My maps and tools for playing with the world.

I use a lot of maps and tools and techniques to help me navigate the world I live in. They consist of analytic tools which help me to understand the world, and practices which strengthen the connection of my heart to the gorgeous and bizarre kaleidoscope that is life. I use some of these in my client work when I sense that their usage would benefit the person I’m working with. . 

Here are some of the main ones. Future blogs will expand on many of these elements. 

  • The Integral Worldview, most eloquently expressed by Ken Wilber. This is, by far, the most efficient system of organizing anything you experience, both within your inner depths and the outer cosmos in which we all participate. 

This worldview is commonly referred to by the acronym AQAL, which is an abbreviation of ‘All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All States, All Types’. AQAL can be used variously as; a means of understanding how all academic systems of discourse link together; the strengths, limitations and fallacies of each discipline in the context of their co-dependent integration with other disciplines; a means of evaluating all aspects of ones being-in-the-world; a way of integrating ones personal development according to the most relevant practices of all the wisdom traditions. 

AQAL is a Unified Field Theory applied to all of the knowledge of the world. A must to master. It is kissing cousins with the Spiral Dynamics system formed by Clare Graves.

  • The Get Things Done (GTD) method of David Allen. I have tried out a number of time management methods over the last two decades and the GTD system is, by far, the most elegant system for organising the tasks life throws at you. 

On first glance, it all seems a little overwhelming and, frankly, a bit anal, but you can download the method into your psyche and, well, get things done – in an efficient manner which takes tasks out of your ever-ruminating mind and into your calendar and cyber/cardboard folders so that your moment-by-moment headspace is clear to focus on the ever-unfolding beauty of life.

  • The Qabalah and Tarot.  Taken together, the Qabalistic Tree of Life and the 78 cards constituting the Tarot are a beautiful system for discovering the connections between things and deepening ones understanding of, and connection to, the things themselves. 

The Tarot, far from being a fortune-telling device (as some have debased it) is actually a system for examining the interplay of archetypes as they manifest in our inner and outer lives and may be used as a therapeutic tool. 

I tend not to use it professionally, though I find it a great personal resource to help me in assessment of where I am in the moment, and how to proceed on the basis of this evaluation. 

Tarot is closely aligned with the Tree of Life which acts as a file-index system for understanding the relationships flowing between the nodes of Indra’s net. This system is more visual than that of Wilber’s AQAL worldview and acts on the emotions and unconscious more effectively, although it sacrifices some of Wilber’s intellectual acumen in doing so (no bad thing, in my books). 

Taken together, both systems, which are an amalgam of American and European mentalities, can work in potent synergy.

  • Transactional Analysis (TA). This is the first psychotherapy modality I trained in. Formulated by Eric Berne over a fifteen year period from the mid-fifties to 1970, it is a wonderfully lucid and coherent system for understanding both the intra- and inter-psychic realms (what goes on in your mind and what happens when you communicate, or transact, with others).  

I have found that, purely by understanding the nature of internal and external conflicts using TA concepts, clients experience a measure of relief within minutes (and I am not an advocate of the quick fix). TA theory is elegant and can be rendered as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can use it as a cognitive-behavioural tool or deepen into the domain of transference, where the true, deep healing happens. 

TA theory continues to evolve and has done so by splitting into various methodological strands. I use the Relational TA strand developed by Helena Hargaden and Charlotte Sills, and the Co-creational TA approach of Keith Tudor.

  • Thinking outside the box.  You can find solutions to apparently intractable, double-binded dilemmas by adopting alternative perspectives to the situation. 

Edward de Bono has evolved the best toolkit for doing this. Check out his works on lateral thinking and six-hat strategy.

 Tony Buzan’s mind-mapping offers alternative perspectives on personal projects through representing a situation or goal in a visual, non-linear manner. 

Daniel Dennet’s work on intuition pumps offers the showcase of thinking tools evolved over several centuries of western wisdom. 

Daniel Kahneman exposits the two ways in which we think and how they move in tandem, and understanding this clarifies our approach to life.

If you want a visceral experience of a being whose way of life encapsulates thinking outside the box watch “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” starring Mel Gibson. The Gibson character may be damaged goods but he’s a joy to watch in action here.

  • The current findings of neuropsychology. Contemporary neuroscience and its interwoven discipline, neuropsychology, is informing our knowledge on how to optimise human efficiency, develop emotional sensitivity and understand and work with trauma. 

I will examine modern neuropsychology in future blogs.

 Many books, blogs and vids on the subject are third-hand efforts at elucidating scientific and psychological research. Best get as close to the neuro-scientific and -psychological sources as possible. For quality material, I recommend the works of  Antonio Damasio, Bessel van der KolkDaniel Goleman, Rick Hanson and David Rock for the tried and true.

  • The Srividya Tradition of Classical Tantra.  If you wish to embark upon a path of spiritual development, you will need the mentorship of an individual or individuals who have trodden that path in a direct, focused and disciplined manner. Such mentorship is only really possible through a lineage of wisdom which has been downloaded through many generations of human hardware. Not to do so is to risk straying into the thorny terrain of narcissism and delusion. Why power up your vehicle if you end up driving in the wrong direction? 

The various traditions of Yoga, Tantra and Buddhism have evolved over hundreds of generations of passed-on wisdom, each new generation of aspirants standing on the shoulders of giants to scale the heights of spiritual accomplishment. Best to drink at their font for the most effective results.

I am currently exploring the rich traditions of classical tantra as taught by the world-class scholar-practitioner Christopher Wallis and the upasika Kavitha Chainnaiyan.  

  • The Shamanic Medicine Wheel. Arising out of contemporary shamanism in the Native American traditions, the Medicine Wheel is another comprehensive map of the Kosmos which has an eightfold classification system embedded in the eight cardinal and sub-cardinal compass points. I find it useful, practical and wonderful because it can be used as a sort of deckless tarot divination one can drop into at any time of the day.