Cindy Wigglesworth on Spiritual Intelligence

Cindy Wigglesworth is a wise and compassionate Fortune 500-level leadership expert who is a knowledgeable authority on all aspects of personal, business and spiritual development.

Her passion in life is teaching fundamental spiritual skills which unlock the final frontier towards realizing our highest human potential. I had the pleasure of speaking with her about the launch of her new book, The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence.

Conscious Connection: How did you get started on your spiritual path?

Cindy Wigglesworth: It all began in my early childhood when I was an expatriate in Bombay, India. This experience gave me an interesting perspective on life which later paved the way towards a deep appreciation and understanding of spiritual development. At a very early age I was confronted with things like poverty, leprosy and various other forms of suffering I had never seen before. These experiences got me questioning why there is suffering in the world and what it means to lead a good life.

I eventually made it back stateside and attended Duke University for Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in which I focused heavily on IQ development. At the time, IQ (which is primarily thinking/cognitive skills) was seen as the main driver of success and intelligence. Given my educational background, I ended up with an over developed IQ and underdeveloped EQ (Emotional Intelligence). As most twenty-something’s do, I had a bit of arrogance about myself and felt I was much smarter than everyone else.

After landing an HR position with Exxon-Mobil, I began personal spiritual work independent of my job there. This ended up improving my leadership skills significantly. It was at this point I started wondering why this wasn’t being taught in leadership development.

Shortly thereafter, I began learning more about EQ and discovered the book by Daniel Goleman. The realization that emotional intelligence drastically impacts your interpersonal skills helped me come out and crystallize why interpersonal skills matter and how you can develop them. I also wondered if someone was doing the same for spirituality. After years of searching, I finally realized that no one was teaching it and set out on a path to do it myself.

Conscious Connection: How do you describe spiritual intelligence and break it down into teachable skills?

Cindy Wigglesworth: Spiritual intelligence is defined as the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace regardless of the situation. Look for exemplars of SQ – people with more than EQ. Spiritual leaders such as Gandhi, Jesus, Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. What distinguishes them from high EQ people is their ability to come from a high place of wisdom, compassion and ability to stay peaceful in the midst of total chaos.

My new book, The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence, teaches a framework to begin developing spiritual intelligence in order to rise above ego consciousness and into higher self awareness. It also helps us to know one’s core values and higher purpose in life by being able to distinguish between the voice of ego and higher self.

Spiritual intelligence differs from the other forms on intelligence which I have outlined below:

  • IQ – the intelligence quotient. A measure of mathematical and problem solving skills. Your threshold to get in and build a foundation for other types of intelligence.
  • EQ – emotional intelligence, i.e. good interpersonal skills that derive from some good internal awareness of your own emotions. Emotional self awareness precedes good interpersonal skills. Relevant in any job ever tested including computer programming. IQ gets you in the door, then EQ becomes the next criteria for success.
  • PQ – physical intelligence, i.e. you take good enough care of your body so that you can maintain the other forms of intelligence’s.  That is, you get enough sleep, the right kind of nutrition and take care of medical problems as you need to. Approach the body as integral part of total success. If not, then cognitive capacity is reduced. PQ is the foundation of IQ/EQ.

Conscious Connection: What are the benefits of developing our spiritual intelligence?

Cindy Wigglesworth: Developing Spiritual Intelligence allows us to make decisions on a higher level while under stress, dealing with complexity or undergoing high rates of change. I divide my 21 spiritual intelligence skills into four quadrants:

  1. Know Thyself – Begin the shift from the pettiness of ego to a higher self in order to reduce the drama in your home, your workplace and your relationships.
  2. Know the World – Discover your inter-connectedness and the vast potential of universal awareness unlimited by human boundaries.
  3. Self-Mastery – Realize how putting aside the often powerful drive of the ego for the greater good can allow us to reach higher goals.
  4. Social Mastery and Spiritual Presence  Integrate all of the skills of SQ to become a powerful leader and change agent.

These four developmental frameworks were designed to mirror the original four quadrants of emotional intelligence. For example, skill four is in quadrant one and represents complexity of thinking. This skill is very applicable to executives that traditionally score high on IQ, and is defined as the ability to hold multiple perspectives which seem to be conflicting as simultaneously or at least partially true.

Conscious Connection: What unique process is taking place in the brain when we engage our spiritual intelligence?

Cindy Wigglesworth: This particular skill requires a relaxed brain. When you’re in ego brain, you’re only concerned about why you’re right and everyone else is wrong. When your higher self is developed, you’re able to not be threatened by different perspectives. You have the heightened ability to breathe, relax into the conflicting viewpoint and ultimately find the other perspective fascinating. At this level of awareness, you are in a much better position to make good decisions.

Conscious Connection: Can you illustrate an example of this thought in modern culture or society?

Cindy Wigglesworth: Of course. To see a perfect example of a lack of complexity of thinking, we must look no further than current politics – each side is totally unwilling to hear the other’s perspective and each party firmly believes they have the one true way. Nothing can be less mature or counter-productive.

To tie in the theory of spiral dynamics, the center of gravity of the US at the time of 9/11 was pretty clearly “orange” (scientific, strategic) and we have since down spiraled into a “blue” nation state defensive consciousness – in which patriotism becomes the measure of your worth. In spiral dynamics, “blue” inherently is a color that demands conformity. In other words, you prove your loyalty by proving your conformity – which is a lot of what we’re seeing in politics right now.

Conscious Connection: How can we seek to fix this problem with cultural thinking and development?

Cindy Wigglesworth: To remedy this situation we must soothe the fears in our brain’s “fight or flight” limbic system and move away from our defensive ego based thinking paradigm. We must learn to reprogram the “danger Will Robinson!” robot inside our head to just chill!

Now we don’t want to totally disable the limbic ‘fight or flight’ system, but rather understand when and how it should be used. For example, if you’re face to face with a bear, by all means run away! But if someone has criticized your PowerPoint slides in a presentation, then we must learn to evolve beyond the ego based defensive mechanism.

Conscious Connection: Tell me about the power of compassion in helping to develop our SQ.

Cindy Wigglesworth: It has been shown that the power of compassion meditation helps the cognitive behavioral technique of re-framing which allows you to see situations differently and self soothe. Instead of getting all defensive, we learn to manage moods. We move away from focusing on taking care of self, and into taking care of others. Taking care of self is not inherently wrong – it’s simply not optimal. If we can take care of others without the distress of earlier stages of development, then we are on the road to reaching our highest potential.

So while not all perspectives are equal, we must learn to identify the root cause of a perspective and prevent that from happening if it is not ideal. In other words, a terrorists behavior is not OK, but we must understand that from their perspective it is the best choice. Why did their life experience and circumstances lead them to believe that being a terrorist was the best choice? If you had the same upbringing and life experience, you very likely will have made same choice. Perhaps continuing the bomb the hell out of them is not best solution. In fact, it may even be making the problem worse.

Conscious Connection: How does a spiritually intelligent perspective help us grow as individuals and collectively?

Cindy Wigglesworth: From this vantage point, we obtain a profound humility from a heightened spiritual perspective. But we must also recognize the power and limitations of human perspective. Intuition is valuable with the ability to experience transcendent oneness – for at its most novel level we experience it as the flow of productivity. The challenge is consistently replicating this experience.

Conscious Connection: If you could offer my readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Learn to insert a pause between a stimulus and a response. A great way to practice this is to think of the people who irritate you or where something happens and you have a robot like reaction that comes from a habituated, defensive ego based way of thinking. Instead try pausing and taking a long slow breathe. Then choose to respond from your highest self.

Just setting this as an  intention is extremely powerful. Another way of doing this is to ask this question after each stimulus: “Is their another way I can do this that is more in line with my higher self?” If we could all do that – that would be a huge step forward in our spiritual intelligence.

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