As I write this, cities in many countries are being torn apart because the followers of conventional religious practice are at war with one another. Islam versus Judaism in Palestine. Sunni versus Shia in Iraq. Hinduism versus Christianity in India. Atheism versus Buddhism in China.

These stories grab the headlines, because in most cities of the world, conventional religions – from all faith systems – keep alive a storyline that those who follow its dogma are saved and those who do not are damnable. In this way the clash of religions and cultures is kept alive and inflamed. The practice of conventional religions offers faith in the one right way, but no hope for a way that embraces the essential life-giving teachings that lie at the core of each religion.

Symbols of World Religions

Symbols of World Religions


Dr. Roger Walsh, at IEC drew a picture of religion with a large enough circle of compassion that it transcended and included the best of conventional and post-conventional religions, to create religion that is transconventional.

Transconventional religion does not perpetuate the old story but instead offers what Walsh called a “psycho-technology”.  This psycho-spiritual technology transforms the mind and consciousness using the methodologies developed by the saints and sages who created the fundamentals of religious practices everywhere.

At the heart of these technologies are contemplative practices that are expressions of a mature religion that can effectively mature those who practice its disciplines and precepts.

Psycho-technologies like these, tame, transform and transcend practitioners in ways that impact the community psychologically, biologically, culturally and socially (in other words, with  an integral intelligence). These transconventional practices liberate practitioners from being “reactors” in the old stories ( that depend on religious hierarchies who command the one right way through power and dogmas) and release them into direct intuitive wisdom.

Cities using an integral framework to understand and embrace its multitude of religions and cultures and create conditions and habitats that attract and promote transconventional religion(s). Examples like the Parliament of World Religions, the Dalai Lama’s Mind and Life Institute and even the democratic practice of separating church and state, show us how powerful transconventional religious practice can impact the quality of life for all citizens. The simplest form of teaching children contemplation, meditation or mindfulness can sow the seeds of tolerance, acceptance of differences and the basis for “essential spiritual practice”.

In his book Essential Spirituality, Walsh sets out 7 essential spiritual practices that can optimize integral impact:

1. Transform our motivation. By shifting what motivates us from egocentric concerns to ethnocentric, then worldcentric to kosmocentric we expand our circles of compassion.

2. Live ethically. Our practices must be filled with the integrity that respects that our practices must not prevent others’ practices must and none must harm the other.

3. Develop concentration. Being able to focus our attention with intention enables us to mature from one stage to the next, progressively growing our capacity.

4. Develop emotional maturity. The studies of EQ (emotional intelligence) over the last 20 years has revealed that it lies at the heart of a spectrum of intelligences that starts with PQ (physical intelligence), leads to IQ (intellectual intelligence) and flowers into SQ (spiritual intelligence).

5. Refine awareness. Waking up to the world around us through all our senses brings us more fully alive and more fully appreciative of Life itself.

6. Seek Wisdom. All religious belief systems hold universal wisdom in their precepts. Understanding that the Wisdom continuously unfolds and teaches us at a deeper level, is the challenge that transconventional religion can help us meet.

7. Be of Service. The Buddhist Bodhisattva vow proposes that the highest path of enlightenment is to be of service to everyone, so all may become enlightened. The vow of service in the Integral City is embedded in the Master Code. Take Care of Self. Take Care of Others. Take Care of this Place.

As Walsh, underlined at IEC in Budapest, we can help our troubled cities (and the world) by making choices that foster transconventional psycho-technologies (aka religions that serve the vitality of life everywhere ).






It is amazing to realize that we can optimize the impact of Integral City frameworks in the world simply because adult development is possible.

Integral City Map 3: The Scalar Fractal Relationship of Micro, Meso and Macro Human Systems

Integral City Map 3: The Scalar Fractal Relationship of Micro, Meso and Macro Human Systems

As a pioneering transpersonal psychologist, Roger Walsh emphasized this point at IEC,  he explored how to optimize the impacts of the integral paradigm everywhere.

While integral thinkers not only belong to the school that adult development is a natural phenomenon, many of them are leaders in explaining, developing and promoting capacity development in bio-psycho-cultural-social dimensions. (Ken Wilber, in Integral Psychology, charted the developmental stages named by more than 70 psychologists, psychotherapists, deveopmentalists and researchers). Some of the stage paths have more granularity than others, but all of them identify three developmental levels that are active in cities. Walsh called them: pre-conventional or mythic (also known as pre-modern); conventional or rational (also known as modern); and post-conventional or worldcentric (also known as post-modern).

Integral City is a meta-paradigm – it organizes and aligns the paradigms of human systems within the city, so that the patterns of the “human hive” – the natural living system of the city — can be recognized. As a meta-paradigm for the meso-scale of human systems, it serves the macro-scale of national and planetary systems, but it also depends on the micro-scales of human systems that make it up – the holarchy of social groups to which we all belong (as symbolized in Integral City Map 2).

Interestingly our manifestation of adult development can vary depending on which group we are interacting with – the most advanced worldcentric thinker can devolve to pre-modern sports fan at the World Cup; the most accomplished integral practitioner can happily enjoy the trappings of modernism that make possible all the “mod cons” of the city from flashy car to smart phone; and the most devout integral spiritual leader can appreciate the shamanic practices of Amazonian tribes.

But what distinguishes the adult who practices an integral way of life is the capacity to see all of these experiences as choices that allow and demand the adult to be aware of both their objective qualities and subjective states, and thereby support the facility to make different choices when appropriate.

The capacities to think, act, relate and create along a spectrum of personal conduct, that can be consciously linked to adult development, is in distinct contrast to the majority of people in cities. Most people have not yet discovered that adult psychological development does not cease with the biological maturity of the body. Adult psychological development for many people atrophies when they leave their school and/or their faith teachers and is “normalized” by regular association with peers who live within similar constraints – thus reinforcing the beliefs and behaviors of tribes, clans and cultures.

Moreover, in today’s cities tribes, clans and cultures have converged from the many geographies of the world, each believing that they have the “one right way” and prepared to challenge, fight and even kill others who do not comply with it. In terms of adult development we could say that too many people are arrested at a pre-conventional or conventional stages of development. And the melting pot of the city ensures that the encounter of people at different stages of development will guarantee conflicts and clashes because of their differing worldviews, values and psychological capacities. So there appears to be an optimizing logic that one of the essential weapons to address and vanquish these clashes is through creating the conditions of ongoing adult development. (Core evidence for this argument, might come from the research the “simple” act of educating women in the developing-world, which has improved quality of life measurable in economic, cultural and social terms.)

Some people have misinterpreted the Integral City’s paradigm to be a vision of the city at a steady state and stage of the post-conventional level of development. However, I do not believe that is likely or possible. Firstly, each person in the city traverses the stages of development (as far as they choose and/or are supported). Secondly they do this amidst the ecology of continuously dynamic demographics of the multitude of human lifecycles in cities. Therefore, it seems that these two co-existing conditions will ensure that all stages of human development will always be with us in the Integral City. The dynamics of human systems in cities is precisely what makes them ever-complex and adaptive.

Which brings us back to the proposition that optimizing the impact of Integral City rests on the discovery that adult human development is possible. The development of the city as a complex human system, depends on the assumption that each individual has the possibility of a lifelong learning journey. This is a basic premise that underlies any expectation that the quality of life in the city can be optimized through living with Integral principles.

As Clare Graves reminded us, adult development is a “never-ending quest”. Perhaps creating habitats that optimize the opportunities for adult development is one of the greatest values that Integral City design has to offer the world? Through individual adult development we can then create the conditions to support the intelligences of “WE-space” that has always seemed to me to be the eventual natural legacy of optimizing the impact of the Integral City.


How do you optimize the impact of Integral City impact by getting our work out to the world?

Integral City AQAL

That is the next question that Roger Walsh asked at IEC.

First consider how important integral ideas are at this time in the world.

The city is the most complex system created by humans – and as such it is subject to information overload. Information overload has the tendency to make life very complicated. This causes and amplifies the stress that we feel at every scale in the city – as individuals trying to do our work, as families trying to stay connected, as teams in our work places trying to produce results, as organizations trying to stay on mission, as sectors trying to meet growing demands, as communities trying to engage neighbourhoods, as the whole city, trying to gain an overview of all this complexity to optimize our quality of life, cultural wellbeing, economic prosperity and infrastructural operation .

The value of thinking about the city using an Integral framework – one that can be negotiated with a compass and four maps –  is that it brings alignment and coherence to the many parts of the city. Our Integral City Compass shape shifts into 4 City Maps that help us to situate the dynamics and the patterns that too often elude us with information overload.

The Integral City framework helps us make sense of the cross-currents of our city lives from four directions:

1. how do the winds of change impact us as individuals? (Map 1 and Map 4).

2. how do the conflicts of relationships impact us in our social holons or collectives? (Maps 2, 3, 4)

3. how does the internal environment of Self and Others impact our awareness, beliefs and intentions? (Maps 1, 2 and 3.

4. how does the external environment of Place and Structure impact our actions, performance and capacity to manifest? (Maps 3 and 4).

With the situational guidance offered by compass and maps, Integral City can then support the unfolding of the intelligences that emerge as we optimize our interactions from the four quadrants of the city.

We can optimize the impact of Integral City Work when we come from our direct experience and bring contemplative wisdom into the mainstream. Roger Walsh‘s Optimizing Guidelines (delivered at IEC), suggested that we transmit to others, our deepest inner experience and deepest contemplative wisdom we have learned from the Masters.

Students Learning from Master at Izhevsk Cathedral, Udmurtia, Russia

Students Learning from Master at Izhevsk Cathedral, Udmurtia, Russia

Three practices can support us in optimizing from direct experience and deep wisdom:

1. We can imbibe wisdom.

From where?  From whom? We must follow the energy of the wisdom that calls us, speaks to us, and even “marinates us” so that we are inspired to transmit it to others. Lev Gordon at ARGO (Association of City Development) in Izhevsk, Russia is a good example. He affirmed to me on my recent visit, that he responded well to our injunction “to follow the energy” because it allowed him and his team to access their highest callings and focus on thriving. That’s why ARGO set out to create, Urbanfest, as the first citizen-initiated conference on city development in Russia.

2. We can master the concepts and the language of the community we are trying to talk to.

Within the Integral City Community of Practise, Beth Sanders stands as an exemplar of Engaging the 4 Voices of the City. She has mastered the language of city planning through her education, her service to the profession (serving as Treasurer of Canadian Association of Planners, and Past-President of the Alberta Professional Planning Institute) and her ongoing community meshworking practise. As a result, her skills for going “where angels fear to tread” in public consultation meetings, build new bridges, confront old conflicts and open new options in cities all across Canada.

3. We can translate contemplative wisdom into concepts and languages that communities understand

Aha! Insights (aka BFO = Blinding Flash of the Obvious) are usually the most simple and obvious points when we hear others repeat back to us in their own words what we have said. An early example for Integral City came from Dr. Robin Wood, Founder of Thriveability Foundation, who was the first person to review Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Instead of simply citing the 12 intelligences, he summarized them into 5 easy groups: Contexting Intelligences, Individual Intelligences, Collective Intelligences, Strategic Intelligences and Evolutionary Intelligences. For me that was an Aha! and BFO all combined into one – because I felt understood AND now I had new, simpler language to talk to others about ideas that they can easily understand. Robin translated the contemplative integral wisdom behind Integral City into “business-speak”.  Beth translates it into “community-planner-speak”. Lev translates it into “citizen-speak”.


… deep bows to Roger Walsh,who is a Master of living his injunctions to learn from the Masters and translate meaning to others out of deep personal experience.

How can you optimize the impact of “integral”? That was the question asked by Roger Walsh at his keynote at the Integral Europe Conference. As ever, his wisdom was framed to inspire practise as well as contemplation. We always gain insights about Integral City work from Roger’s guidance (see the blog series on “5 Practical Steps for Applying Integral City Theory“).


Urbanfest Team

Urbanfest Team

So let’s consider ways that we can optimize our Integral City Work.

Commit to Do High Quality Work

Firstly we can begin by committing to do high quality work – as Integral City Practitioners, Catalysts and Meshworkers. As a Community of Practise, we have defined the practices of each level of practise, so that practitioners can become progressively more skilled in disciplines that are relevant to understanding the city through integral lenses.

Knowledge Areas

We started by mapping  the 12 Intelligences as the focus and outcome of the disciplines for Integral City work.

Our knowledge frames for Practitioners (who work at the scale of individual organizations and leaders) include:  Integral Framework, Spiral Dynamics, Living Systems, Complexity, Integral City, Personal Management, Integral Life Practise and/or Integral Transformative Practise .

Our knowledge frames for Catalysts (who work at the scale of connecting two or more City Voices, organizations or sectors) include:   Leadership Development, Team Development, Art of Hosting, Inquiry, Conflict Resolution, Social Artistry, Polarity Management, Eco-Footprint, The Natural Step, Balanced Scorecard, Values Tools, Appreciative Inquiry and Holacracy

Our knowledge frames for Meshworkers (who work at the scale of the city, aligning, cohering and meshworking around Purpose, People, Priorities and Planet) include:

 Facilitating, Learning Design
 Thinking & Learning Communities
 Calculating Carrying Capacity for: Social, Cultural, Environmental, Economic

To advance high quality Integral City practices at all scales ,we have identified these basic knowledge areas as necessary to commence high quality work. This enables each level of practice to build on what they learn in practice, so that they can co-design experiments (like Learning Lhabitats), solutions to challenges (like Russian City Development Urbanfest initiatives) and publish outcomes (like the qualities of the 4 Voices of the City,  the Integral City 2.0 Online Conference and the Integral City Book).


In May I visited Russia and was surprised to have my stereotypes of the country and the people overturned.

Russian Map

Using Integral City eyes, helped me penetrate behind two polarizing veils – one defensive and self-justifying (aggrandizing?) filter  created by Russia herself through state-influenced (controlled?) media and the other an accusatory finger-pointing filter fabricated by the western media. The two poles feed off each other and screen the real Russia I viewed with appreciation through Integral City Lenses.

The Nobel Prize of City Capacity-building projects was an Urbanfest event that created a perfect habitat for hearing from the City Voices of 15 Russian cities (from the 44 cities represented at Urbanfest).

What struck me, as I listened to the teams of each presenting city, was that each project spoke from one or more of the Integral City quadrivium of Voices.

4 Voices of the City

4 Voices of the City


Here are just a few examples.

From Perm, we heard about the “Pianos in the Streets”.


Russian nobel Perm


This Project brought music to unusual places in Perm – literally placing 18 pianos around the city for anyone to play. They placed 9 of them in the streets and contrary to predictions all pianos were played and none were stolen or vandalized.

From Saratov we heard about a project that started with a book of  “Shame” about the Saratov region that showed many negative things in the city.



But after seeing the reaction of residents, the initiators reversed their approach and set out to implement a series of informative and recreational projects that opened up the city to new perspectives. They incorporated walking tours not only to historical places  cities, but to unusual locations like, baths and saunas. They then went on to offer theater, church and tram tours. In one month they gained 1500 participants, and found out that people are even willing to pay for excursions – thus they are creating a new recreational economic sector.

From North Norilsk, (the most northern city inside the Arctic Circle) we heard about an urban agricultural project.

Russian Nobel North Norilsk

North Norilsk

Despite the 9 months of winter this city experiences, it is acting as a model for mapping the green areas of the city. Replacing shrubs and bushes that are poorly adapted to arctic conditions, with special grass seed that is well adapted, NN mapped 180 new lawns – and a multitude of gardens that appeared on porches and balconies (on the typical 9 story residential apartment buildings).

Several cities reported on projects that addressed waste management, recycling and environmental recovery. In the Chelyabinsk Region schools resurrected an old practice of school children recycling paper.




As a result they were able to both capitalize on the modern students’ efforts (receiving payment from a recycling firm) and developed a teachers training manual exploring the effect of debris on the environment, which has been successfully used in the classroom. Sevastopol organized an online  site where concerned city residents can upload photos of illegal dump sites. If more than 100 people complain they forward the complaint to the authorities for action.  As a result, they already eliminated more than 250 dumpsites (and 1/3 of the problem sites have been eliminated even before a complaint is filed).

These are just a sample of the many worthy projects vying for the Nobel Prize (1) for City Development. Each one is involving multiple city voices and each deserves a resounding round of applause and encouragement for taking innovative and appreciative approaches to making each city (and many regions) more alive and more resilient.

… oh and by the way, if you want to become more Integral (in your worldviews, values and leadership) we can highly recommend the practice of “travel”. When you meet real people on your travels it can take you places you  never even knew existed – like behind the 2 veils that hide the goodness of the Russian soul from the rest of the world.



(1) The Nobel that this prize is named after is the older (and richer oil and factory baron) Ludvig, brother of the more famous Alfred.


maple leaf meme


May we dance with the Maple Leaf Meme-lights as they vibrate with the resilient commit-ments of Life. May the Northern Lights from our flashing energy field radiate:

  • beige to protect our individual needs for physical and spiritual safety and survival; and prevent harm to all individuals.
  • purple to honour the traditions and heritage of each group of persons so long as they do not threaten the health of *PPPPP; and honour the contributions of the elders so long as they do not threaten the health of *PPPPP.
  • red to defend the freedom of each individual to express their development and creativity without infringing on the freedom of others to express their development and creativity.
  • blue to respect the value of order without imposing restrictions that harm individuals or groups; and honour the need for order that serves the entire *PPPPP.
  • orange to promote the success of persons; to be accountable for the integral and fair exchange of products, services and ideas as long as resources do not accumulate for the benefit of a few interests, organizations and/or levels of development, at the expense of (or while depriving resources to) *PPPPP; to publicly recognize the origination/originator of ideas, products and services.
  • green to accept the dignity of groups; ensure fair opportunity for all persons to pursue happiness as long as no individual or group is prevented from doing likewise; to not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, gender, creed as long as such action ensures the health of *PPPPP; to not seek to favour any group at the expense of another group as long as such action ensures the health of *PPPPP.
  • yellow to facilitate the integral flex and flow of energy across all aspects of *PPPPP; to unblock the barriers to the emergence of new ways of thinking, doing, being as long as they respect the health of *PPPPP; to mesh the elegance of natural patterns, processes and structures.
  • turquoise to value the geo/bio/noetic capacities of the planet; to respect the integral ecology of *PPPPP; to co-emerge the evolutionary intelligence of Life inherent in *PPPPP.


May our dance of the Maple Leaf Meme-lights resonate the universal rhythm of
*PPPPP= Place, Plant, Phylum, Person, Planet


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