INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Following graduation, Hans Bongers (“Hanstein”, www.in-the-zone.org/hanstein.html
) left Holland with his backpack on. After all kinds of jobs “on the road” he ended up in Canada, where he has been a professional soccer player, a director of a summer camp and teacher at the university level. Throughout the years, he has mainly worked as a youth care worker for youngsters under the Youth Protection and Young Offenders Act, as a consultant in schools for students with problems (depression, drugs, stress) and as a sports psychologist.
Hans is an athlete, dancer, musician, mime and actor and lives with his family in a small village north of Montreal.
For more information, you contact Hans Bongers at (819) 322-3799 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Juggling Act of Life
A dazzling & inspiring
for schools (students and/or teachers)
and other “human-friendly” organizations
by professor Hanstein
Meet Hanstein (“professor's” outfit: butterfly tie, pipe, messy hair, etc.), professor at the University of Amsterdam in juggloposophy — the art and science of juggling. Besides being an expert juggler, he is also able to make the links between juggling and just about everything else.
In The Juggling Act of Life he takes his juggling science as a basis for a conference about many different aspects of our lives. He combines the various parts of his lecture with juggling acts and inspiring discussions, tailored to the needs of his audience, from students of all levels to teachers and people from various organizations. During the conference, Hanstein describes five domains of his life in which he tries to remain active (with on and off success) in order to keep his head above water (and if possible with a smile) throughout his own often chaotic life, in our fast-changing world. He explains how through experiencing the interdependence of these domains, we can discover this wonderful state of being — Albert Einstein's final conclusion where “everything is relative”.
After a description of each domain, he does a dazzling juggling act (Hanstein juggles with three, four and five balls, marbles, basketballs, a soccer ball, juggling pins and three apples he eats at the same time!), while making the connections between his development as a juggler and a variety of life lessons, emphasizing that in “the juggling act of life” you have to accept that “dropping your balls” is part of the game.
Juggling is about learning not to let ourselves be impressed and/or overwhelmed by chaos: balls flying through the air while trying to catch them and quickly throw them up again. Juggling is a crash course in stress management. Whether we practice the basics or advanced tricks, the best thing to do is to break down a complex situation into simpler parts and master these first. It also becomes very clear, very quickly that we get better results if we are able to stay relaxed and even have some fun when things go a little wrong. Gradually, the “chaos” seems to be less chaotic and we start to play more with what seemed to be so complicated in the first place.
During The Juggling Act of Life, Hanstein creates a relaxed and opened atmosphere in which a wide variety of topics — even complex or delicate issues — can be discussed. And of course after the conference / performance, it is time for an actual juggling workshop in which everybody learns how to juggle. Some only a little, others a lot, but each person will leave with “the real juggler experience”!
A formula that works really well for students is a conference / performance for a large group (i.e.: students from a specific grade), after which Hanstein is available for individual or group Juggling Act of Life consultations regarding specific topics such as sports, sex, drugs, relationships, goals for the future, as well as juggling workshops.
For teachers, educators or any team who works for the well-being of individuals, Hanstein broadens his five bodies approach to seven bodies (including the ideological body and the integral body, see bottom page 6). He aims to provide a fun and creative day filled with practical advice and inspiring discussions on how to get the most out of our daily life, even in the middle of our dizzying and often complicated world.
Following graduation, Hans Bongers (“Hanstein”, www.in-the-zone.org/hanstein.html) left Holland with his backpack on. After all kinds of jobs “on the road” he ended up in Canada, where he has been a professional soccer player, a director of a summer camp and teacher at the university level. Throughout the years, he has mainly worked as a youth care worker for youngsters under the Youth Protection and Young Offenders Act, as a consultant in schools for students with problems (depression, drugs, stress) and as a sports psychologist.
Hans is an athlete, dancer, musician, mime and actor and lives with his family in a small village north of Montreal.
For more information, you contact Hans Bongers at (819) 322-3799 or write to email@example.com.
«Everything is relative»
by professor Hanstein
At one point in my career as an enthusiastic pass-time juggler, I started to see more and more connections between various aspects of juggling (concentration, timing, staying calm under pressure, learning from mistakes, believing in myself, etc.) and the development of other skills. At first, I applied what I was doing in juggling to other physical activities and I improved drastically; for example, in soccer, dance and when shoveling snow (without hurting my back). But slowly, I also discovered learning transfers to capacities on different levels. Due to my juggling “science”, I also improved creative skills (such as playing the guitar, acting and doing my daughter's hair), and mental skills (like writing articles, remembering numbers and names and staying focused on a task).
But that wasn't all. On top of that, I realized that my improved capacities on physical, creative and mental levels also influenced my emotional condition and social sensitivity. Suddenly my whole life turned into one big juggling act!
Let me try to briefly explain to you this “juggling approach” to life. In order to explain this as clearly as I can, I've set a few juggling balls next to my computer, so that every now and then, when my mind starts to get foggy, I'll juggle a bit until it clears up. I'm counting on you to help me by pressing your imagination button on “play”.
Imagine for now that our life consist of five domains, and that each of these domains is a kind of “body” that will become stronger or weaker depending on whether we nurture it well or not. So besides our physical body, what we usually consider as our “only” body, now with the help of our imagination, we also have a creative body, an emotional body, a mental body and a social body. And just as our physical body is in need of not only good food to be healthy, but also fresh air, exercise and rest, so do all other bodies need a variety of nourishment. Take for example our emotional body: to be healthy emotionally, I need to create a positive self-esteem, but I also need a number of good relationships with family and friends. I need to be able to avoid “sweating the small stuff” and accept that “where I am at is where I need to be”.
OK, now let's really turn up the volume of your imagination...
Imagine that those different domains of our life, or those “bodies”, influence each other like the lines of a spider web. When I move one, I move them all. And if you imagine that you could put some glue on one line, then all the other lines will lose in flexibility. Depending on the quantity and quality of the “food” they get, each one of our bodies moves around on the scale between very healthy and very unhealthy and has a direct influence on the other bodies in positive to negative ways.
Activities such as taking a long walk, playing a game of basketball or taking a ballet class, don't only improve our physical health. They can also inspire creative ideas in us, make us feel better emotionally, calm down our mind, and make the world suddenly look a little better.
On the other hand, if I am depressed (or “emotionally unhealthy”), I often lack energy or feel physically sick. I don't feel like writing or singing. My mind is filled with negative thoughts and I don't give a damn about my neighbors or notice nature's ever-present beauty.
Each one of us is a unique human being. There is no one else like you. Everyone has a very specific “web of bodies” (sketched below in its simplest form). But what all human beings have in common is that all five bodies are interdependent. The more you start to experience this, the more you will start to live applying Einstein's simple conclusion after years and years of scientific studies: everything is relative.
You could see life as a juggling act of five domains, that are all in movement at the same time. At each moment there's one or two on the foreground while the others never cease to function. A juggler who throws a variety of patterns must catch the ball that goes under the leg or behind the back, but also the others. Often when an inexperienced juggler drops a ball, he/she lets them all drop. But with practice, when you drop a ball, you will be able to quickly direct some extra focus on the other balls and continue juggling with them, until you decide to pick up the ball from the floor, evaluate what went wrong and try it again.
In “The Juggling Act of Life”, that makes all the difference!
One of the wonderful things about living our “juggling act of life”, is that whatever activity we are involved in — physical, creative, emotional, mental or social —, we will have a much fuller experience because we can notice the movement in our other bodies at the same time. Sometimes you see people jog in a fanatic way, nervously peeking at their watch to see if they are on schedule. Jogging for them is just one more stressful activity. Others however jog effortlessly, with a smile, at times taking a break to stretch a bit or to observe something fascinating in nature. They undo themselves from their daily stress, because they also “jog” with their other bodies.
Another example is when you do something to help somebody. Let's say you hold the door of the supermarket for an older person who is carrying heavy bags. This is a small gesture — holding on to a door a little longer — but an important one for our “social health”. And this is how our wonderful “web” works: right after your good deed you feel a little energized, maybe you admire some flowers in a garden you hadn't noticed before or you spontaneously start humming your favorite song.
How about this other wonderful possibility of our “juggling act of life”? Imagine that you are suffering a big emotional blow: your loved one has dropped you, your parents are going through a rough divorce or any other crisis you may find yourself in. So the emotional line of your web is full of glue. Many people will go through a deep depression. Some close up or shut down. Others lose themselves in alcohol or drugs. A few might even consider suicide. In other words, they drop all the balls!
But now, with your understanding of your web, you focus on nurturing your other bodies; so you continue juggling with the other balls. You play ball a lot or take long walks or sign up for a tai-bo dance class. You express yourself through drawing, writing or music. You read inspiring books and in instead of watching the world news, you watch “spirit-uplifting” videos. Helping out people who are even worse off than you is really efficient also. All this won't solve your specific problem, but it will at least give you some distance to pace yourself and a minimum of strength to process the issue. And if it turns out to be something you really can't change in any way, you might at least be able to put it in a perspective you can live with.
As with learning how to juggle balls, where you start with tossing and catching only one or two, you can also start your “juggling act of life” with a couple of easy tries. Do something in one of the five domains and see if you notice something in one of your other bodies. Start with simple observations of the links between two bodies. You can use one of my examples or make up your own “scientific experiment”. As I say over and over again during this conference / performance: “it is you and only you, in the middle of your “web” and never believe anybody, until you have had the experience yourself!”
When we find a connection and really experience it, we just put it somewhere in a “file of the mind” for future verification. Often lots of what we experience as “proven truth” will sooner or later change again or we happen to find more and more variables, because everything is relative.
We change all the time. So does the world around us. That is where “The Juggling Act of Life” really starts, with an endless potential for new possibilities and variations.
As with learning how to juggle balls, starting our “juggling act of life” seems to be complicated in the beginning, but everyone can learn it. The only requirement is to get a little distance on everything that happens to us and to see our life as a kind of a play in a theatre. Our mise en scene stays the same, but suddenly we stick to our script less and less and start improvising more and more. People who already have a certain amount of perspective on their lives will go through these first steps quickly and will juggle soon with more balls, even with pins and fire.
So now that you have some insight into your web, you can start to play with any topic you chose and look at it from the five angles. You could get a new perspective on your study or your job. You could discover a new hobby that could function like an important piece of the puzzle you were looking for. You can understand others better by speculating about their web, see how “famous” people sometimes have pretty unbalanced webs, while you suddenly understand why you hear your neighbor sing under the shower so often. You could look at your sex life from the five different angles or the influence of addictions on your web.
Enjoy playing with The Juggling Act of Life, but, as always, don't forget… everything is relative.
Everybody experiences life in various degrees of too busy, too dramatic, too boring or even too senseless. Of course, we go through pleasant periods full of exciting events and activities, but unfortunately they never seem to last. Living our daily lives in our complex society filled with expectations and responsibilities, we ultimately experience stressful, chaotic and/or dull moments. I certainly never have any trouble during the conference coming up with a few examples from my own chaotic life. But when we “juggle” with that chaos or dullness and we “juggle” also those wonderful given moments instead of taking them for granted, we literally apply Einstein's theory of relativity to our own daily life.
With your understanding of the relativity between the various domains of your life you will be able to play more and more with everything that happens to you. In good times… and in not so good times.
Because… everything is relative.
Best wishes in “the juggling act of your life”…
For adults and sometimes for mature youngsters, I “add” two more domains or “bodies”, but not before a good feel for the interdependency of the first five bodies has been integrated. Just to give you a preview of how my performance / conference becomes a seven bodies juggling act, here is a tiny tip of an enormous iceberg.
The sixth domain is the ideological body. Sooner or later, everybody comes up with existential questions. Trying to give meaning to our lives through religion, philosophy or spirituality is an important part of our overall well-being. In The Juggling Act of Life we are encouraged to explore and exchange a wide variety of existential ideas without losing sight of our other bodies. The interdependency between this domain and all the others is a fascinating source of discussion, especially after the integral body is introduced (see below). Turning religion, philosophy and spirituality into a hands-on and relative experience is — as for the other bodies — the principal objective of Hanstein's approach.
The seventh domain is the integral body. This domain embraces the totality of our being. There is so much that influences us on a day to day, even moment to moment basis. On one hand, there are our other interdependent bodies with everything that nourishes them well and not so well. And on the other hand, we are continuously influenced by worlds that can be partially verbalized by various ideologies, but often too subtle or abstract to be defined by language. Our integral body embraces both our limited personality (which can be outlined by approaches such as astrology, enneagram, numerology, etc.) and our unlimited essence (our ever-present access to all those “wonder-full” realms). As with the other bodies, the integral body can be nurtured in itself and is also “nourished” through the other bodies. As vast and abstract as this domain sounds, in The Juggling Act of Life, we share many practical hands-on experiences of the integral body (from the world of Zone athletes and artists to what we know about the mystics) and develop our own unique tools to use in our own unique daily lives. The root of this domain is the same as the root of all other interdependent domains, the figure in the middle of our web on page 4; which represents our Awareness.
So much for that tiny tip of the iceberg. I am sure you got the idea, I don't want to write about it much. I love to share all of this “live” with you what will be a truly exciting experience for you and for me. Greetings from my here & now to yours.
I don't know about you, but I have time for a little juggling and then back to the rest of my Juggling Act of Life…..
Our five “bodies” and their “nutrition”
The physical domain includes:
- Nutrition, food, drinks, remedies.
- Exercise; from walking the dog to playing sports.
- Air; the quality of the air we breathe.
- Rest & relaxation; stretching, massage, a hot bath, enough sleep.
The creative domain includes:
- Artistic skills; drawing, dance, playing music, juggling, crafts, etc.
- Creative living; decorating our bedroom, planting a garden, etc.
- The ability to focus our senses on the sights, sounds, smells of nature.
- All the other ways we express ourselves, through language, clothing, hairstyles, etc.
The emotional domain includes:
- Self-esteem; how we feel about ourselves, including our ability to accept the fact that we “fall on our face” regularly in smaller or larger ways.
- Family, natural or extended, and friends, from periodical to life-long.
- Sense of humor. Don't sweat the small stuff.
- Happiness = what we have / what we desire.
The mental domain includes:
- Our mind is a muscle, our capacity to embrace knowledge is limitless.
- Our mind has also the ability to “open”; to embrace an ongoing wider range of interests, contrary to a mind that shuts down as soon as it leaves its “comfort zone”.
- Self-talk. Our “habits of thoughts” have a big influence on about everything we do.
- Rest & relaxation. The ability to slow down and focus thought processes.
The social domain includes:
- Consciousness. Our developing social (moral) body creates a sense of “doing the right thing” and a (healthy) sense of guilt when “doing the wrong thing”.
- Our growing awareness of being a part of expending circles (family, school, community, country, the whole planet) involves a growing sense of responsibility for our natural and social environment.
- Empathy. This growing social awareness inspires a growing understanding for people with different backgrounds.
- Life purpose. When we look at both “the large picture” and our own potentials, we will develop a sense of our particular role in the world.