My Mantra for Completely Balanced Personal Development

Written by Philip Walter on Sep 22 at 8:12 pm in iSPIRITself, itBODYnature, weMINDculture

Photo courtesy of *Paysimaginaire*

Here is my mantra for personal development – Let your intuition guide you through the various universal stages of development that progress from the simpler to the more complex based upon conditions of individual circumstances. I know … I know … It’s way too long to be a mantra, but stick with me here and you won’t be disappointed.

This statement reflects the findings of many developmental psychologists. It reflects the integral theory of Ken Wilber and others. It is also a reflection of the first five of the 10 principles or rules of Scott Sonnon’s Intu-Flow system of pain-free movement. That so many have come to this illumination in such a variety of fields gives testament to its truth.

In the interest of gaining a better understanding, let’s break it down to its constituent parts.

  1. Let your intuition guide youEach of our bodies knows what it needs to be healthy; indeed, only the sickest of us mentally does not know the voice of our conscience; and nary can a few of us deny the existence of some Mysterious Other watching our thoughts and feelings as we pace around this anxious Earth. Learn to listen to and honor your intuition. Trust your gut. We all know the folly of second-guessing ourselves. This is the genetic residue of generations of intuition guiding us properly into our uncertain futures.
  2. Through the various universal stages of developmentIt is proven, physically, psychologically, and spiritually, that development happens in stages or waves, and that no one skips a stage along the way. Think about it. You must learn to support your own head as a baby before you can crawl, before you can walk, before you can run. You must learn the difference between your own body and those around you before you can conceptualize other things, before you can associate words with them, before you can make sentences of those words.
  3. That progress from the simpler to the more complexThe stages discussed previously are specific and incremental. They deal with the simplest skills first before advancing to the more complex. This is evident in any training, be it athletic, academic, or mystical.
  4. Based upon conditions of individual circumstancesThis is the nurture part of the “nature v. nurture” equation. And we all know it’s not really “nature v. nurture” but “nature + nurture,” so while nature represents intuition, nurture represents individual circumstances. We each have our own battles to fight, our own advantages and disadvantages to live with. These will help determine how our development progresses. This is also the part that reminds us not to impose some arbitrary standard on our practice that may be beyond our bodymind’s capacity.

So let’s put it together one more time – Let your intuition guide you through the various universal stages of development from the simpler to the more complex based upon conditions of individual circumstances.

Make sense? It might be helpful now to look at a few variations on these universal stages of development.

Perhaps the simplest articulation of this universal stage-aspect of development can be found in Lawrence Kohlberg’s three stages of moral development: preconventional, conventional and postconventional. Kohlberg himself was an American psychologist greatly influenced by the work of Jean Piaget, the great Swiss philosopher and developmental theorist. Piaget highlighted four stages of cognitive development, and Kohlberg actually divides his three general stages into six more specific ones, but for our purposes, we will look quickly at preconventional, conventional and postconventional.

According to Kohlberg’s moral framework, in the preconventional stage, we make decisions based largely on selfish intentions. Whether it is to avoid some punishment or to garner some specific personal gain, we are “looking out for number one,” as the saying goes. As we enter the conventional stage, we begin to see things in terms of rules and roles. We are conforming to and reinforcing the social order of our given culture. As complexity increases and we enter the postconventional stage, we begin to think in terms of universal principles, of what is right or wrong in terms of all people all over the world.

We could also call these stages egocentric, ethnocentric and worldcentric. In this example they refer specifically to moral development, but if we look a little closer, we see that they apply across the board to any skill (be it cognitive, moral, artistic, athletic, etc.) and that they are independent of scale (meaning they apply to the individual as well as the collective). So let’s look at one more example of these universal stages of development.

The following stages are a brief amalgamation of Sprial Dynamics – a set of value stages posited by Clare Graves and Don Beck – Ken Wilber’s spectrum of worldview development, and also Jean Gebser’s stages of cognitive development.  Again, these stages are independent of scale.  As we shall see, they apply to the entire history of our race, as well as to the development of the individual human.  The colors of each stage name correspond to the concentric stage circles in the integral fitness flow chart shown below.

  1. ArchaicThink survival instincts here. At the dawn of our species, probably no more than a bone’s throw temporally from the landscape that opens Stanley Kubrick’s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the world was dominated by day to day survival needs. The average person valued just what he or she needed to insure another day. The world was seen as a mishmash of circumstances that either helped or hindered survival. This was the way the majority of our species saw the world 100,000 years ago and how children process life up to about 18 months of age.
  2. MagicThink shamanism and cave paintings here. About 50,000 years ago we begin to see rituals taking form, tribes coming together, and nature has such power that all things from trees to rocks to stars have personalities that must be appeased for life to stay in balance. The child often sees the world this way from about the first year to the third. There is great reverence paid to the chief, to parents, to ancestors, and to the apparent spirits in the natural world.
  3. EgoicThink powerful empires, survival of the fittest, and might makes right here. About 10,000 years ago the first truly egocentric way of thinking developed. The world is seen as a collection of “have’s” and “have-not’s,” and those who have seek at all costs to have more. In the child we see this stage between about three years old and six years old. Bully’s run amok. Oligarchs rule with an iron fist. The world is a treasure-chest of resources for the strongest to plunder.
  4. MythicThink rules, roles, and divine retribution here. Out of the egoic stage arises the need for some semblance of order, some sense of morality – that if you do the right thing in the world, you will be rewarded later. We see this in the many established religions that began about 5,000 years ago, and children tend to enter this stage about 7 or 8 years of age. The world looks more and more fair. If you follow the rules of your social upbringing, you will be accepted and rewarded. The chaos and uncertainty of the egoic world is tempered somewhat by a legal system, by police, and by a moral and ethical code.
  5. RationalThink the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution here. From the strictly religious, rule/role mentality unfolds a need to see things for what they are. When religion dictates the world is flat even though we so obviously see that it’s round, we adjust our perspective from strict adherence to socio-religious rules and roles to a more rational approach. This can be seen collectively about 300 years ago, and individually as the child reaches 10 years of age. The world at this stage is understood as a collection of processes that can be measured and documented empirically as a function of the scientific method.
  6. TransrationalThink Green, New Age, Politically Correct, and beyond here. From the cold, intellectual attitude of the rational world comes quite naturally the need to regain some sort of transcendent meaning. This meaning is more worldcentric, however, than the ethnocentric religion of the mythic worldview. Life is seen as an interconnected web within which we each depend on each other for survival. This is when the awareness of the nonzero-sum game and its importance assert themselves. At a collective level we’ve actualized this stage and those beyond it for about the last 50 years, and in the individual this orientation comes to the fore about the time we reach college, from about 17 to 21 years of age, if at all.

As you progress in complexity from one stage to the next, you not only go beyond the previous stage, but you assimilate that stage. In terms of worldviews (as in the example above), you become able to see the world from more perspectives as you move along the spectrum. Your world opens up and more becomes possible.  Likewise, when you develop a skill like, say playing the violin, as you progress in development, you are able to play more and more complex pieces until you can pick the thing up and play with anyone anywhere in the world.

If you take this knowledge and apply it to the Big Three (body, mind and spirit) of your bodymind organism, you have just what you need to insure your personal development will be complete and balanced. This type of modeling can get as complicated as you want to make it, and there are many ways to present this integral framework, but I have put together a simple integral fitness flow chart below that illustrates how one might keep tabs on his own personal development (click on the picture for a larger view).

An Integral Fitness Flow Chart for Uncovering your Natural Flow

As you can see, it’s reasonably easy to isolate lines/skills to be developed with each aspect of your being. As you progress along these lines from stage to the next, you will have access to more freedom of movement as broader potentials are actualized. If we look at personal development in terms of uncovering innate flow, or opening up to more of the flow experience along any given line, we find that to be bound to the center of the chart at any point is to restrict personal development.  Unbound flow is to approach the outer circle the ever larger, more encompassing stage of development.

This is the basic structure of an integral transformative practice or an integral life practice. I have listed the lines I try to focus on and shown the manner in which I use the Big Three to organize those lines. This is by no means an exhaustive (or for that matter particularly accurate) exploration of an integral life practice. It is only a simplified version of what will be presented in my upcoming book, The Brickhouse Bodymind Blueprint, which is itself a simplification of other more exhaustive ILP/ITP models.

The value of making an integral fitness graph like this of your own is so you can look into the various areas of your life and see where you are already very skilled and also where you may need to shore things up, where your flow might be hindered. It isn’t always cut and dry as to what stage your are at with any given line of development, and there is always the possibility of pathology along the way.  Even so, this sort of chart can be a way of monitoring the balance of your development in order to insure you have access to the greatest amount of freedom across the entire spectrum of your being – body, mind, and spirit.

If you liked this article, please comment below and let us know what you think. Also, please subscribe to my blog via e-mail or rss so you don’t miss another informative mind-body-spirit fitness article.

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