Science as a Spiritual Practice

Science as a Spiritual Practice

Terri O’Fallon

I am the a seed of consciousness that sprouts and blossoms as a universal pool of life giving essence which holds all things. Life is perfect in its universal boundlessness, which is grace itself—is a gift of One enduring sacred pulse that permeates all insides and outsides, with ever present love. Perfection has formed us into the imperfect—our mistakes, our virtues our agony, our doubts all nested within and healed through omnipresent, timeless splendor. (unknown)

Beautiful words are inspiring and can catapult us, at times into states of momentary understanding before they slip into the ether. We grasp for a splinter of understanding to remain within us—the longing for that piercing knowledge that makes us, for just an instant, someone greater than the self we inhabit. The question this often brings us to, is “Who are we anyway?”.

Well, it depends on the eyes we are looking from and the eyes we are looking through. That question is the essential research question. Who am I?

If you are a qualitative scientist, you might gather pebbledashes of inspiration from particular groups of people and find the inspirational essences of the collection that might point to spiritual insights. The qualitative research approach is merely a research structure. You can pour any topic through it and what comes out on the other side are local generalizations formed by responses from a particular group of research subjects. This research tool can be very helpful in capturing melodies of understanding sacred texts and utterances by looking for essences and themes in people’s expressions of their soulful experiences.

Hundreds of sweethearts! I am the lover and the one lovers long for. Blue and a cure for blues. Sky in a small cage, badly hurt but flying. Everybody’s scandalous flaw is mine. (Rumi).

However, you might also take a quantitative approach to these kinds of expressions. Simplistically, researchers can, using hundreds of these spiritual expressions graded by numerous raters, number of them from 1 onward in the order of complexity (or feeling or belief, or…). Then they can average the ratings and develop a universal scale for ordering whatever they are measuring. Later, you can use the universal scale to rate any other inspirational comment that comes up and see where it falls on the numerical scale that has been created. When people express themselves in these beautiful ways, can we determine whether spiritual expressions and insights grow up and mature through time? Statistics can support the development of such scales for those who have a curiosity about this.

There are times in our lives when one kind of research, either qualitative or quantitative, is our favorite. Our human tendency is to think that what we believe now is better than any other belief (especially the ones we can’t yet see). However, our beliefs create certain kind of research structures. Sometimes we have horizontal beliefs and tend to push away hierarchical beliefs. If we believe , horizontally, that it is better to believe that everything is equal, and push away hierarchy, that in and of itself is hierarchical (for isn’t anything “better” a hierarchical notion?). If your tendency leans towards hierarchical beliefs you may tend to select statistical and numerically measured sciences and think also that they are “better”.

However, we can use both the qualitative and quantitative processes in a unification approach, rocking back and forth between them in a way that allows a gradual evolution of spiritual meaning making as it emerges in our collective human multitude. We save beautiful expressions unlike the ones we have ever seen or experienced, even ones we don’t understand, and gather others like them. We check to see if they fit on the quantitative trajectory and if they don’t we simply save them until we can see if they are new expressions that are emerging in our collective understanding. We create qualitative themes, and eventually may take the period off from the present quantitative scale and add another, later spiritual insight into our human understanding of awakening. Over a period of years the scale may eventually be experienced more like a timeless, boundless sky that can hold everything.

When we drop our “better” notions and integrate these two research structures, my experience is that a kind of alchemy can occur for the researcher. Recognizing that qualitative and quantitative methods are complimentary tools for searching for the fundamental questions such as, “Who am I”, the research process begins to take on a mirror-like flow. Look through the hierarchical methods and we see the horizontal universal essences of everything. Looking through the horizontal methods we see a multiplicity of unique expressions that defy replication, yet continually grow and change through time. Each approach mirrors and expands the other until the research structures we used to ask the question “Who am I? unifies, transforms into the timeless, boundless and is itself an answer.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
(Leonard Cohen)

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The STAGES Matrix as a Tool for Psychotherapy & Coaching

The STAGES Matrix as a Tool for Psychotherapy & Coaching

How can the STAGES Model help professionals who give guidance, including mentors, team leaders, facilitators, counselors, spiritual advisors, somatic and alternative healers, and others?
What are the benefits of the STAGES Model and how can it be put into practice to help professionals improve their practice, efficiency, and  impact?

An excerpt from our Essentials for Psychotherapy & Coaching: Precision in Developmental Assessment & Intervention question and answer session with STAGES founder Terri O’Fallon and co-founder Kim Barta. Terri introduces the basics of the STAGES Matrix and Kim elaborates on its usefulness and application in his work as a psychotherapist.


Terri O’Fallon Introduces the Three Questions

The STAGES Matrix looks like a complex model, but it has only three questions. You can really get to the developmental level of any person by getting very good at asking these three questions.

Question 1: Is the object of awareness Concrete, Subtle or MetAware?

Question 2: Is the experience Individual or Collective?

Question 3: Is the experience Receptive, Active, Reciprocal, or Interpenetrative?

As the three questions intersect with each other in various combination a set of repeating patterns reveal themselves from the first tier octave to the second tier octave to the third tier octave. When answered, they point to one’s developmental level in the moment.

These questions are used to unveil each of 12 stages of human development within these three tiers. This allows us to work with the richest possible experience: intellectually, interactively, phenomenologically, and experientially.

TERRI:  We have 12 person perspectives that we are working with here. The intersection of the three questions and the different person perspectives have different kinds of processes, which allow us to zero in very carefully on any particular part of a person, which will allow us to become very effective and very efficient at noting the part of a person that might need some support or help if you’re doing psychotherapy or coaching.  

You can see that there are 36 kinds of views that you can take on somebody that you’re working depending upon which question you’re working with or which person perspective you’re working with or which tier you’re working with.

Kim Barta on Using the STAGES Matrix in his Practice

KIM:   I’ve been doing psychotherapy and coaching for nearly 30 years now and I’ve used various developmental models. When Terri showed me this model, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. The whole world opened up to me and I fell in love with it immediately. I have found, over the course of using this model, that I’m much more effective and efficient with my clients.

As I drill into this model further, I see a precision that can be used that I have not discovered in any other model. That’s why I love this model so much, not only for helping clients, but for my own personal growth. It’s just so beautiful and precise and clear. One of the things you can do with this is not only drill into each developmental level, which you can do with pretty much any developmental model, but you can drill into the specifics of a developmental level based upon the parameters. Each developmental level has these three parameters and they have three different characteristics to them at every developmental level.

By understanding these different parameters, you can really get the shape of consciousness of any human being that’s sitting in front of you, including yourself. 

It really helps us to be able to become more intimate with our friends, our lover, our neighbor. We can really understand where they’re coming from. It helps to resolve issues more clearly and quickly.

It’s kind of like the DNA of consciousness. You can watch the parameters clicking on and off, shaping consciousness in different ways as you get to understand these parameters and how they interact with each other. It really helps us to be able to become more intimate with our friends, our lover, our neighbor. We can really understand where they’re coming from. It helps to resolve issues more clearly and quickly. People that we might be frustrated with or upset with, we can understand them in a much more beautiful way, so it helps us resolve that for ourselves.  

KIM:  I love the precision that I can use, as a psychotherapist and a coach, to drill into the specific underlying parameter that’s creating the issue for the client.

What I mean by that is, a lot of times we can get lost in the story the client is telling us, but instead of getting lost in the story, we can hold the story and understand the underlying field, the underlying matrix, the underlying parameters that are making this story the client tells us so important, so frustrating, or so alive for them.

By understanding that, you can understand what small, precise, little interventions you can do to tweak it that will help them heal, grow even more broadly into their wonder, and move to later developmental levels or move to more breadth or drop into shadow and heal, minute little changes you can do that will help the shadows heal. It’s just a glorious experience to be able to use a model that works so precisely and cleanly and crisply as this one does. 

One of the things that I really love is not only the shadow and the breadth, but the existential, the leading edge issues, the transformational issues. A lot of times, these transformations can be really tough for people, but one of the things I have discovered is by utilizing the STAGES model, you can make the transition more smooth and much more easy. 

I love watching the awe, wonder, and delight that comes when the conscious mind moves into a whole new space, a whole new pattern of consciousness, a whole new level that just opens up the world field to them in a much more broad way and how it just feels so fulfilling and rich for them.

It’s just a glorious experience to be able to use a model that works so precisely and cleanly and crisply as this one does.  

To be able to allow those transitions to operate smoothly, it’s beautiful to watch. It’s one of my favorite things, as well as the wonder that occurs when somebody heals a shadow, something that they may have been struggling with for 20-30 years. All of a sudden, it doesn’t take that much of an intervention and the shadow drops away and the pain and suffering drops away.  

That’s what I love about the model, the ability to come in and hone in like the precision of a scalpel, rather than using a shotgun approach. Here, this is a whole developmental level that we’re going to address. We can just drop in and move really precisely with this model and I love that.”





SPECTRA: A 9-Month Journey of Transformation


We are thrilled to be collaborating with Lower Lights School of Wisdom for an upcoming four part retreat in beautiful Scholls, Oregon that starts in May 2019. SPECTRA: A 9-Month Journey of Transformation is an experiential training program that deeply engages consciousness, personal and collective evolution, and service to the world. The curriculum draws from ancient Wisdom traditions, cutting edge psychological science and transformational group processes. Learn More




Whether you are a committed meditator, social justice activist, soul reaching beyond the borders of traditional religions, an audacious entrepreneur, or simply a profoundly curious being, we are committed to help you dive deeper, reach broader and ascend higher in this journey of becoming. We are here to challenge you, guide you, and lend a helping hand in a community of peers. We are committed to supporting you to more fully realize the endless possibilities of a precious human birth. Learn More

  • Do you feel called to live life from a deeper, more authentic place?
  • Would you like to be a part of a community that both challenges and supports you, all in service of your evolutionary growth
  • Do you seek a path that honors the gifts of your tradition (or non-tradition) while being open to all truth?
  • Are you eager to engage trusted guides, mentors and elders who have walked the path of waking up and growing up?

SPECTRA Program Faculty

STAGES International partner, researcher, teacher, coach, and spiritual director Terri O’Fallon PhD.
Kim Barta who specializes in sacred secular experiential training, advanced consciousness coaching and facilitating the natural unfolding of human development.
Founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom, Thomas McConkie who has studied broadly across the traditions: from Hindu mantra meditation, Zen and Vipassana in the Buddhist Wisdom stream, to the school of Integral, Developmental Psychology, and his native tradition, Mormonism.
John Kessler is a social activist who leads the Salt Lake/Global Civil Network which does integrally informed social and political transformation work locally and networks globally.

Do you seek to deepen your capacity for meditative awareness and presence in the world?

SPECTRA Program Structure

• 9 months in duration (starting May 2019)
• Four onsite retreats at Scholls Lodge in beautiful Scholls, Oregon (near Portland)
• An intimate cohort limited to 20 participants
• Ongoing online support, group gatherings, individual mentoring, and cohort learning
• Intersession lessons, readings, online tutorials, guided spiritual contemplations, and deepening techniques.

Are you ready to expand your container of consciousness?

Application deadline: January 15th, 2019

Visit Lower Lights School of Wisdom for more information –


Collective Issues Have Developmental Levels

Collective Issues Have Developmental Levels

All collectives, including families, corporations, and businesses of all kinds have issues that need to be faced. Usually the way we work with this is to take a shotgun approach—that is, we try the intervention that seems most likely to work given our experience and understanding of the concern. However, there is a much more effective and efficient way to approach any troubling process that we encounter in our collectives.

All collectives have a center of gravity world view. This means that collectives have a structure that is built on a particular belief system, and this is concretized in the mission statement, the policies and procedures and norms of the organization, and the kind of systems that they use to organize their work together.

For example, a common belief system is what we call a 3.5 /Modern/Achiever perspective. The predominant basis of this kind of collective is looking to the future, with a creative imagination of what that future can hold for the collective. Goals and outcomes are set by a CEO with input from others, and a plan is put into place with timelines and data points and benchmarks along the way to achieve the goals of the organization. The organization has a hierarchical structure with the CEO at the top and a series of managers (of managers of managers, etc.) who supervise the part of the organization they are responsible for and who organize their areas to support the goal orientation and the outcomes of the organization as a whole.

Another belief system is the 4.0 Post-modern/Pluralist belief system. An organization that is formed around this belief will be relatively flat, because the 4.0 belief system doesn’t include much hierarchy—everyone has a voice. Leaders may set a direction for the organization without a lot of specificity and steer the organization in the moment based on what comes up, being very responsive to the complex adaptation that may be needed.

Regardless of the belief system that an organization is based upon, any and all collectives run into struggles of some type. These struggles (issues) are also organized around a belief system. It is very helpful to know the belief system that these issues are organized around. There are three kinds of issues.

An existential, or leading-edge issue. The organization or collective may be growing into a later level belief system. For example, a 3.5 Modern collective may begin pressing into the working with more complex adaptive systems (a 4.0 Post-Modern, Pluralist complex adaptive systems belief) while it is organized structurally around a 3.5 Modernist system. This can cause quite a bit of confusion! If you handle this from a breadth issue of 3.5, you will not solve the problem. The solution lies in moving the 3.5 culture to a 4.0 culture.
There may be issues around robustness and breadth—that is, everyone is working well together at a 3.5 Modernist level, but some of, or the whole of the organization is missing some critical skills that will keep it intact. This often has to do with technological advances, and we see businesses lose their cutting edge because they aren’t on the cutting edge of the next level of technological skills. Their organizational belief structure may be the same, but they may have an issue of not being able to reformat their business related to these new discoveries. For example, the business of processing films into pictures (slides, negatives, etc.) has all but gone by the wayside because of the technologies of cameras on cell phones and immediate access to photos online. Failing to build skills around the new technology can cause problems in the business as a whole. Not all breadth issues are large. There are many smaller issues that fit in this category that may not be noticed. Even though failing to notice them won’t put you out of business, the effect of these kinds of issues are real and have an effect. These effects will materialize even if you remain faithful to your 3.5 mission, values, and structural beliefs organizationally. The solution does not require a new structure at 4.0 to adapt, but it does require you to utilize your 3.5 structure in a new, expanded way.
The third area is related to the darker issues in a collective. Regardless of whether the structure you have is at the 3.5 Modern level or the 4.0 Post-modern level, these issues relate to the underlying hidden beliefs that cause harm in part of or all of the collective. For example, there may be a very negative story about the organization that the employees believe and impart into any new employee that comes into the organization. “We have a bad reputation here.” “The powers that be don’t care about us.” “This is not a good place to work.” If these rumors are true it is imperative that they are cleared up if an effective, efficient organization is to flourish. This is a positive thing. However, it is not uncommon for these kinds of beliefs about the collective to remain even if everything has been improved. Perhaps changes have been made, but the past, negative, belief systems and stories within the organization haven’t changed. This kind of issue is a ‘shadow’ issue and usually falls into the category of negative gossip which can be handed from participant to participant. The negative gossip issue often comes from an earlier developmental level (2.5 Traditional belief system). This requires us to go back into the history of our collective culture and address it overtly and create a new story of healing and robustness.
When an issue arises in your collective/business/organization, it can be very helpful to look to see what kind of issue has arisen. Each level of issue demands an entirely different intervention. If you apply the wrong type of intervention to the issue (i.e. a leading-edge issue when the issue is a breadth or robust issue) the intervention can actually make the problem worse and create a new unnecessary issue that you will have to contend with in addition to the original one you are trying to solve.

Listen to Terri and Kim as they talk with Maureen Metcalf about the developmental levels of collectives.

How Developmental Maturity Aligns with Organizational Maturity

September 25, 2018

Hosted by Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica Radio’s Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations

New Year, New Name, New Programs!

We’re excited to announce some big changes for 2018!

First, as you’ll notice, we have changed our name from Developmental Life Design to STAGES International. We’re expanding our services and this new name better reflects our service offerings. It also better reflects the central role that the STAGES Model plays in all of these services.

As many of you know, Terri co-founded Pacific Integral with Geoff Fitch in 2004. She is on the faculty and the STAGES scoring series has been housed under Pacific Integral.  Effective January 1, all of Pacific Integral’s STAGES related programs, including trainings, scoring and debriefing have been transferred to STAGES international so that all STAGES offerings can be integrated under one roof. Pacific Integral will continue to offer its highly regarded Generating Transformative Change (GTC) program and Terri will continue as faculty in that program, but she will otherwise phase out of her partner role in Pacific Integral to concentrate on STAGES International’s programs.

Terri and Geoff continue to be friends and joyfully collaborate and participate in each other’s work. They are building on their past experience and rich history together and setting the stage for a more effective and efficient structure for the future growth of both the STAGES programs and the GTC offering. Both STAGES and the GTC program have developed a rich body of work and each has some unique needs for their future evolution. Each body of work will have a clear home that is optimized to supports its development:

Pacific Integral: (led by Geoff Fitch)

  • Transformative change and growth – GTC
  • Causal leadership
  • Organizational growth
  • Individual development and mentoring
  • GTC Graduate community

STAGES International: (led by Terri and Kim)

  • STAGES Assessments
  • STAGES training (in-person workshops and online courses):
    • STAGES Theory
    • Professional development
      • Certification for therapists and coaches
    • Personal development
    • Scoring and debriefing training for STAGES Assessments

Save $50-100 on a STAGES Assessment in January

Many of you have heard about STAGES Assessment, a process that identifies your core stage of perspective development within the STAGES model. For the month of January, we are reducing the price of an assessment and debrief by $100, and an assessment only by $50. If you’ve been curious about how the STAGES model applies to YOU, this is a good opportunity to find out through a process that’s backed by seven years of rigorous research. Please visit the STAGES Assessment page for more information.

We also want to let you know that the website of the Developmental Research Institute, a non-profit institute led by Terri and John Kesler, will be going live early in the new year. DRI holds and supports continued research on the STAGES model. Watch for this in a new announcement.

We are excited about these changes and their potential to enhance STAGES research, training and practical applications. We invite you to visit our updated website and share it with friends and colleagues.

All the best for 2018!


Terri O’Fallon PhD and Kim Barta MA