Response: Stages of Development

In the realm of human knowing, being, and relating in this manifest changing world, there are myriad models of human development for myriad capacities in life.

To use Ken Wilber’s terminology, there are many lines of development we can experience growth through, and any given line of development can have many models and techniques for understanding and support that growth. Examples of lines of development include cognitive, values, morals, needs, just to name a few.

Given this, Awakening in Life makes no attempt to exclusively focus on any one model, and instead great emphasis is placed on practitioners and groups inquiring into moment to moment experience as to what might be most helpful through embodied sensing and response.

In other words, make use of models of development when helpful, appropriate, and necessary, and to answer that, engage in presence, open awareness, radical curiosity, and embodied response.

That caveat being given, Awakening in Life does make use of Robert Kegan’s model of adult cognitive development as it has broad implications that can be useful across many domains of life. Kegan is a developmental psychologist at Harvard University.

One way to describe what Kegan’s model focuses on is the question: “What am I aware of?” This question feels particularly powerful in a path of Awakening in Life and seems to have a significant relationship with other lines of development. The answer to the question “What am I aware of?” impacts what we can sense in experience, how we understand what we sense, our capacity to respond, and our core priorities in life. For a deeper dive, please see this wonderful video overview from an interview with Kegan:

More than development

It also should be mentioned that development is not the only human experience in the realm of response that matters. There are many capacities, qualities, and experiences that are not understood through a stage model progression.

Emotional and relational healing are primary examples. There of course can be a sense of progression in healing, and many psychologists and therapists make use of qualitative assessments to give people a way to reflect and see that positive, meaningful change is happening, but this is more in service of validation and assessing effectiveness of approaches and techniques, and less about mapping healing against stages of progression.

Three results of response

To put it simply, Awakening in Life focuses on three main areas in the realm of response:

  • Impact

  • Healing

  • Transformation

1. Impact:

The point of response is to have a meaningful impact on life: our own lives, our personal relationships, our communities, cultures, society, and the world and planet we share. This impact can take many forms and flavors, but there is a decidedly strong sense of meaning and purpose in the response.

2. Healing:

When harm and suffering has occurred, healing needs to take place. This happens individually, collectively, and in our environments. The response here to is bear witness to the suffering with compassion and love, to undergo a process of healing and wholeness, to understand unconscious patterns of being, thinking, and acting that caused the harm and to change them with wisdom and love, and to cultivate safety for healing and to prevent future suffering where possible.

3. Transformation:

Some needs in life require degrees of change in our understanding, being, relating, meaning-making, and behavior in the world. The response that is needed is transformation. This means more than simply rearranging what we’ve been doing (translation). We must actually evolve to appropriately respond to life.

With all three areas of response, we inquire into what type of response is needed: impact, healing, and/or transformation. Then we inquire further to find even more specific ways to respond. This is why great emphasis is placed on cultivating presence, radical curiosity, and inquiry - we continually need all three in order for an appropriate response to the complex changing nature of life.

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