The Way It Was
I was always a pretty physical person; track, gymnastics, football, bikes, rock-climbing, you name it. I was fast; got called “Flash” in high school. I was also extremely curious about almost everything. Following a somewhat Leonardo da Vinci perspective, I studied art, music, philosophy, psychology, history, science, anthropology, engineering, and more, devouring it all, looking for how the puzzle pieces fit together. One of my favorite puzzles was human nature, and from childhood, I was always figuring out what made people “tick.” I started a process re-engineering practice before the term was known, and used this systems-oriented integrative approach to streamline organizations and make them more agile. At the same time I was playing guitar and drums in several bands around the SF Bay Area (including the almost famous metal band, “Fallen Angel.”) Life was good.
When Everything Changed
On April 8, 1994, I was driving to a sales call for the company I was re-engineering. While waiting for oncoming traffic to pass so I could make a left turn, my little 80’s Honda was rear-ended by a freight truck. It hit so hard, the chassis bent, the seat broke loose, my S-1 and L-5 vertebrae got hammered into my pelvis, and my lumbar discs ruptured. By 1997, I was losing nerve function in my feet, and went through 19 surgical procedures to get me standing and wiggling my toes again. I was told I had about 10 years before I’d be in a wheelchair. So much for “Flash.”
I was already spiraling into depression from having my life ripped out from under me, and now I didn’t even know who I was anymore. My identity had always been wrapped up in my athleticism so without that, who was I? I started to see that I’d used my physical identity as a safe, outer shell, protecting my mind and heart. Now that was gone. Could I redefine myself? How would I do that? Could I beat the doctors’ prognosis? I can’t be the only one dealing with this kind of thing. Who else was feeling lost; without clarity? Could I help them?
I dove into Yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi, and back into my studies of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and biology to rebuild my body, integrating with my mind and spirit. Along with rebuilding myself, I set about rebuilding and re-engineering the models I’d been using in consulting and coaching, from the Enneagram to Spiral Dynamics, to Integral Consciousness. From the intro to that old TV show, “The Six-Million Dollar Man,” I heard the voice say, “we can rebuild him: better, stronger than he was before.”
Double Whammy: My Aha Moment
Just a couple years into my rebuild, my mother had a stroke and was in a coma in Sacramento. My brother, who is renown in his circles as “the engineer’s engineer” and I drove up immediately. As I did the typical hand-holding and praying, my brother examined every bit of equipment in the room, and then left. I stayed by her bedside wondering what he was doing, and after almost two days, he returned. He looked over the equipment again, and went to talk to the neurologists and nurses. They came in and cranked my mother’s bed almost upright, and within 15 minutes, she came out of the coma. Today she’s totally herself again.
In the moment, I was flabbergasted, and asked my brother what he’d been doing; what just happened? He had apparently spent this entire time studying strokes, comas, cerebral spinal fluid ratios, and more, as he saw this as an engineering problem to be solved. His knowledge of physics and fluid dynamics enabled him to see what needed to be done.
My aha moment sealed my fate going forward. My brother had shown every bit of love and compassion, in a way that was off my “radar.” It was different enough from how I would’ve shown it, (looking at his actions with my own perceptive filters) that I totally missed it. How many of us are misjudging and misunderstanding each other every day?! My models had “failed” me, and I needed to re-engineer the model itself to include everything I had learned.
I found my Life Purpose. I decided on the spot that I would devote the rest of my life to helping people understand themselves and each other on such a profound level, that we could eradicate the mistreatment of ourselves and one another. We could take advantage of all the resources each of us has to offer to actualize our potential, and create lives of freedom, ease, and fulfillment.
Optimized Results; Good Stuff
I continued honing and perfecting my models and systems, until I’d developed the Integral Enneagram of Consciousness (or Integram™) allowing us to work with our own psyches as if they were operating systems with running programs. If there were issues or challenges, we could basically de-bug the code of our cerebral software, then create and insert new code that serves us better, using principles of neuroplasticity.
In 2008 I was asked by Ken Wilber of the Integral Institute and Mark Forman Head of Integral Psychology at JFK University to present the Integram™ at the first Integral Theory in Action Conference, as the first model to integrate the Enneagram and Integral Theory.
The ease and simplicity of how we actually affect change is really the magic. Literally hundreds of people have been able to take charge of and re-create their lives. My clients and I have all been able to create intentional, values-based lives, unshaken by people or circumstances. We face the same challenges as anyone would, but rather than being beaten into reaction and stress, we access resources through personal mastery, and triumph.