Wandering through a forest, searching, seeking, obsessively for a destination that we can barely recollect. These woods, once trackless, are now criss-crossed by a web of trails, made by your own repeated passage as we search..for what? The exit? The centre? Glory, Fame, Wealth, Happiness, Power, Security? At each intersection you have the vague, and increasingly frustrating, sense that you’ve been here before, tried this path or that, and if you take a moment to pause, examining closely the bare ground, you quickly spot your own numerous foot-prints…
That destination, that which draws you forward, your aspirations, your goals, your soul’s deepest desire, your “omega point” towards a greater you. This ceaseless gravity, incessantly, often unconsciously, draws you towards a new way of being and doing. Each obstacle that life tosses in your path throws you off your stride, perhaps filling you with frustration, bitterness, resentment, conflict, depression, anger, fear, despair…Without a birds eye view you are constantly mistaking resting points as the “final goal”, a goal which recedes infinitely as we approach it, like the false summit’s of a mountain. Without perspective obstacles encountered often seem insurmountable and without a map the wilderness, both inner and outer, mysterious, even fearsome, and un-navigable.
How often do we go through life like a horse with blinder’s on, seeing only the meaningless path before our feet, pseudo-contentedly munching on dried oats, oblivious to the new trails branching off to realms unseen and rolling meadows of lush-green grass?
Growth/Development and Healing vs Stagnancy/Stuckness and Disease
Perception and Communication
Creativity, Novelty and new perspectives vs Habit-patterns and Old assumptions.
How do these concepts fit together?
Now, lets take a moment to make this process relevant to your own life. Do you have a few minutes? Place your hand on your heart and breath in deeply to the count of five….. breath out deeply to the count of five…good…repeat…and one more time…Now, imagine you are that horse, trudging wearily (even despairingly) down a dirt road, mouth desiccated by boring old dried oats, driven by a relentless crop (wielded by whose hand?), unable to see anything besides the road…and you encounter an obstacle, an obstacle very relevant to your life right now, lying across the road in the form of a giant fallen tree, splintered and shattered wood everywhere and leaves which don’t yet know they’re dead waving in the breeze…you stop…the crop drives you cruelly onwards, but the trunk is too large to jump, to the left you are trapped by a ravine, and the to the right a wall of dirt and roots rises above you….
Now imagine suddenly your blinders-have been removed. Now you can clearly see the terrain that lies right around you, dark forest dappled with sun-light and brightly lit-meadows resplendent with wild-flowers, cool streams, and the possibility of countless alternate trails to explore. Now, at least, you have some possibilities, and the journey becomes a bit more excitement, a little less drudgery, with all the gifts of Nature to your five hungry senses. I you still did not have that pesky crop driving you towards your destination you might wander pleasurably and aimlessly for sometime….suddenly a hawk flying overhead swoops down and drops a rolled parchment on the road before you. A gift, it unfurls and you see a map, an imperfect map, but one that shows the possible trails and potential challenges you may encounter on your journey towards your goal...
It’s cliche by now to say the world is inter-connected and inter-dependent…we know this at various levels, but we rarely live as if we know it. By learning to know and understand our inner drives; to witness, regulate and communicate our emotional weather; change our no-longer adaptive habits; and heal our old wounds, we grow into our own higher potentials. We also become more connected to nature and community, better able to gratefully gather in the gifts of the world and to more joyfully give our own. As our relation to ourselves improves so does our relationship to others, our friends, family, colleagues, and the more-than-human community of the Earth within which our life unfolds. The changes in you ripple outwards, affecting family, community and beyond and supporting the process of growth and healing on a ever wider-scale.
Creativity, Perception and Communication.
Creativity is a universal principle, evolution and growth, both on the large timescale of biological evolution, and the shorter time-scale of human development are the process by which creativity is expressed and the world, in all its ephemeral beauty and inexhaustible diversity, comes into being. This relentless drive to grow, to create, to change, when blocked by habits, life circumstances, or internal resistance to change results in a mental, emotional, and physical stagnancy which leads to the development of dis-ease. Two of the the key factors involved in this process of growth versus stagnancy, ease vs dis-ease, health vs ill-health, are Perception and Communication. By learning to perceive ourselves, our environment and the other individuals in our lives more clearly, without the distorting lenses of our old assumptions, our emotions and our cultural and personal biases we liberate ourselves from a great deal of stress and limitations. We become grounded in our senses, in our body, in our sense-of-self, and present to our here and now. New pathways and new possibilities begin to unveil themselves before our eyes. Everything we do is in relation. A healthy relationship requires clear perception and interpretation. On the micro-level healthy inter-cellular communications is a key to good health, and it is the breakdown of such communications, communications between the individual cells which make up the community of our organs and tissues which results in disease. Neuroscience speaks of the 3-brains, the reptilian, the mammalian, and the human brain which comprise your Central Nervous System as well as the Gut-Brain and the Heart-Brain – the extent to which communications between these various brains is coherent or incoherent largely determines your state of physical and mental well-being. Psychologically it is the communications within and between the different aspects of your self-sense, or ego, which determines how well integrated you are and how well you function – all of us have had the experience of internal conflict as exemplified by the Loony-tunes image of the little devil and the little angel arguing, perched upon the shoulder of a cartoon character. These various levels of communication move upwards and outwards into our community, the individuals and social system we relate to, as well with our exchanges and communications with our natural environment. Our health, our well-being, our flourishing and growth is intimately tied with these principles of perception and communications both within ourselves and with the world which surrounds us.
Integral Theory – A map of maps for the territory of your life.
In Tolkien’s tale, The Hobbit, when the the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves exhausted, low on food and water in Mirkwood they send Bilbo up a large tree in an attempt to see the where they are in the vast forest. Up above the tree-tops Bilbo breaths in the fresh air and the beauty and light that were unseen in the dark woods, yet from his vantage point he can see no end and this sends the party into despair… but if only he had realized, Tolkien narrates, that just beyond the reach of his vantage lay was the border of Mirkwood. A vantage point of sufficient elevation and scope, and with the necessary detail to accurately relate the map to the territory in our personal and collective quest for healing and flourishing. With a sufficient “bird’s eye view,” Bilbo and his party of dwarves would not have found themselves lost, desperate and panicked. Integral Theory provides us with a map of maps, which can be used to better understand the many dimensions of our lives. It allows you to understand different perspectives (maps) of health and wellness and to coordinate them in a synergistic fashion. We’ll take a more in-depth look at Integral Theory in a future post…
This is just a taste of what we will be exploring during the Integral Health and Wellness Retreat at Kalikalos in Greece this summer.