Don't Look Down - Can you see the Integral in Urban Free Climbing? Pt1

Don't Look Down - Can you see the Integral in Urban Free Climbing? Pt1

Don't Look Down - Can you see the Integral in Urban Free Climbing? Pt1

 As the programme went on there were more and more aspects that were coming up as questions in my mind, thoughts about factors affecting these guys, what was it they are trying to do or to find for themselves and whether or not giving them some integral insight would help them not only to deepen their understanding, but also to be able to communicate what was happening for them with more support for their choices. This could be of benefit not only for them but also for their parents, who you could see (in the case of James' mum) really struggles with what their children are choosing to do.

Lets first of all give a reflection of my position in this. Many of you who read my blogs know some of my background, but many of you don't realise that for many years I rock climbed. Sea cliffs, high mountains, moorland crags, woodland outcrops. Grit stone, Granite, Limestone, Sandstone, Welsh Igneous, Slate, I have climbed all sorts in a number of countries and conditions, some soloing, deep water soloing, traditional climbing and sport style. Add onto that a little skateboarding/surfing/snowboarding, coasteering, cliff jumping, mountaineering and Ghyll scrambling.So there was something that I immediately related to with the free climbers for the experience they were having. There is nothing like the feeling of being in a climb, feeling its potential for danger, feeling the thrill of that and the elation that comes from a successful climb. The harder or more exposed the climb, the greater the feeling when you complete it. I get it.

But watching Don't Look Down, there was a whole different layer of thoughts that were coming up, ideas and concepts that were clearly grounded in Integral Theory  as developed by Ken Wilber and the the related work on masculine and feminine traits that David Deida expresses in his work. 

Its a general trend that I notice in my thoughts more and more in the last 2 years, that its almost like lights going off on a map as certain locations are reached. That map is AQAL and is a pretty good map for helping to understand and define this territory, while expressly recognising that it is just a map and can never be more than that (hence the difference for you advanced Integrallies between AQAL and IMP (Integral Methodological Pluralism)).

The first thing that I felt watching James was that he (and the other urban free climbers) were embodying the classic stance of those strongly in their masculine (in Deida's terms). Their desire to be on the edge of death, to find the ultimate freedom that comes from that nothingness was really obvious. In Deida's terms, the closer to death a masculine person can be, the more liberation they feel from the act they engage into. The masculine loves nothing more than to be free, to get past every obstacle to the point where he is released, the tiny death that for a moment give us the experience of the void, the no-thingness. The complete opposite of what a feminine person is searching for. Any activity where a masculine person can feel free, is the best activity they can do. It releases them from what they perceive as the expectations and limitations of 'normal life'. But as Deida puts it so eloquently, if the masculine only accepted that he is already dead, then nothing will feel like a limitation to him and he can just open into that sense of freedom in any moment. That way he won't feel limited and tied by those around him and every moment will feel like one of liberation.

One of the other aspects that was raised for me by the programme was the fact that there were no female climbers featured. Now is this because it's a predominantly masculine practice? Or are there female urban free climbers out there. And lets just mark the significant difference between women who like urban free climbing/climbers and women who are actually doing urban free climbing. Are there many, do they have the same experience and feel the same kinds of needs and desires when it comes to setting goals. Are they even feeling the experience in the same way the the male climbers do? James and the Urban Fee Climb community, I will leave you to get back to me on that.

From the Integral perspective, it was interesting to see that James took himself out of mainstream education at age 12 because it didn't work for him (his first steps from Mythic to Rational perhaps) and has since spent the time working things out for himself.

The whole practice of urban free climbing seems to really challenge the Mythic/Membership and Rational perspectives as it steps out of line with the established views (and how do we treat people that do that?). It shows that much of the view of the nation is still heavily drawn into conforming and unable (in my view on this topic) to access the Pluralistic position of how everyone has a right to be as they are (especially if they are not hurting others). But do the articles in the Metro and Cambridge news, which suggest an outcry in the irresponsible nature of the programme and its suggestion that it will encourage others to copy, not really understand that for young masculine personalities, that this is a perfect way to find the freedom they so long for, the initiation process that is so lacking for boys to become men. In my view it is far healthier than drugs, damage to property and many of the other 'break out' activities that the young try to develop for themselves because there is no guidance on the stages of growth.

Part of my motivation behind this article is coming from the desire to want to talk to some of these urban free climbers and offer them information on the Integral/Deida side of things, to show them there is a growth structure that recognises and understands the potential drive behind their behaviours and what other support could be given to them in these stages. Without this I think the public fear of 'how far will they have to go to fulfil this need?' is quite justified, because no one is really expressing their understanding of this need and what the possibilities for its development there are. 

One of the most beautiful moments in the programme was seeing the Ukrainian free climber Mustang Wanted listening to classical music in his preparation for doing a climb. For a 'youth' to find such benefit in such a place is a great example of how there is something constructive in this activity and how they are looking for their own growth and development in this place. It had me thinking about how good it would be for them to experience Genpo Roshi's Big Mind  and have the ability to access that space. Would the need for finding the freedom in the climbs change with that as a skill? 

It would also be interesting to see what climbers such as Mustang thought about things like the Mozart Effect and the way the timing signatures of music can change brain wave patterns. Would it be worth looking at the predominant music choices for climbers prior to and during a climb to see what effect it had on their brain wave patterns?

James made a comment in the programme about how there was no difference in the skill it took to hang from 100m as it did from 10m. If that were really true then he would be able to get the same benefit hanging from 10m. There is something far more that takes place inside, something that when I equate to my climbing experiences is only matched by the non-dual awareness that comes in practices like big mind.

Part of my fascination with the programme was in being curious how James and the other climbers would relate to what I was thinking, would they be able to get a grasp of the work or not?

 I would really like to get some feedback on my thoughts from members of the Urban Free Climbing community and also anyone else in the Integral/Health community who has anything relevant to share so please comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

This article will continue in Don't Look Down - Can you see the Integral in Urban Free Climbing? Pt 2 with some of my other thoughts and ideas around this topic, please subscribe for updates and more posts.

If you are interested in taking part in one of my Reclaiming Your Shadow workshops, or to ave me running one at your venue, then please get in touch


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