Going Beyond Mindfulness, Beyond Awakening, and Beyond Conventional Activism with Dustin DiPerna

Diperna headshotOn Sunday I was joined by Dustin DiPerna for “Waking Up Beyond Mindfulness. What kind of consciousness will really help save our world?”

Dustin DiPerna is a dynamic young integral leader who has traveled all over the world, working as a bridge-builder, a scholar, a teacher, and an entrepreneur. He continues to make fresh, dynamic, original contributions to contemporary spiritual culture.

He is also a friend. Dustin and I bonded immediately when we first met, even as the classic intergenerational tensions arose between us, particularly when he began putting forth his work in the public space. We’ve always spoken frankly and we’ve forged a deeper friendship in the process.

What does it mean to go “beyond mindfulness?” Dustin defines mindfulness as “the capacity to bring the full attention of one’s presence to the moment, to be aware of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions — without judgment—and the recognition that we are not these sensations, thoughts and emotions.

But that’s not the end of the path, nor is it enough. Beyond mindfulness, there is an awakening of free consciousness and an opening of the heart. As we expand our capacity to care and to love, we begin to feel that our own awareness isn’t contained within our personality structure.

Ultimately we can recognize a reality that’s non-separate, a reality that’s unbounded wholeness. It’s from that awakening that effective action in the world can spring forth. That’s why we have to go “beyond mindfulness” into awakening.

But there’s a paradox. As the title of this series, Beyond Awakening suggests, not only is mindfulness insufficient for addressing our world crisis, but even awakening has to evolve. It must become “mutual awakening” and “awakening in action” and “awakened citizenship.” A new paradigm of awakening is in the process of emerging.

But integral consciousness goes beyond either/or thinking to both/and thinking. At the same time, even though mindfulness may not be sufficient, it is a very good thing that it’s finding cultural acceptance. The mainstreaming of this “beginner’s practice” of mindfulness, from Silicon Valley to suburbia, is undeniably positive. At least some kind of consciousness practice is now arriving in the lives of many more people. This has a potential for significant societal impact and uplift.

Dustin pointed to the 1960s and the emergence of post-modern consciousness. Some people turned our attention inward, beginning to examine consciousness with psychedelics and the exploration of Eastern meditation traditions. Many also turned our attention outward, mobilizing to affect the world in a positive way, through civil rights, social justice and environmental activism.

Both the inward and the outward efforts were positive and had cultural impact, but individually each was limited. If we only do the inward work we may never “leave the cushion.” But if we neglect our inward work, and charge forth to change the world, we tend to suffer marginalization and depletion.

Dustin claims that if we can truly bring these two streams together, to both “wake up and show up,” in an activism that doesn’t perpetuate separation, what can result is an inexhaustible sense of love and the capacity to move into the world in a dynamic way.

Mindfulness is a gateway into this integration of awareness and activism. The “paradox” is resolved if we can support and appreciate its infiltration into larger culture, while helping people to understand what mindfulness is and isn’t—where it is useful and where it has limitations.

Our intergenerational differences have been a rich source of creative “friction” for us, so it seemed important to go there during our dialogue. I asked Dustin to share what he is noticing about those differences among his contemporaries. For his part, Dustin suggested that we describe the archetypes, and the critiques, that we’ve experienced in each other’s generation.

Dustin says his generation can often mistake information for experience, and fail to respect and honor the experience of the spiritual practitioners who have come before. And that’s a pitfall.

At the same time, they benefit from the legacy of baby boomers and Gen-Xers who have enabled later generations to be exposed in their teens and early twenties to integral and evolutionary philosophical frameworks, giving them a much richer understanding of esoteric wisdom traditions. As a result, practitioners of Dustin’s generation have a certain acuity and quickness.

This “quickness” is often where the intergenerational tension arises. But it’s also where the possibility for a powerful intergenerational synergy arises. With sufficient humility and mutual respect, the depth of older practitioners who have experienced loss, acquired wisdom, and sustained commitments over time, can interact synergistically with the quickness and adaptability of younger practitioners.

I observed that younger practitioners are not engaging the sustained, self-transcending, whole-being surrender that practitioners of my generation dedicated to our spiritual schools and teachers. My own root guru, Adi Da intruded deeply into my life, demanding a whole life of practice. Because I trusted him more than I trusted myself, I was able to transcend my preferences and patterns and discover remarkable freedom and profound growth.

This level of submission is now unthinkable amongst Dustin and his contemporaries. For good reasons. But there is something lost too. Surrender to a teacher enables the practitioner to go beyond one’s preferences in ways that are sometimes extremely uncomfortable. This makes real transformation and ego transcendence possible.

Dustin posited that there has been an “upgrade” to that kind of teacher-student relationship, based on what his generation learned from mine. It’s a more nuanced approach to devotion that is context and content-specific, based on a teacher’s particular gifts. He says, “we are submitting, but we’re submitting to particular aspects of the beings to whom we’re devoted, and not to the whole being.”

To keep a balanced perspective, I asked the simple question that the gurus who taught my generation would have posed about this “upgraded” spiritual path, “Yes, but who’s making the choice?” (If it’s influenced by the contracted, reactive, compensatory patterns of what we usually call “the ego,” it may not really be an “upgrade.”)

We both agreed that one of the things that excites and compels us is the emergence of integral we-space practices and the collective awakening that is possible in mutuality.

Dustin said that this mutuality enables us to live in evolutionary ecosystems which can maximize learning. A healthy evolutionary ecosystem is one where we have all of the following kinds of relationships:

  • People that we’re learning from.
  • People who we’re mentoring or teaching.
  • People that we’re in mutuality with, peers with whom we share a similar level of development.

I agreed, but suggested something even more radical—regarding everyone (whether “above” or “below” us) as our teacher, friend, and as someone in need of our love and wisdom—a view of reality in which we’re all teachers and students and friends to one another.

It was a rich conversation. We also touched on “the way of effort” and “the way of grace,” the importance of relating to our “outer work” as lovers—and much, much more.

I invite you to listen in here.


Waking Up Beyond Mindfulness — What Kind of Consciousness Will Really Help Save Our World? with Dustin DiPerna

Diperna headshotOn Sunday, Oct. 25th  at 10am Pacific, I’ll be joined by Dustin DiPerna for a dialogue we’ve entitled:

Waking Up Beyond Mindfulness: What Kind of Consciousness Will Really Help Save Our World?”

Dustin DiPerna is a dynamic young integral leader who has traveled all over the world pursuing his dedication to making timeless spiritual wisdom relevant and accessible for a rapidly changing world. He is both a rigorous student of the traditions and a serious practitioner. I have known Dustin for over a decade, and I’m both proud and delighted to see him making an increasing number of fresh, dynamic, original contributions to contemporary spiritual culture.

For the past 8 years, Dustin has been practicing and studying in the spiritual lineages of Mahamudra and Dzogchen under the direction of Daniel P. Brown and Rahob Tulku Rinpoche. Starting even earlier, Dustin has been, for more than a decade, a close student of Integral philosopher, Ken Wilber, who has said of Dustin’s work that it “fundamentally alters the way in which religion or spirituality can (and should) be taught and practiced” (access both Daniel Brown and Ken Wilber’s Beyond Awakening dialogues here).

During our upcoming dialogue, Dustin and I will be exploring what happens “beyond mindfulness.” Mindfulness has now become mainstream. But there’s more to meditation and higher consciousness than mindfulness. Mindfulness, properly understood, is a wonderful beginner’s practice. Meditation goes far beyond becoming more calm, more relaxed, or even more mindful. Meditation, in its fullest and most fundamental expression, is about Waking Up. According to the great spiritual traditions East and West, each and every one of us has the innate potential to recognize the Ultimate Nature of Reality.

Ultimate Reality is Undivided Wholeness, unobstructed by conceptual limitations of self, time, space or any other form of separation. Reality-Itself, in its deepest and most true sense, is effulgent radiance, expressing itself in each and every moment as an invitation from the Kosmos to open more fully into being conscious love.

But how does this figure into the intractable and intensifying global crises that confront us on a daily basis? Dustin points to an ever-growing group of people around the globe who are not only going beyond practicing mindfulness, they are waking up and going beyond awakening too — joining together in deeper synergy to effect positive change in the world.

I invite you to join us Sunday, Oct. 25th, as Dustin and I explore a synthesis of ancient and modern wisdom, the possibilities of meditation, and what it all means for you and for our world at this critical moment in history.

About Dustin DiPerna

Dustin DiPerna is a scholar and author, focused on the nature and evolution of the world’s religions, spiritual paths and philosophies. He is also a teacher, coach and entrepreneur who helps individuals and groups find happier and more fulfilling ways of being in the world. He is author and/or editor of four books: Streams of Wisdom, Evolution’s Ally, The Coming Waves and Earth is Eden (forthcoming in 2016).

Dustin has held positions with the Integral Institute, the Integral Spiritual Center and the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders (WCORL). As an entrepreneur, Dustin launched Integral Publishing House as a platform to publish books which stimulate the development of deeper levels of consciousness and culture. He also co-founded WEpractice, a training program to help people move beyond the limitations of individualized spiritual practice to discover the power of groups in transformation, integration, and healing.

Dustin also played a central role on the leadership team for the Global Cooperative Forum in Interlaken, Switzerland and launched the World Business Commons in partnership with the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. His latest venture, Bright Alliance, is building an endowment for the continued preservation and dissemination of the great treasure trove of human wisdom sourced in our world’s great religious traditions. Dustin holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Masters of Liberal Arts degree in Religion from Harvard University. An avid lover of art, design and nature, he lives in California with his wife, Amanda, and daughter, Jaya.


*Sunday, October 25th at 10:00am Pacific; 11:00am Mountain; 12:00pm Central; 1:00pm Eastern

*Find Your Local Time

Please Note: There will be a limited number of lines available on the live conference call, so we encourage you to listen online if possible. To make sure you can get through by phone, we encourage you to dial in early.


Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we’ll open up the lines and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via instant message. Here’s what to do:

To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line number and wait until we ask for a question from someone in your region, or

Send us your question via instant message in the teleseminar window on your computer, or

Send us your questions and comments before or during the live dialogue by posting them on our Beyond Awakening Community Facebook page

We look forward to your attendance!

The Beyond Awakening Team

Experiments in We-Mysticism with Patricia Albere

On Sunday I was joined by Patricia Albere for “Collective Awakening: What makes it possible? And why is it important?”

Patricia Albere is the founder and director of the Evolutionary Collective in New York and San Francisco, where a committed group works inside a highly focused container that provides a rich environment for this shared consciousness to reveal its potentials. She has consciously structured her vision of a new culture of mutual awakening in very specific teachings and processes, identifying Eight Activating Principles of Evolutionary Relationship and Seven Vectors that define a particular location in consciousness.

I was excited to be able to have a public conversation with Patricia about what makes real mutual awakening possible. Thich Nhat Hanh famously suggested that “the next Buddha will be a sangha” and I agree. I consider the work of growing that new, higher “we-space” to be one of the most important cutting edges in our current cultural experiment.

Although I haven’t previously brought it into this series, Integral We-Space has been a focus of my work for some years. I’ve led and experienced mutual awakening with most of the leaders in the field, and I’ve written several papers about it, including a history of Integral We-Space. It’s an explosive field of innovation. And I think it has the potential to transform human culture.

But truly transformative spiritual work is not easy. Otherwise we’d all already be enlightened. Individual awakening is profound, and so is mutual awakening. We are all suggestible, and we can go into delicious altered states just by deepening into eye contact, so it’s easy to delude ourselves. So I was excited to be able to have a public conversation about what makes real mutual awakening possible. Patricia defines mutual awakening, or inter-subjective awakening, as being awake together inside of reality and going beyond our separate, subjective experiences to a shared experience of enlightenment, of awareness, of life itself. In practice, she says, “I’m letting my consciousness locate itself at the origination point of yours.”

Paradoxically, Patricia says that individual awakening is not a prerequisite for mutual awakening. She noted that in his book, Runaway Realization, AH Almaas suggests that Existence, and awakening, is mysterious and complex, opening up into endless possibilities. Then she put it another way: “If I was Existence, I wouldn’t get stuck in one way of having anything happen,” including awakening as an individual, rather than collectively. Why not both? She says neither she nor Peter were enlightened individually when they began their journey of mutual awakening, and yet they came together in intimacy with each other and the evolutionary impulse, and awoke inside of something new together.

I’ve practiced, and led, several different approaches to mutual awakening, some which involve deepening into intimacy with each other and becoming more connected, such as Circling, which has been called a kind of inter-subjective meditation.

Then there are experiments such as Andrew Cohen’s, where his students awaken as the “evolutionary impulse,” or David Boehm’s original work on dialogue in the sixties and seventies focused on undoing the fragmented modes of consciousness that have led to our world crisis. I asked about the purpose of collective awakening. Is there a purpose? Is it just an experiment? Is it just something we do for fun?

Patricia said that there is value in many approaches to collective awakening. According to her, as long as a group is committed to go into the deepest kind of consciousness that can come through them, then life will bring in whatever is needed in that moment. What comes through is what existence wants to bring through.

Regarding the Evolutionary Collective, she feels that her role is to create the right container and impetus for the participants. She says she is “utterly helpless” to shape the broader results. But she trusts that the way the work will be translated and applied by the teachers, thought leaders, everyone in the group with their various backgrounds and visions, will be helpful to the process of transforming global consciousness and addressing our world crisis.

I asked her about possible pitfalls—after all, like individual states, collective states come in many shapes and sizes. They can be deluded or enlightened. Some are merely self-indulgent consolations of the individuals involved, and some generate a group ego. How can the “We-Space” be activated so we become love in action in a way that extends beyond our experience in the group?

Patricia said that at the beginning, even as an individual mystic, you are often given extraordinary experiences that draw you to the path. Then there are other phases in the journey where you have to transcend your limitations. Perhaps your self-identify “gets erased,” or you can’t feel God. She said this happens with mutual awakening just as it does with individual awakening.

But we still need to push forward, to experiment with mutual awakening, and to become wholly able to surrender to what’s possible. Patricia pointed to the individual mystics and saints and holy people who historically inspired people in the path of personal transformation, and described her vision of a “we-mysticism” of “multiple beloveds” who are willing to continue to be authentic and to purify and keep diving in.

The transition to true sustainability and the transformation of the complex crises we are facing will take a Buddha that is a Sangha. Our current experiments and innovations with mutual awakening may be part of how we find our way to the new kind of consciousness and culture that our crisis calls for.

Even though I’ve devoted my life to this work, I am humbled by the enormity of this aspiration for revolutionary transformation. I felt that acutely during my dialogue with Patricia. I expressed my sense of being sourced by a larger intention, and so did she. We are both inspired by the potentials of a Higher We.

I invite you to access the audio. You’ll get a chance to listen in on a brief, live engagement where Patricia and I move through a spontaneous practice of mutual awakening,