Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spiritual line of development

As I mentioned in the last post, any skill or intelligence can be gauged with a line of development. The line of development labels are a tool that's there to help you understand where you are at, and where you can be going. The "spiritual line" of development is a hot topic of study in psychology as well. James Fowler's work is often quoted by Ken Wilber and the people in his organization. It's actually a pretty complicated layout.

Before I give levels based on that system, first remember that this is not a ranking method. "High" levels are not somehow "better" than "low" levels. Unlike a caste system, where lower levels are oppressed and looked down upon, in this system, lower levels are encompassed and included in the levels above, much like molecules include atoms which in turn include even smaller particles.

Also remember that I am describing Stages here, not States. These are permanently attained positions of awareness.

So... first the labels:

Stage 0: Preverbal, predifferentiated , Archaic (Infrared)

Stage 1: Magic (Red)

Stage 2: Mythic (Amber)

Stage 3: Rational (Orange)

Stage 4: Pluralistic (Green)

Stage 5: Integral (Turquoise)

Stage 6: Transpersonal, Non-dual, Stages beyond... (Violet, Ultra-Violet, Clear light)

Over the next few posts, I'd like to take time to talk a little about each level individually.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's a fine line

Before laying out stages of spiritual growth, which is actually only a small part of the "Integral Operating System" or IOS, which is the term used to describe this philosophy, it is important to talk about lines of development.

Everyone is good at some things and not at others. Moreover, you have skill sets that you can practice, or forget. Your skill sets are not just manual labor things, or computer things, but also personal things, like your skill with relating to other people, for instance. You also have things that you develop over your life that aren't exactly skill sets, like your morality and sexuality.

All of these things progress through stages. Each of these skill sets or abilities is referred to as a line. For example, if you can read this, you have skill in reading, but you did not always. Your reading skill went through stages. As a child, you learned to recognize letters and recite the alphabet. In elementary school, you learned to sound out the letters and make words. By the time you hit third grade, you were reading easy paragraphs. By high school, you were able to read just about anything, though understanding it all was another matter. Even today, as you read more, you experience more words and learn more things, which make understanding easier.

Your reading stages were probably defined by "grade level". Stages are given names by people who create systems to name them. However, in reality they are all arbitrarily defined.

Nevertheless, the stages are there, and any skill or ability line you can think of has stages. Of particular interest are the lines in morality, cognitive skill, interpersonal relations, emotional maturity, and psychosexual development. Everybody is at different stages in each one. You may be at Stage 2 morality, Stage 3 cognitive, Stage 1 interpersonal, Stage 1 emotional, and Stage 3 psychosexual, for example. A person like that would be extremely rational or intellectually developed, but not too understanding of matters outside their own emotions or personal internal relationship... though for some reason they'd be a pistol in bed.

The number of stages, as I said, is arbitrary. One way to look at it is to use a 3-stage system. Take morality for example. Stage 1 morality would be the egocentric stage, or "me" stage. Your concern would center around fulfilling your own personal physical needs above anything else. In stage 2, you would progress to the "us" stage, where you are now ethnocentric. You realize that there is benefit to fulfilling the needs of yourself AND the people immediately around you in your own family, clan, tribe, or what have you. Upon reaching stage three, you would be at the "all of us" stage, where you are now world-centric. You realize that your tribe is connected to many others, and that all of them are dependent on each other in some way. Your primary concern would be doing what's best for all groups, tribes, clans, etc.

There are, of course, other ways to define those particular moral stages. IOS literature does not tell you what stages to use, only that there are stages, and it suggests some possible stages you could use, based on decades of psychology research.

Now, think of a line for spiritual development.... What stages do you think it would have?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A state for all stages

In Integral philosophy there are some core concepts: states, stages, lines, quadrants, and types. It will take a while to define these, but lets start with states.

You are already familiar with states. You have three major ones that happen every day: Waking, Dreaming sleep, Deep dreamless sleep. The thing that is common to all of these states is that they are temporary. You are not always awake, nor are you always asleep. Not only that, but the kind of sleep you are getting changes during the night, or from night to night.

So, states are the temporary form of your current consciousness. Their temporary, non-permanent, nature is important to remember.

Of course, there are not just 3 possible states. There are zillions. You can be in a state of meditation. Moreover, there are many different kinds of meditation that put you into different kinds of meditative states. You can be in a drug high, which is also a state. You can be in a state of depression, or elation. I am sure if you think about it, you can come up with many more types of states. Again, their unifying concept is that they are all temporary.

So, let me ask you a question.... If you take peyote and have a massively spiritual experience and see God or whatever your upbringing suggests you'd see, does that mean you are now at a high stage of spiritual evolution?


Know why? The drug effects are a state, and they are temporary! Anyone can have a spiritual experience, through drugs or other means, but how do we tell apart those who are at different stages of spiritual evolution in the permanent sense?

The answer is in the question: Stages

Let's talk about physical objects to show this. Think of an atom. An atom is a stage of matter. Atoms can get together and form molecules. Molecules include atoms. The atoms get together and form something greater than themselves alone, and usually the molecule that they form is reasonably permanent. The molecule is the next stage of matter.

Molecules can form objects, like cells, if you have enough of them. Cells can form organs. Organs can form systems. Systems can form organisms.

These are stages of matter. They are manifestations of increasing complexity, and they are relatively permanent.

Evolution of consciousness, which people seem to equate with someone's "level of spiritual evolution" also has stages. Unlike states, once you reach a new stage of consciousness, it is permanent.

We'll talk more about these later.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Integral philosophy

If you have not noticed yet in some previous posts, I am fond of systems that explain the universe, both physical and non-physical. I just am! For the most part, it's my personality. I like to look at how things work, and the universe qualifies as the biggest "thing" there really is. So hey.

One of the biggest problems in the world is the fact that there are so many systems and beliefs on how the universe works that it causes mass conflict and destruction repeatedly in our history. The bottom line of all these conflicts is a fight over what is the truth.

"My god can beat up your god."

"My way is the only way."

"Your way is evil. My way is good."

How many millions of people have died over those ideas? Yet, none of the warring religions or philosophies have EVER won once and for all.

What if they were all right? What if there was some overarching structure or principle that could unite all religions and philosophies, whether they acknowledged it or not?

They are, and there is.

Over the next batch of posts, I'm going to talk about Integral Philosophy, which was pioneered by Ken Wilber. This is a belief system, like any other, so all the disclaimers apply. However, as far as belief systems go, it is the most encompassing one I have ever seen, and it is able to literally explain anything with regard to religion or spirituality, but also physical objects, emotions, life.... everything.

When I started looking at this system, and I am still a novice, I was fascinated at how it did not do away with any of my current beliefs or practices at all. Rather, it encompassed them, validated them. It showed where tweaks are needed, but it did not in any way tell me what I should or should not do or believe. It is not dogma, and it is not new agey crap.

It is also not relativism, by the way. Relativism only gets part of the picture by stating that all actions can be viewed as good or bad depending on how you look at them. While this is true, relativism does not account for the witnessing oneness behind everything, to which there is no opposite.

The other thing is that this system is quite technical. Whenever I read these books, my brain hurts because it's like reading a graduate level philosophy text, which I don't like much. Luckily, I plan to present it in layman's terms, so anyone can understand it, because when it comes down to practicality, living this system is not hard at all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Funakoshi wrapup

Funakoshi Principle #20: Always think and devise ways to live the precepts every day.

Well, we made it. We got through all 20 Funakoshi principles. The 20th principle is a bit of a wrapup, or a reminder to.... what else?..... pay attention! Live your life in such a way that it becomes an exercise. See it as a test. See problems as opportunities to get stronger and grow.

The really crazy thing about all this spiritual stuff is that there isn't much to know. Hundreds of books are written. Zillions of methods are given. Scads of information is memorized. If you read enough books, talk to enough teachers, and do enough personal work, it all starts to sound like the same thing over and over again... because it IS, once you recognize it. There really isn't a whole lot to being happy.

Yet, all in all, it is all done this way because people are a bit thick-headed and need to be told things in many different ways in the off chance that they will understand "it". Once you understand "it", you too can write lots of books that say the same repetitious things as everyone else! It's like knowing the source of a mathematical formula that lets you derive all other formulas on your own.

Wisdom is no trick. It's just about getting "it", and then spewing your own assortment of derivatives or angle on it.

Ebb and flow

Funakoshi Principle #19: Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body and slowness and speed of techniques.

On a physical level, or an ego level, people tends towards doing things as hard as they can, or as fast as they can. Something in the strength and speed makes them feel powerful or skillful. Of course, what younger practitioners often encounter when speeding along through their brute strength is a big fat brick wall that is a lot harder and stronger than they are. Ouch! Naturally, this is not limited to newer practitioners or even to martial arts. It happens all the time in life.

People love to speed through things or barrel their way into situations. This principle points out what should be an obvious fact: sometimes doing things slowly or with softness works better.

If you are going through an intersection and a train is coming, do you barrel through without looking because you think that getting hit by a train could never happen to you? Sometimes, like in this situation, it pays to take a moment to look around and assess the environment before going over the tracks.

There are myriads of examples like this, but the point is that you can accomplish many things with softness and a well-placed lack of action, just as you can accomplish some things with force and speed too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Heads or tails?

Funakoshi Principle #18: Practicing kata is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.

For those that are not familiar with martial arts jargon, a "kata" is a series of choreographed techniques that are always done the same way, in the same pattern. Martial arts students do these forms over and over again in order to train their "muscle memory", which is a way of saying that the forms are made to ingrain the movements into the subconscious. Funakoshi was a big proponent of kata as a way of developing skill and character, i.e. spiritual practice. His detractors criticized this method because they said that doing kata does not have much effect on whether or not a person can fight in real life against a real opponent.

My opinion is that Funakoshi really did believe that kata was enough on its own to teach you how to fight for real. In my opinion, I also think the real answer lies somewhere in between. People who want to learn how to fight for real, and need to learn it fast, should engage in some basic training in form, but 90% of what they should do is spar against others and get the crap kicked outta them. They should also do as much as possible to build up their muscles and aerobic endurance. For pure fighting, that's basically what you need to do.

On the other hand, students who only practice kata will learn other things. They might be able to fight a little bit, but probably not very well against someone who only spars, yet they will gain some serious insight into themselves that the fighter will not.

A kata is basically a spiritual exercise. ANY action you do with repetition and intention will teach you things and become a spiritual exercise.

So when it comes down to it, why do you practice what you practice? Are you in it for fighting, or are you in it to grow spiritually?

This is true with things that have nothing to do with martial arts too.

Do you work your job to make money and become rich? Or do you do it for fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment or belonging?

Do you spend time with your family so your wife or mother doesn't yell at you? Or do you do it with the intention of helping your family members and spending valuable moments with them?

Do you engage in sports to be cool and make people like you? Or do you do it to learn about teamwork and dealing with people?

In all cases here, the same action has two sides to it and the only thing that separates them is intention. By the way, intention does not necessarily equate with pleasure or liking something. You can hate playing sports, but do it anyway with the intention of teaching yourself about teamwork, for example. Liking or disliking the action has nothing to do with whether or not you can grow from it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the down lo

Funakoshi Principle #17: Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.

I've always been fascinated by this subject. In Funakoshi's style of martial art, Shotokhan, and related styles like Wado Ryu, students are always taught deep stances that are low to the ground and very wide. The stances stress form and balance, as well as leg muscle strength. Naturally, if you were a trained fighter, you would look at these stances and think, "Wtf?" They don't exactly look practical because they slow you down and make it tougher for you to evade. On the other hand, they root you to the ground and make you a little tougher to knock over.

As people advance in those arts, their stances start to get a bit higher, lighter, and more mobile. However, since the person spent his or her early years training deep stances, their legs are now strong, and they have the same sense of balance when they are high up in a stance as they did when they were low in a stance. The key is to retain the feeling and mechanics of the low stance when you become advanced enough to do the high stance.

Somebody who starts out in high stances when training will not have this advantage, or will need to learn it another way. A lot of other styles never do deep stances, for example, tai quan do, Issyn Ryu, kickboxing, and many others.

Hell, Funakoshi also believed that you should not practice with weapons until you were already good with your bare hands, and many other martial arts schools believe that too. Then there's martial arts schools that put weapons into the hands of 3-year olds or teenage girls who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. (Ok, I admit this irks the hell out of me when schools do this, because I come from the school of thought that you need to be able to punch and kick before you worry about using an implement as an extension of yourself, but it is certainly possible to do it the completely opposite way: going from weapon to empty hand at the advanced levels. Look at escrima.)

So what's the deal here? Funakoshi is obviously not preaching anything absolute because so many other groups are doing the exact opposite and they're doing fine.

The essence of this Funakoshi principle is that when you begin to learn something, you need to stick to the basics.... whatever they are. You start out being unconsciously incompetent. By sticking to the basics, you realize what you don't know and you become consciously incompetent. With more practice, you become good, i.e. consciously competent.

Once you are consciously competent, you go even further until you can just let go of the basics and allow them to happen on their own... you become unconsciously competent. This is a basic sequence of learning for most things:

unconscious incompetence --> conscious incompetence --> conscious competence --> unconscious competence

Think about it.

The lesson here is not to think that you know something when you really don't! The first stage of learning is to know that you don't know. That enables you to grow.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Still paying attention?

Funakoshi Principle #16: Be aware at all times that you have millions of potential opponents

This is yet another repetitious example of paying attention. The use of the word "opponent" tends to bring up images of a competitor working against you or a killer trying to end your life. That may be true in the sense of the Japanese used in the saying, but this can be expanded to include everyone: both those working with and against us.

In other words, be aware at all times of all your possible interactions with all people and things around you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Slice and Dice

Funakoshi Principle #15: Think of your hands and feet as swords.

For most martial artists, the meaning of this precept should be pretty clear. Your hands and feet, which do all the punching and kicking, are seamlessly integrated with you, obviously. They do all the work in a fight.

On a deeper level, this talks about awareness of your own body. When you use a weapon, it becomes an extension of yourself. Similarly, when you are using your bare hands, they are at one with your thoughts and feelings. There is no thinking "ok, here I go. I'm throwing a punch. Now, here comes a kick." When you have been doing martial arts for a while, this all happens with "mu shin", no mind. So, to be aware of your own body while moving is to be at one with it.

Much like some of the last precepts which talking about merging yourself with others, this one focuses on the individual, but says the same thing. Be aware. Be conscious. Be One.

How do you get there? Practice! Learning to move seems like the most obvious thing. Anyone with an intact spine and a limb or four can move. However, moving with intention and awareness is not immediately evident.

Try this. Look at your hand. As you look at it feel the inside of your hand. Try to sense the blood flowing through it, if you can As you do this, you might start to feel it tingle and get lighter, or even heavier depending. You've just got a glimpse of what it is like to put awareness into a body part. Over time, by doing that and learning to move that part with awareness, you can eventually do it without thinking.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hey, move it!

Funakoshi Principle #14: Move according to your opponent.

It seems like there are a lot of different translations to this one, but the one I go by is "move according to your opponent".

On a bare surface level, this means when your opponent punches, you block. When your opponent moves fast, you move fast. When your opponent is escalating, you are keeping pace, or even setting the pace if you are in control of the opponent in that moment.

On a deeper level, this is about merging with your opponent. When you move according to your opponent, you are blending with him or her. When you blend with an opponent, you merge with an opponent. Merging is both on a motion level, i.e. physical, but also on an emotional, mental, and spiritual one.

In effect, this dictum is a statement about how you should treat everyone: as if they are part of you. "Opponent" is anyone who is working against you. To work against someone is to be separate from them. Being separate from them is the opposite of merging consciousness. Thus, for everyone who is separate from you, treat them as if they are not. That in itself is a powerful tool for bringing out the best in your situation.

The Dalai Lama, in his book "The Art of Happiness At Work", reminds us that everyone we meet is dependent on us, and we are dependent on them. If you think about your job, everyone at your workplace is dependent on the work you do, or else they may not get their paycheck. The same goes for the work they do and your paycheck. This sort of thing is easy to see in small companies, but it is also true in large ones. So if you are dependent on all these people for your liveliehood, why in the world would you ever treat them with rudeness?