college students women; more bloggers per capita (some argue) than anywhere else in the world (Farsi is said to be the 3rd most used language on the web after English and Mandarin!); and the the political and spiritual center of the most mystical (and sometimes fanatical form) of Islam, Shia Islam—also home to many practicing Sufis. Persia also produced Rumi (who they call Molavi) and Hafez, two great mystical realizers and also two of my very favorite poets of all time. It has a unique form of government—part theocracy and part democratic republic, peopled by vigorous intellectual and political debate. And many fear Iran and the US are currently on a collision course toward war.
But why should I go there?
Because I'm "called"? It seems like that, but it sounds a little odd to say so. It has just kept coming up, as if out of left field. I felt a little like the Richard Dreyfus character in the first half of "Close Encounters," piling my mashed potatoes into the shape of Devil's Mountain, gripped by a mysterious call to go on a rendezvous beyond his understanding.
The idea of visiting Iran somehow wouldn't go away. I kept trying to talk myself out of it (for many very good reasons!). But it didn't work.
So in one more day, I fly to Tehran as a member of a civilian diplomacy delegation organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. We have been in touch with the government there. Our delegation's Iran representatives have requested meetings with President Ahmedinejad, former President Khatami, Grand Ayatollah Sanii, several parliamentarians, other Shia clergy, representatives of minority religions, and others.
I made my commitment around New Year's day. Since then, tension and saber-rattling between the US and Iran (never absent) seems to have suddenly built to quite a crescendo.
Meanwhile, I've been devouring books and blogs and movies, learning whatever I can. First pass bottom line:
I'm a pretty well-informed guy, but from our media I had gotten only a stick-figure and distorted impression of Iranian culture, politics, and religion. Persia is way more diverse, alive, complex, and multidimensional than I dreamed! If you've got 90 minutes, check out a very interesting movie, "Rageh Inside Iran," by a BBC journalist who fell in love with the place, just released on Google Video.
I've also considered my purpose in going. My highest intention is to connect with some really awake Iranians and help support the emergence of Integral perspectives there, such that they can become influential. And to have any hope of doing that, I'm letting go of attachment to the results. To paraphrase Gail Hochachka's sage advice to me:
Once the choice is made, it's best to focus on planting the seeds you really want to plant. You can't know which ones will sprout, or whether they'll sprout in hours, days, weeks, decades, or never. Best to just relax, enjoy, and go plant the best seeds you can!
So I've written a letter to former President Khatami (a heroic figure in Iran today, and quite an Integral thinker and leader, at least on a good day) and a more general letter. I selected a few short documents that I think might be understandable and congenial to people there. And I found Al Eslami, a gracious Farsi translator, and with his help created a little library of Integral documents. If you're interested to see them, here's a list, with links to the files:
- Letter to former President Khatami from Terry Patten: Download khatami_letter.pdf
- My general letter to people I will meet: Download general_letter_to_iranian_colleagues.pdf
- Four Quadrants at UNDP by Barrett Brown:
- Summary of Robert Kegan's Subject Object Theory and Orders of Consciousness by Berger, Hasegawa, & Hammerman Download KeganEnglish.pdf
- The 3 Faces of Spirit by Terry Patten Download 3FacesofSpirit.pdf
- Four chapters from Not-Two is Peace by my root-Guru, the great, iconoclastic Adi Da Samraj. One of them is available here:Download NotTwoIsPeaceAnthroposphere.pdf Here's a link to a website for this book. And another to a website with a large selection of Adi Da's essays and writings.
- One of my very favorite introductory Integral items: Papa's Universe Story by my dear friend, Frank Marrero: Download papasuniversestory.pdf
- You can also find all of them, in English and Farsi on my Google Page.