Thomas Hübl discusses the integration of East and West Germany to demonstrate society’s need for cultural learning spaces – places where people with different cultures and histories of trauma can gather to learn and exchange cultural data. He focuses on how trauma is perpetuated when these digestion spaces don’t exist, and how an integrated culture is better equipped to take on new challenges, like climate change.
Cultural Integration and Restoring the Fabric of Life
Thomas Hübl is a renowned teacher, author, and international facilitator whose work integrates the core insights of the great wisdom traditions and mysticism with the discoveries of science. Since the early 2000s, he has been facilitating large-scale events and courses that focus on meditation and mindfulness-based awareness practices, as well as the healing and integration of trauma.
His non-profit organization, The Pocket Project, works to support the healing of collective trauma throughout the world. He is the author of the book Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds.
His next book Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World will be published September 12, 2023 by Sounds True and is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Bookshop, and more!
For more information, visit thomashuebl.com
Notes & Resources
In this episode, Thomas dives deep into:
- The need for countries to invest in spaces dedicated to cultural sharing and learning, and how they help heal shared traumas
- How cultural learning is an attuned data exchange that increases the capacity of our humanity
- A certain amount of discomfort being needed in order to accomplish integration or healing.
- How our nervous systems create the inner sculptures of our reality
- The ways in which embodied learning makes us more sensitive and empathetic and less cynical
Thomas Hübl: Hi, today we are going to talk a bit more about cultural integration. I feel very inspired lately to look at through the work on the East-West integration process in Germany as the East-West integration process in Europe. So there was a strong kind of iron curtain, the Berlin Wall is a symbol. And in a way, it is one nation strongly divided. Still in the aftermath of a tremendous war and human catastrophe, the Holocaust. And then there is this border, like the former east and the former west of Germany – living in separate realities.
And I have been working on this through many, many groups and came up very often in my workshops and also bigger events and we did multiple integration events for the East and the West of Germany and it’s very clear that after the wall came down in a way like the West came over the East or the East has been pushed into like a Western experience – and that in itself is a traumatic event. It’s not only a liberation. It’s also like a strong change. For some people it’s a liberation, for some people it is overwhelming.
Besides the economic benefit and besides all the things that were said in the course of possible and got improved. But the conditioning of growing up in the East and in the West and living very different lives in a certain way. Once the wall came off, that inner conditioning that lives deeply in our bodies, that lives deeply in our physical, emotional, mental experiences didn’t just disappear. In fact for many people, it’s still alive, it’s like an inner sculpture. And since our nervous system creates inner sculptures of realities, we need to consciously do some work to integrate those cultures into something that we don’t know, which is an integrated Germany or an integrated Europe.
If you want to have a resilient Europe, we need to integrate the former East and the former West of Europe into a new Europe that nobody knows. Because otherwise it’s a subtle repetition of domination. It’s our system. Our lifestyle is better, that’s why you have to adapt to it. Because it’s better. It’s more prosperous, it has more freedom. But then we don’t see that it’s actually a subtle violence because what we are missing is a deep interest in each other’s experiences over decades in order to learn from each other.
But what does this mean learning? Learning means data exchange, and it’s a giant data exchange. It happens in this space of “I-feel-you-feeling-me.” It happens in an embedded listening state. And then we can learn from each other. Not just the cognitive dimension, because maybe many of us know the cognitive stories, but we don’t know the very personal dimension of the overall picture. So we need learning spaces. These are cultural learning spaces where we learn from each other. And while we are doing that, we together become a new Germany. But it means that every one of us needs to invest something, and every one of us needs to let go of something. That’s integration.
Two forces synthesize into a higher potential space than the two forces were living it before. It’s very important. We need to give something, and we need to let go of something on both sides in order to develop into a higher space together. That’s cultural integration. And that’s not only cultural integration, that’s healing the gaps, the fractures between cultural fields. The need to come back together. But they don’t need to be egregious to each other’s lifestyles. They need to negotiate a new version that we both develop into a new potential space. That’s what integration means. There’s always a higher space that is the home for two forces to integrate into.
But it also means that through the cultural learning we weave together, we heal in a way of fracture. A traumatic fracture. And as we heal a traumatic fracture, there’s a much more intelligent data exchange. And societies need spaces for this. We need integration spaces. We cannot just assume that that happens on its own. We need to facilitate that until it becomes a cultural function that works on its own. But it needs to be prototyped. It needs to be a role model. It needs to be put in place. And then it becomes a prototype that multiplies itself, which means cultural learning and then we call it cultural function. Then it’s a new cultural ability, a collective competence building. And I think that’s missing in Germany and it’s missing in Europe, but it’s also missing in many places around the world where we see cultural fragmentations, where still cultural kinds of fields bump into each other because the fractures in between haven’t been healed yet.
Look at Spain and Catalonia. So there is an ongoing breaking open of an old wound that hasn’t been integrated yet, and we can’t integrate it through force when we shut it down. That’s actually the worst, because then we create re- traumatization that just fosters and strengthens the problem. We need something else and we need cultural integration as a cultural ability, not just as an ability of a few people. Cultural ability building. Or a collective competence building.
That’s not just politically correct work – I do it because I feel it should be better for us – No, I do it because I really care. Because I know how important it is digesting experiences. We cannot bypass adjusting our experiences. We need space. We need cultural contemplation. We need cultural compassion. I want to get to know your experience because I didn’t grow up where you grew up, I don’t know your experience. I need to learn it from you. For me, you are the book of life. And I need to read that book in order to learn something. And you need to reach through me the Book of Life, because you don’t know my background.
So if people from the former Eastern people from the former West come together and are truly interested to learn about One Germany’s history. One Germany’s evolutionary journey or developmental journey, we truly become that journey together. We host it in each other. We become in a shared mind. We’ve become a shared herd. And that shared space is an integrated cultural space.
But countries need to invest in that. We need to understand that that’s something that supports collective or public health, that supports if we invest in that, we will save a lot of money in other ways when we have to deal with the side effects of the non-integration and all the symptoms that we have in our cultures from non-integration, political, economical and leadership issues, social issues, criminality, all kinds of things that will be amplified because we don’t take care of the root. And so trauma integration is also cultural digestion, is cultural learning, it’s cultural integration, it’s post-traumatic learning. And I believe that that’s what we didn’t develop yet.
There’s a new cultural capacity that we need to acquire, that we need to train and integrate in order to live. And I believe all around the world we would save a lot of time, even if it looks like we need to slow down to do it. Ultimately, we are speeding up because if we keep walking with a lot of weight, we are anyway slower. So why don’t we integrate that weight into walking and then walk faster? That’s a much more sustainable way of living than to keep pulling our weight, but just trying to run forward. So that’s ultimately the slower version, even if on the short end it looks faster. And it also helps us to create a cultural space that has a much higher relational health and it is more resilient to take on new cultural challenges like climate change, for example. So the cultural integration work is in a way, the resilience building with which we can deal with climate change. So it’s a win-win-win.
And so these are a few thoughts about cultural integration that, of course, doesn’t only work in Germany or in Europe. It works in many places around the world where we see cultural clashes. That’s true for the US. That’s true for Latin America. It’s true for Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and all over the world. We need that kind of cultural wisdom as a cultural ritual, something we invest in because we know these rituals will ultimately improve our life on this planet.
I hope today’s inspiration enriches your own thinking, your creativity and your cultural sensitivity and awareness. Once we heal the fabric of life, we are not dealing with the constant inflammations that unhealed wounds create. But we are actually ready to gather a mentality to explore new realities, which we are all so passionate about, which we call the future, which we call innovation, which we call all the amazing things that we are developing at the moment as humanity in order to further our own evolution.
Of course, we also need to see that one trauma symptom is actually that we don’t want to do that.
One trauma symptom is that we don’t want to engage in the integration process because either we are indifferent to the trauma, numb and absent, so we don’t recognize that need. On the other hand, we are getting too activated and maybe too afraid or it’s too difficult for us. And it’s also because we know when we go into this, we will touch discomfort. To touch a certain amount of discomfort is needed in order to integrate or heal. Of course, we don’t want to get overwhelmed. We don’t want to do it unskillfully. That’s why I said we need to develop a cultural ability and we need to develop some skills.
Nevertheless, we want to embark on that journey, even if it means sometimes cleaning up a messy living room after a party isn’t fun, but it’s needed for me to still want to enjoy my apartment. If I never clean up my living room, I don’t want to live there because it’s becoming totally messy and dirty. So cleaning up our collective living room is an important part of maintaining a sustainable life so that we refresh our house, the house of our society, so that we all want to live there
And as I said already in an earlier podcast episode, wisdom is related to how much of the world is included in the way I live. So the more cultural learning, real learning, embodied learning – the more I grow wiser. Because I can ground that deeper understanding. I will experience it with everybody I meet. It will increase my cultural sensitivity and awareness. It will increase the way I am sensitive to other people’s perspectives that are different than mine. It will reduce cynicism. It will reduce talking about other people badly or gossiping. It will reduce “othering.” It’s reducing many of the side effects that we see, and this related quality is in the system. Because I would be more part of.
As somebody that grew up in the former West, through deep listening, I became part of and I started to care more, to understand more, to see the motivations of behaviors and actions more. It touched my heart and touched me in my being. So I get a deeper understanding of an experience that is not mine. That makes me wiser, but in a tangible form, not just as an intellectual knowing about the former East and all the theories and all the philosophies. That’s great too, but it doesn’t make me necessarily wiser.
When that knowledge becomes embedded knowledge then it will affect how I act, how I live, how I talk, and also my relational inclusion. I will be much more sensitive to certain things that I wasn’t aware of before. How I didn’t see certain dynamics. And once I’m aware of tension: wow, it’s so obvious. It’s so obvious! And then I see it all the time. That cultural learning means the collective body is gaining fast speed learning. And I think that’s an amazing part of being a human being and increasing the capacity of our humanity. And I think that’s deeply trustworthy. And like this, we become deeply trustworthy in one another. So we feel that we are living in a safer and safer world. Well, we know that somebody will be there when we need it. Somebody is here that will be there when I feel alone. When I feel I don’t know how to do things. I know there’s a relation and I can count them.
So if you want to know more about what we talked about today, about cultural integration, of course you can see my website thomashuebl.com. You can read my book on Healing Collective Trauma, but also check out the website pocketproject.org, our NGO that works on collective trauma, integration and digestion processes in our culture. And right now we are developing a system for cultural integration for the former East and the former West of Europe to create a more resilient Europe, a unified Europe, and more stable democratic processes. So there are lots of ways to check out our mailing list if you want to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed and get the latest news articles and talks around these topics – you’re most welcome.