Friday, December 30, 2011

Inspired action

"The ego has blinders. The Divine does not.”
- Joe Vitale

The sign posts are clear, and there is only one way to enjoy the journey: to go and keep going. The safe alternative is to continue reading the guide books.

A year has passed, and it is again an excellent time to review a year completed, and the road ahead.

Over the past weeks, I was inspired while listening to Joe Vitale’s 2010 audio program The Abundance Paradigm. His powerful theme is that of a white board, representing the Source, or our pure Self. So much is written on our personal white board to obscure its space. It needs to be wiped clean.

Like Steve Jobs with the iPod, it probably wasn’t Joe Vitale who first invented this theme of the white board. But he has made sure, in his trademark fashion, that people now have easy access to this wisdom.

This evening, when reviewing an essay I wrote in December 2003 during the Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop offered by Jim Paredes, I smiled when I read this passage:

“At any moment, I can wipe the whiteboard of my life clean, I return to stillness, purity, nothing or zero. The empty balance between positive and negative, from which new things can grow in me, and at which I can make clear decisions. It is the Zero Doctrine – total flexibility, the absence of fixed ideas. It’s when I can hear the plants grow.”

Where did I get this inspiration 8 years ago? My Google search for Zero Doctrine this evening didn’t yield anything significant. It must have come from the white board itself.

I recognize Joe Vitale for making his own growth toward greater consciousness and awakening so publicly (and commercially) available for others to emulate. His message is often right on target, like when he points out that the word action is embedded into the Law of Attraction.

We have to take action to make our journey. To wipe our personal white board clean. And to honor the inspirations we receive with action.

As a timely reminder for celebrating our passage into the new year, Vitale’s words remind us that ego-led intentions can produce results, but that inspiration can produce miracles. If we take action.

Happy New Year 2012!

Photograph: New year sparkles on iPad by Natalie.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Imbalance My Life

"Imbalance creates direction and forward motion and progress." - James John Hollandworth

Moving forward is not as easy as it sounds. There are many directions, so which one is forward? And how do we measure progress?

Reflecting on the transition to the new year, I join people around the world to ponder these questions during the last days of 2010. What did we learn, what progress did we make? What will we do different in the new year? The window for reflection is now − soon we will become busy again, and our new year's resolutions may fade from memory.

From experience over the past years, I discovered that moving into the new year is not so much about what we will do and won't do. What counts more is our attitude and our thoughts, since these are the drivers. To make a good transition into 2011, the best we can do might be to reflect on who we are and how well we are living, and to decide how we will live better next year.

During my stay in Ubud, Bali, three reflections on better living have floated to the surface, like croaking frogs in a pond during a rainy night.

1. Bigger than me

The first is that living better is about something much bigger than the current 'me.' It's about being part of something that wants to come and become. It's about expanding my consciousness, yet in a way that includes all I have experienced so far. It's about growing in all dimensions, including cognitive, spiritual, musical, ethical and other lines.

I am using the transition to the new year to remind myself to expand my consciousness and 'claim my space.' It feels like climbing up a ladder to get a better view of the world around me. And while climbing, it is important not to leave any less evolved part of me behind. That would start pulling on the rest of me and slow my progress.

2. Imbalance my life

My second reflection is that balance has proved to be elusive. The pursuit of balance has felt like a search for the holy grail. I found that I am usually out of balance, one way or another. The important question is, in what direction? I discovered I have to lean into my strengths, for a healthy imbalance.

Hollandworth reminds us that "a ball on a perfectly flat surface doesn’t go anywhere, but a ball on the top of a mountain will start rolling down, picking up more speed and more defined direction as it moves."

What I need in the new year is to accelerate progress to my life goals, not just to act on a few new year's resolutions. My choice is now to intentionally imbalance my life toward my strengths, to lean into them, and let them create momentum in my life.

3. Ready to be used

My third reflection builds on the first and second. We live in a dynamic world where change is constant and where new connections are made all the time. Claiming my space in this interdependent universe means that I announce that I can be used, that I can add value, that I can contribute. This can happen in planned and unplanned ways.

I also realized in the past months that my readiness can be extended to involve partners in exciting areas of my life. Mastermind alliances can help me grow toward my life goals by working together with partners.

Being ready to be used in unexpected ways seems the most exciting. Opportunities abound, yet I can only see a small part of the web I live in. If I cultivate a beginner's mind, if I 'show up' and have my antennas switched on as much as possible, if I 'touch' daily what's important in my life, and if I care to share and work in mastermind alliances, I am ready to be used for positive results in the new year.

Ubud Mood

I feel blessed to spend the last days of the year again in Bali, my future home. I have been enriched by meeting lots of interesting people who are travelling, searching, building, making a living, helping others, or just taking a rest.

I rediscovered how Bali is a great place for me to retreat, to review the past year, to inspect the man in the mirror and his habits, to see what needs carving out or changing, and to get inspired for my next steps on the road forward, with a healthy imbalance towards my strengths.

Happy New Year 2011!

Photograph: Festive decorations in an Ubud home.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Art Matters

"A life without boundaries, that's what art offers. That's why art matters."
- Santi Bose

I found him on the 3rd level in the cone-shaped building of the Yuchengco Museum. His voice sounded animated yet shy, filling the space from the computer speakers of the Remixed, Revisited, Remembered exhibit.

Bose passed on in 2002, and his life and work continues to puzzle and inspire many: Espiritu Santi: the strange life and even stranger legacy of Santi Bose.

He is quoted to have said that he didn't mind his art being re-used by others. He did not feel as if he owned his art, and was happy to contribute his knowledge to young artists.

He wouldn't have minded this remixing of his work by his fellows. I could imagine him sitting in that green upholstered carabao chair in his studio, now a part of the exhibit, and watching how visitors reviewed his remixed work.

That evening, my good friend and I watched the 1996 Broadway musical Rent played by Manila's 9 Works Theatrical group. Rent is based on Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème, which was artfully transposed to a cold Christmas Eve on the lower East side of New York City.

The story depicts a group of young bohemians squatting at a cavernous loft at a time when AIDS was making an entrance. Through a series of crises and discoveries, the group wakes up to their connectedness, and they come to realize and affirm that "there is no day but today" before parting ways to continue their lives in pairs and alone.

That no boundaries theme was also explored by Ken Wilber in a book by the same title. Wilber posed that boundaries are not realities but figments of our own imagination.

Years earlier, Einstein and other quantum physicists had come to the same conclusion when they discovered that we are all connected energy fields. This awareness is now spread by modern-day gurus like Deepak Chopra.

More than half a century ago, Krishnamurti made very similar points in his sharply illuminating speeches in California, preceding the flowering of the new age and self-development genres in the decades to follow.

Yet how far have we understood and taken this no boundaries message? Where are we today?

Looking around, we cannot but observe that people individually and in groups are still spending much of their time and energy creating, maintaining, and fighting over boundaries that cause separation rather than synergy, hurt rather than healing.

Standing before Santi Bose's altar and studio, I realized that if art can help us see a life without boundaries, we had better let the artist in each of us come out of hiding.

No boundaries, that is why art matters.

Photograph: Trees on Pasay Road beyond the boundary.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Year of Ganesha

The happy start of 2010 finds me in Ubud still, writing my journal and scribbling intentions with the help of my nifty new sidekick called Attractor Genie, who joined me since yesterday to help me in my transition to achieving bigger things in the new year.

During this visit to the cultural hub of Bali, several new things got attracted into my life. My project to develop a home here took several paces forward. My circle of Ubud friends became significantly larger. And my understanding of how things work here got a bit deeper, as it has done during each visit.

I might have gained a world record too, for collecting the largest number of Ganesha images in two weeks. This friendly Hindu god was attracted big time into my life during this visit. Unlike the others god in the Hindu pantheon, he appears in all sorts of different forms. Dancing, reclining, standing and sitting in different positions, made from limestone and bronze in different finishes, and coming in various sizes, each image of the Lord of Thresholds and Remover of Obstacles is attractive to me in its own way.

It struck me that Ganesha's demeanor is quite similar to Osho's notion of Zorba the Buddha, which I had become familiar with in earlier years and have applied in my own life. Osho liked to match the life enjoying and street-smart Zorba the Greek with the spiritual qualities of the Buddha, implying that people need a combination of both of these outlooks to live a good life.

I found that Ganesha's popularity over the centuries may well have something to do with his powers to project similarly complementing qualities into people's lives, from big-picture spirituality for life to the enjoyment of living wisely in the moment, and seeing new doors open every day. Of course Ganesha, like other gods, is really a dimension of my own spiritual reality created in my mind, to help to guide and nurture my soul on its path.

In dynamic Bali, where Ganesha images can be found anywhere and anytime, I observed during this visit that the people I met all seemed to be adept at sharing something, whether it was news, information, services, and products, and more often all of these. People seem to enjoy engaging in different activities simultaneously, and many are happily multi-tasking their way through life.

One person I met is a part-time curator for exhibitions, writer for a newspaper, and translator in literary gatherings and in court cases. Another is a master photographer and head of the rental department of a real estate agency. A third person I observed owns a famous restaurant and enjoys standing in a market stall during weekends to cook well-known delicacies by hand for regulars and tourists alike.

While such multi-tasking may for some be explained by practical needs to make ends meet, for others it's not primarily a matter of income, and friends shared with me that Bali's society can offer people more flexibility to pursue different interests, passions and hobbies in parallel, which might be more difficult for people with full-time jobs in other places in the world.

So Bali can be seen as a conducive place for people to explore their dreams and attract the necessary changes into their lives to realize them. And the great thing is that there are so many other people around who are doing the same thing, thereby providing more inspiration. No wonder there are so many Ganeshas in Bali observing how good intentions are attracted and manifested in people's lives.

Photograph: Ganesha and Attractor Genie.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Attraction works

"What you hold in your mind with energy and focus will tend to be created in your reality." – Joe Vitale

Staying in Ubud is invariably a pleasant experience. More than I saw elsewhere, people in their daily life seem to be keen on living harmoniously with themselves (or God or Universe), their community, and the environment. This is what the Balinese call Tri Hita Karana, which is their philosophy for keeping balance in life.

Just like anywhere else on the globe, the universe in the island of the gods moves rapidly and is ever in flux. Deeply aware of this dynamic, the Balinese people have over the centuries reflected it prominently in their culture of dance and music, which move with great energy and speed and thereby underline the need for keeping a balance as a continuous challenge in everyday life.

Meanwhile, the end of 2009 is drawing near, like a door closing slowly but surely. In preparing to cross the threshold, I like to reflect with appreciation on what the past year has brought, and then to anticipate with intent and curiosity what can come my way in 2010.

Such musings have been a private pastime for me for years, and I tended to keep to myself around the end of the year. In fact, my friends may not remember the last time they got a Seasons Greeting card from me in December - it just wasn't my thing to do. However, I feel that the time has come to adopt new habits.

Today, I started sharing some year-end reflections with my circle of friends, as a life sign and update to them, and with a warm thank you for enriching my life in 2009, either through our meetings face-to-face or through another communications we had in our shared universe.

What new things entered my life in 2009?

• Leadership coaching
• Integral theory and life practice
• Mind-mapping
• Spiral dynamics
• Facebook and Linked-In
• Building 2 new teams
• Attractor factor
• Ganesha
• Hair stylist
• This end-of-year message!
• Read on…

How did I move closer to my life goals this year?

Coaching. I reached much closer to my goal of being a 'successful leadership and life coach.' After completing my coaching course last December 2008, I received my diploma at the start of 2009. In mid-year, I expanded my knowledge and skills with a short training on the leader as coach. And after signaling my intention to the universe to increase my coaching practice while still holding my job as water adviser, I got the idea to start a leadership coaching program for water colleagues in my office. So I designed a program with options for a one-time 'orient' demo session, a 1-month 'discover' program, and a 3-month 'change' program. I got the proposal approved as part of my work plan for the second half of the year, and the announcement went out in October. Some colleagues expressed interest right away to start the program!

Advising. I moved forward in my role as 'respected water adviser,' and enjoyed working directly with clients and partners in several countries across the Asia-Pacific region, and with colleagues in my workplace. I was involved in building a team of regional experts and together we developed a guiding vision for water security in the region, supported by measurable indicators. I also supported the development of a team of water experts in my workplace, specifically to address water management challenges in river basins. As part of this work, I learned more about using the power of vision and examples to motivate people to embrace change.

Creating. I walked further on the road of growing into an 'accomplished writer and musician,' and developed several good concepts for future use in websites, books, and e-learning courses. However I didn't write as much and as often as I wanted, and am looking for ways to make it flow better, to find my style and my writing 'zone.' Well, I know the prescription: nothing else to do but write, write, write, and.... write! I also didn't play music as much as I thought I should, however I did take the chance to play my sax on stage again with a good band last October, including a solo rendition of Santana's Oye Como Va (see picture). I also realized my long-time dream to own an electric guitar. Now onwards to learn playing it in 2010!

What has helped me live forward this year?

Strength-based Leadership
. I spent time in the first part of the year reviewing what my talents and strengths are, guided by books of Marcus Buckingham and the online strength-finder test of the Gallup Organization. Buckingham describes a strength as "consistent, near perfect performance in an activity", and as something that makes you feel great while you do it", something that makes you strong! Working this out has helped me a lot this year, and I am now paying attention how I can leverage my strengths in my work and other life dimensions. So I focus less, and am less concerned with fixing weaknesses which will never turn into areas of excellence. Working with my strengths is more productive, and using my strengths makes me stronger!

Mind Mapping. Around mid-year I started mind mapping to replace my boring to-do lists, and as a creative outlet for exploring new ideas. After trying out various software programs, I settled on Xmind. I also took to carrying a small notebook and a four-color ballpoint pen to draw small mind maps by hand anytime, anywhere. After a few months, mind mapping has become an enjoyable routine, with more things to explore and plans to update every day. I love to use mind-mapping now!

Integral Theory and Life Practice. I discovered how integral theory focuses on the synthesis of different perspectives and methodologies, starting with a perspective that everyone is right, in the sense that everybody has some important pieces of truth, and can make a useful contribution to the integral whole. Drawing on both Western and Eastern traditions of psychology and meditation, integral life practice promotes balanced growth involving body, mind, shadow, and spirit. Prompted by my new friend in Soest, the Netherlands, I started reading about the work of integral philosopher Ken Wilber, and then delved into Wilber's books directly with a view to improving my own integral 'operating system' for work and life. It resonated with me! And Don Beck's writing about Spiral Dynamics added further perspective by explaining how individual people and societies can evolve in a positive spiral of 'memes' towards an integral level.

Attractor Factor. Some of the powerful messages in the 2006 book The Secret revisited me in the fourth quarter of the year, and I understood anew how important it is to focus on 'being' rather than on 'doing.' The law of attraction says that we experience what we think, and that what goes on in our mind is therefore critically important. As Joe Vitale captures it in the Attractor Factor, "what you hold in your mind with energy and focus will tend to be created in your reality." So I realized more profoundly that I will always attract more of what I think and focus on, and I questioned myself about what I have been attracting, what my mind has focused on. I have now started working on thinking and visualizing even better and bigger things, so that they can get attracted into my life and become reality, starting immediately. I'm having fun doing this!

What symbols did I use to guide me this year?

• Ken Wilber's four quadrants for an integral approach
• Positive spiral for adaptive management
• Ganesha as the lord of thresholds and remover of obstacles (see picture)

What did I discover about myself?

• My top 5 talents, from Buckingham's Now, Discover Your Strengths
• My signature strengths, from jotting down my likes and dislikes while 'on the go'
• That I should partner with people who have complementary strengths to mine
• That I still don't smile enough, according to two friends in Ubud

What books did I enjoy reading?

Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham
A Brief History of Everything, by Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, by Frank Visser
After Dark, by Haruki Marukami
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

What movies did I enjoy watching?

How Art Made the World, by BBC (old)
This Is It!, Michael Jackson's last work (new)
• Several nice movies, but why can't I remember their titles now?

What music did I enjoy listening to?

Dreams 3, by Café del Mar
The Best of Act One, by Anthony Warlow
Spirit, by Leona Lewis
• Didn't spend enough time making music myself

What surprised me?

• Portrait of a Russian boy who looks a lot like me (see picture), in the Hermitage
• Encounter with a sheep (see picture), in my friend's country home in Belgium
• 'Zorba the Buddha' and Ganesha symbolize the same ideas for life

What made me laugh?

The laughing head given to me by a friend at a Christmas party (see the picture). The grass started growing after a week of watering. What a nice inspiration for the new year!

What made me proud as father?

• See my older daughter take charge of her studies with good results
• See my younger daughter take steps to pursue her dream of acting

What were some of my favorite places to spend time?

• Balcony of my Manila apartment overlooking the Makati Sports Club
• Fully Booked bookshop in Manila's Power Plant mall
• Outdoor shower in Ubud, Bali (see picture of leaves on wall)

What new places made an impression?

• The new Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam
• Yudongxia Gorge in Guiyang City, People's Republic of China
• The labyrinth of waterways in Gold Coast, Australia
• The rustic Beukenhof hostelry in Oegstgeest, the Netherlands
• Restaurants in Madrid, the capital of Spain

What were my favorite things to do?

• Making presentations
• Coaching people
• Mind-mapping
• Preparing smoothies
• Traveling and connecting

What else was new in 2009?

• Mr. Anjo, my new hair stylist who gave me a new look
• Understanding spiral dynamics, introduced by Don Beck
• Facebook and Linked-in, which I joined in a modest way
• Rapid manifestation, putting the Attractor Factor into play

What will I aim for in 2010?

• Attracting my life goals by positive intent, being clear, and letting go
• Spending even more quality time with my loved ones
• Having a great time in coaching and team building
• Connecting and celebrating more with my friends
• Seeing my place in Ubud develop (see pool picture for inspiration)
• Further expanding my horizons

If I had to sum up this end-of-year reflection into one sentence, it would be Joe Vitale's statement that "what you hold in your mind with energy and focus will tend to be created in your reality." Since I can practice this several times in a day, the challenge of keeping balance in life is getting to be much more fun than before!

PS: Some friends have already replied that they felt attracted into making similar end-of-year reflections and writing down life goals.

Photograph: End-of-year reflections.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Better view

“People are different.”
– a fellow traveler

That seems true enough on the surface, yet it inspired me to see if they really different at a deeper level, and if so, in what way?

As I watched the first two episodes of the BBC series How Art Made the World this week, I was struck by the startling evidence of similarities in the perspectives of people across time and space.

In art, we are taught that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And this made me wonder if the differences between people could be largely dependent on the beholder’s perspective too?

Take a look at how the Egyptians depicted humans in their visual arts, unchanged over thousands of years during their civilization. Such consistency is unthinkable in our rapidly changing world of today. The Egyptian way of visualizing people was carefully crafted and uniformly maintained with great discipline. Time passed, the perspective stayed the same.

Then watch the similarities in how our ancestors painted animals on cave walls across historical Europe, and how close these resemble the rock wall paintings in South Africa made just a couple of hundred years ago. They might have painted for similar reasons, as the documentary suggests, showing what they saw in their mind as they traveled in and out of the spiritual realm during altered states of consciousness that were induced by spending time in dark and narrow spaces.

When Picasso explored the famous bull paintings in the Lascaux cave in France in 1940, he declared that “we have learned nothing in twelve thousand years," attesting to the enduring similarities in art and artists over such a long time.

And observe how the chubby, impersonal “Venus” statuettes from prehistoric times, discovered in many places across Europe and beyond, look remarkably similar. Yet there is no indication that the communities who made these images were not in touch with each other, so how could they produce such similar visions of people? The documentary suggests that the perspective was determined by the tribes’ shared view of their existence as hunter-gatherers. Different places, same perspective.

Jump in the time machine and switch for a moment to today’s global challenges and the politics to address them…

When President Bill Clinton spoke in June 2009 to promote global cooperation for the survival of mankind, he urged people to focus on their similarities. “We are genetically 99.5 percent the same,” he said, yet “from time immemorial, people have fought over identity rooted in that (half percent). We should have spent more time thinking about that other 99.5 percent of ourselves.”

And summing up the prospects for success, he concluded that “if we have a chance, it has to begin by people accepting that they can be proud of who they are without despising who someone else is.” Such messages are now broadcast in electronic images, across vast distances.

Focusing on similarities has a compelling logic, yet unlike in the Egyptian and early European times, in today’s world it seems difficult to do. Even if people might be similar in many ways, they seem to be hard-wired to look for their differences in their continuous search for meaning and creative expression, and as they work hard to make money from products and services that have to stand out from others to be marketable.

Meanwhile, wars and conflicts keep filling news stories, showing that plenty of people around the world are still committed to despising each other because of perceived differences.

And yet, look around and observe that globalization trends continue to diminish or wipe out diversity, as illustrated by the phenomenon of Starbucks and other global brands. While people keep focusing on differences, diversity and uniqueness, increasing numbers end up drinking the same coffee, wearing similar clothes, and using the same computer software and other accessories.

What more is there to discover about similarities and differences? Turning back to history, the BBC documentary points out that people did go through very dramatic changes in their societies, which altered their outlook drastically and made them look at themselves and their fellow humans in a totally different way.

For example, when the Egyptians became exposed to the Greeks, a new way of visualizing people emerged synergetically in art, which was soon to inspire people across their lands, and later spread from Greece to other parts of Europe and even across the world.

And the hunter-gatherers who created the Venus statuettes and cave paintings stopped doing so rather abruptly around the same time as they evolved into societies organized around agriculture.

While spending time in these musings, I also continue my exploration to understand integral theory and wonder how it might be applied to stimulate personal growth and foster sustainable development in today’s world.

From reading philosopher Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything, I am discovering how his AQAL model of integral theory suggests that the development of individuals and of societies can be compared to climbing a ladder. The components of his metaphor are the ladder, the climber, and the different views that appear when climbing the ladder.

Wilber argues that as people grow and societies evolve, they can negotiate higher levels in development, much like climbing the rungs of a ladder, and that the process of moving from one level to another is both challenging and a one-way street. Once a higher level is reached and inhabited, the view of self and the world changes into an expanded version, which becomes less and less egocentric and narcissistic.

He refers to three important stages of development (for individuals and their cultures) as being egocentric, ethnocentric, and world-centric, and he quotes research results claiming to show that roughly two-thirds of the world’s population today still live in egocentric and ethnocentric stages.

Wilber also explains that a smooth journey upwards on the ladder is by no means assured, and that as they grow, people and societies tend to leave dismembered parts of their identity behind “in the basement,” from where these “shadows” conspire to reduce the energy for further growth until they are faced and re-integrated.

As a result, greater depth (moving higher on the ladder) comes with lesser span (fewer people reaching, and living from these higher levels).

If it is true that a majority of people are still living in egocentric and ethnocentric stages of development that focus predominantly on their individual needs and those of their groups, it might well be very difficult for the world to respond to the challenge posed by President Clinton to look for what people have in common rather than their differences.

As I continue to read about higher world-centric and integral stages of development, with their changing and ever wider views from the higher rungs of the ladder, it seems that while science and art show that people throughout history have always shared much in common, the differences between people today remain huge in their own eyes and in the prevailing worldviews of the egocentric and ethnocentric “membership” societies they live in.

A piece of good news seems to be that all through history people have found it possible to climb up the ladder of expanding consciousness, where they discovered more similarities and greater depths of existential experience. And Wilber claims that the number of people living today with integral worldviews, while still very small, is growing rapidly.

Throughout human history, art has always been an important channel of expression for the mystics who climbed the ladder and transcended their own society’s worldview, from cave paintings to sculptures, from the writings of Thomas à Kempis to the poetry of Rumi, from the writings attributed to Lao Tze to the koans of zen masters over time, from the questioning and deconstructive prose of Osho to the lyrics and humming in a universe “written on air” by Jim Paredes, and in countless other artistic expressions around the world.

It seems that, when seen from higher rungs on the ladder of consciousness, people’s similarities as well as their different worldviews can come into a clearer perspective. Climbing that ladder may allow people to see that they are not so different after all, but that their worldviews are. And the different worldviews of these “beholders” are what largely inspires their perceptions, actions, and art.

As I continue climbing, I find that the view keeps getting better.

Photograph: Better view at the end of war. Liberation monument commemorating 5 May 1945 in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Integral discipline

"Read everything he writes. It will change your life."
- Deepak Chopra

Stirred doesn't quite describe what happened, shaken is more like how I felt, an almost rude awakening. And the shaker?

On a typical day he gets up between 3 and 5 in the morning in his house overlooking the mountains around Boulder, Colorado. After an hour or two of meditation he works until early afternoon. This is followed by an hour of weightlifting to keep him grounded in his body. The afternoons are for chores, and after a meal around 5 pm, he spends his time watching a movie, visiting friends and reading something light. In the biography Thought as Passion on the life of Ken Wilber, Frank Visser wrote in that the world-renowned philosopher leads a disciplined life.

Listening to Wilber give his 4-day interview on Kosmic Consciousness to Tami Simon of Sounds True, I heard a master story teller clarifying profound dimensions of science and spirituality with ease and empathy, always speaking in a light-hearted manner full of jests about himself and his accomplishments. Discipline remains invisible below the surface.

Over the past four decades, Wilber's integral philosophy has changed the lives of millions of people. He is quoted by as the internationally acknowledged leader and preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development, which continues to gather momentum around the world, and as the most widely translated academic writer in America, with his 25 books translated in some 30 languages. He has also been called one of the most controversial and profound thinkers of our age, and is the first psychologist-philosopher in history to have his collected works published while still alive, and at the time he was only 48.

Behind the success and smooth presentation of philosopher and story teller Ken Wilber lies a fascinating and inspirational story of determination to overcome challenges.

After trading in an all-American image and dropping out of Duke university, Wilber took a job as dishwasher to support himself in writing his first books in the seventies. He talks about a personal transition and decision to “get into interior growth”, and then experiencing a strong burst of it. After graduating from another university, his first book at the age of 23 became the foundation of what was later to become his integral theory. However, The Spectrum of Consciousness, after completion in 1973, was only published in 1977 after having been turned down by numerous publishers.

Once published, the book made him famous overnight as a leading thinker in the fields of psychology and philosophy. To write the book, he had labored in thought for three years while doing his manual job, and worked on reading and research for about ten months, wrote Visser. This was followed by a month or more of tortuous 15-hour bouts of typing, supported by a gallon of milk and naps on the sofa.

In later years, Wilber kept up his production of books with ever wider scope of application, and spent more and more of his working life in self-imposed isolation, serving time in solitary research and writing supported by a vast collection of books and videos.

Interspersed with these productive years were periods where Wilber was forced to deal with intense personal challenges, which led to pauses in his writing. Talking about the years of caring for his partner Treya Killam Wilber, who died of cancer in 1989, he remarked that “the pain, terror, agony was so horrible – either you really just committed suicide or come out on the other side, with a quantum leap in growth.”

The suffering was further complicated as he found himself affected by a little-known enzyme deficiency disease that crippled his work for while. Talking with Tami Simon about these periods of affliction, he said that “if you’re lucky enough to deal with them, you can accelerate growth, and if not, you can really go to hell.” In retrospect, he considered this time to be the most important transformative period in his life.

After passing through these dark valleys, he resumed his writing and shared what he had learned through these tribulations in Grace and Grit, which was published in 1991 and attracted many new readers.

Wilber encountered further torment at key stages in the development of his integral theory. The birth of his masterpiece Sex, Ecology and Spirituality in the mid 1990s was intense, he told Tami Simon, and the subsequent period involved a trying period of “dying to my own Ken Wilberness.” Later he would suffer frustrating flare-ups of the enzyme deficiency disease, causing a down-period of more than half a year.

He is remarkably transparent about the evolution of his integral theory, and how he made corrections in later years to his earlier model. In his interview with Tami Simon he describes these periods of retrospection and failing forward as extremely hard and disturbing emotionally and physically, and “plutonium intense.”

While his books map out what seem to be continuously positive evolutionary paths (and spirals) of development from pre-personal to personal, trans-personal and nondual stages, he doesn’t restrict himself to a positive lens. Instead, he underlines that each evolutionary stage actually comes with new challenges and chances to mess it up on an ever grander scale, individually and as societies.

Hence, he explains, we experience not only breakthroughs in health, education, economic development and spiritual empowerment, but also Auschwitz, continued destructive wars, 9/11, environmental degradation, and global warming.

To deal with these choices and challenges that the evolution of human consciousness brings, he underlines the importance of will and personal discipline in a recent interview on the website of the Integral Institute he founded with friends. “To have some muscle to exercise your will, your volition, your capacity to make these choices in the midst of what reality hands you, is absolutely crucial. Since we have so little emphasis on discipline and will, basically you're just at the mercy of your whichever will speaks loudest.” Wisdom grown from personal experience and choices, no doubt.

I was first introduced to Ken Wilber and his philosophy by my teacher Jim Paredes during the Tapping the Creative Universe workshop in Manila in 2003. However it took until this year for me to get immersed in Wilber’s integral theory and to explore its meaning for my life and work.

As Wilber explains about his now-famous 4 quadrants of the subjective “I”, the objective “It”, the intersubjective “We”, and the interobjective “Its,” it is all too easy to limit oneself to live in any one of these four perspectives. Reading integral theory should therefore not remain an exercise in the objective realm of “It”, so I started my own travel into the subjective interior by reading and listening about Wilber’s trials and tribulations on his own internal journey to “integral.” I have also started involving others around me in exploring integral theory, to allow me explore “We” dimensions together with them.

Of my integral journey so far, I found Wilber’s mountain-top views breathtaking, and I am most impressed, indeed shaken, by the example of his own travels and the part that discipline and will have played in the life of this master storyteller.

Deepak Chopra was right to say that reading Wilber can change your life. I keep reading him.

Photograph: Balloon over Flanders.