Best-practices in the mindset architecture arena


In 1982, Robert Kegan published The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. The Evolving Self launched a revolution in the way we think about adult development. Before Kegan, academicians and clinicians investigated adult development from a point of view that emphasized the age-related issues, problems, and patterns that evolved predictably over the course of an adult's lifetime. Dr. Kegan sculpted a new approach to adult development out of a truism embedded in Aldous Huxley's famous quote; "Experience isn't what happens to you. Experience is what you do with what happens to you." In The Evolving Self, Kegan took this idea and focused our attention on adult development as a meaning-making process. In his next book, In Over Our Head: The Mental Demands Of Modern Life, kegan took another giant step for the field of adult development, and proposed that adult development is an evolutionary process that, throughout our lives, is capable of moving gradually toward more complex and sophisticated orders of consciousness. In each of the four orders of adult consciousness (Self-Sovereign, Socialized, Self-Authoring, and Self-Transforming) that he identifies, Kegan described three different lines of development. The first was the cognitive line, which is concerned with how we process things. The second line of development represents an interpersonal line of development. And the third line is an intrapersonal one, which is concerned with the ways in which we deal with our self.

TLO's Orders of Consciousness Resource Center will profile the kinds of interventions that are available in this arena, especially those that are particularly effective in supporting the expansion of an individual’s existing order of consciousness, or in facilitating their movement from one order of consciousness to the next. In particular, we will highlight interventions that support and facilitate movement from the 3rd Order of Consciousness to the 4th and 5th Orders of Consciousness

Orders of Consciousness Assessments

If you’re new to the Robert Kegan’s ideas, especially his orders of consciousness concepts, simply realizing that though you might not have ever known you have your own Order of Consciousness is a major accomplishment. However, once you realize that you have an order of consciousness, figuring out what this means and what to do about it raises some tough questions. For anyone, plumbing the depths of our own unconscious mind is extraordinarily difficult. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do without some assistance. As luck would have it, there are a few people who've begun to figure out what we can do to see around the corners of our minds in order to get some understanding of the inner dynamics of brain/mind. If you’re interested in learning more about how they're starting to do this, read some of the assessment papers found below.


1. The Subject/Object Interview (Kegan & Lahey) 
The Subject/Object Interview (SOI) is an tool designed specifically to generate data about how a person is making meaning according to Robert Kegan’s developmental orders of consciousness theory as described in his books, The Evolving Self (Harvard University Press, 1983) and In Over Our Heads (Harvard University Press, 1994). This interview tool is designed to be used by those whose primary interest is adult learning and development. In particular, it’s designed to offer insights into the “level of consciousness most characteristic on a given individual.

Learn More…


2. Vertical Development (VeDA’s) Maturity Profile (Cook-Greuter)
The VeDA’s Maturity Profile (MAP) is designed to show you how far you have matured through the stages of human development. Based on rigorous research, the MAP provides a nuanced developmental profile, that offers both quantitative and qualitative insights. The MAP Experience is conducted online via a secure MAP platform. After completing the instrument, you receive a MAP report, and a certified Leadership Maturity Coach (LMC) will meet with you to debrief your MAP results.

Learn More…


Mindfulness today is one of the better known Self-Directed Neuroplasticity technique in use today. There are hundreds of mindfulness exercises available; simply searching the term on Google will reward you with more alternatives than you’ll ever care to try. Here are three that are a good sample, and offer a good start.

1. The Body Scan

Another popular exercise for practitioners of mindfulness is called the Body Scan. It requires very little in the way of props or tools, and it is also easily accessible for most beginners. Try this 30 minute guided narrative by expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat Zinn:

  • Step 1: the Body Scan begins with the participants lying on their backs with their palms facing up and their feet falling slightly apart. This exercise can also be done sitting on a comfortable chair with feet resting on the floor;

  • Step 2: the facilitator then asks the participants to lie very still for the duration of the exercise, and move with awareness if it becomes necessary to adjust their position;

  • Step 3: next, the facilitator begins guiding the Body Scan. Participants begin by bringing awareness to the breath, noticing the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and expelling out. The facilitator explains that nobody should try to change the way they are breathing but rather just hold gentle awareness on the breath;

  • Step 4: next, the facilitator guides attention to the body: how it feels, the texture of clothing against the skin, the contours of the surface on which the body is resting, the temperature of the body and the environment;

  • Step 5: the facilitator guides awareness to the parts of the body that are tingling, sore, or feeling particularly heavy or light, s/he asks the participants to note any areas of their body where they don’t feel any sensations at all or are hypersensitive.

A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels. The scan usually moves systematically through the body, e.g. starting at the feet and moving upwards as follows:                  

  • Toes of both feet;

  • The rest of the feet (top, bottom, ankle);

  • Lower legs;

  • Knees;

  • Thighs;

  • Pelvic region (buttocks, tailbone, pelvic bone, genitals);

  • Abdomen;

  • Chest;

  • Lower back;

  • Upper back (back ribs & shoulder blades);

  • Hands (fingers, palms, backs, wrists);

  • Arms (lower, elbows, upper);

  • Neck;

  • Face and head (jaw, mouth, nose, cheeks, ears, eyes, forehead, scalp, back&top of the head); 

  • The “blowhole” (Fleming & Kocovski, 2007).

After the Body Scan is complete and the participants feel ready to come back to the room, they can slowly open their eyes and move naturally to a comfortable sitting position. Once you have a firm understanding of the Body Scan, check out this mindful body scan script, which will help you facilitate this exercise for for your self the next time you try this exercise.  

2. Mindful Seeing

For some, the absence of visual stimuli can feel stifling. After all, a healthy imagination does not come naturally to everyone. The activity of Mindful Seeing may be helpful to anyone who identifies with this.

It is a simple exercise, requiring only a window with some kind of a view. The facilitator guides the group following these steps:

  • Step 1: find a space at a window where there are sights to be seen outside;

  • Step 2: look at everything there is to see. Avoid labeling and categorizing what you see outside the window; instead of thinking “bird” or “stop sign,” try to notice the colors, the patterns, or the textures;

  • Step 3: pay attention to the movement of the grass or leaves in the breeze. Notice the many different shapes present in this small segment of the world you can see. Try to see the world outside the window from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with these sights;

  • Step 4: be observant, but not critical. Be aware, but not fixated;

  • Step 5: if you become distracted, gently pull your mind away from those thoughts and notice a color or shape again to put you back in the right frame of mind.

There’s an extensive group treatment plan by Fleming and Kocovski’s (2007) that offers a glimpse into how to use mindfulness in any kind of group session and provides detailed worksheets, exercises, and handouts which can provide inspiration and guidance for your group facilitation.

3. Mindful Listening

Mindful listening is an important skill and can be a great group mindfulness exercise. In general, people thrive when they feel fully “heard” and “seen,” and mindful listening offers a break from focusing on the self or our own response. Instead, this form of listening can create an inner stillness where both parties feel free of preconceptions or judgments, and the listener is not distracted by inner chatter whilst learning valuable positive communication skills.

The Mindful Listening exercise involves these steps:

  • Step 1: invite participants to think of one thing they are stressed about and one thing they look forward to;

  • Step 2: once everyone is finished, each participant takes their turn in sharing their story with the group;

  • Step 3: encourage each participant to direct attention to how it feels to speak, how it feels to talk about something stressful as well as how it feels to share something positive;

  • Step 4: participants are instructed to observe their own thoughts, feelings, and body sensations both when talking and when listening;

  • Step 5: after each participant has shared, you can break into small groups and answer the questions below. Next, regroup and have a discussion and debrief with the following questions.

Those questions are:

  1. How did you feel when speaking during the exercise?

  2. How did you feel when listening during the exercise?

  3. Did you notice any mind-wandering?

  4. If so, what was the distraction?

  5. What helped you to bring your attention back to the present?

  6. Did your mind judge while listening to others?

  7. If so, how did “judging” feel in the body?

  8. Were there times where you felt empathy?

  9. If so, how did this feel in the body?

  10. How did your body feel right before speaking?

  11. How did your body feel right after speaking?

  12. What are you feeling right now?

  13. What would happen if you practiced mindful listening with each person that you spoke with?

  14. Do you think mindful listening would change the way you interact and relate with others?

  15. How would it feel if you set the intention to pay attention with curiosity, kindness, and acceptance to everything you said and everything you listened to?