In this episode I have the joy of connecting with Terri O´Fallon Phd., who amongst other affiliations is connected to Pacific Integral. This institution is “a developer of educational and social change technologies and a global community of leaders and practitioners of transformative change”. One of their main engagements is the research, education and development of causal leadership, which could be described as the ability to become aware of the deeper aspects of ones being and consciousness, and subsequently, being able to source ones thinking and action in the world from these deeper levels. On their website they describe casual leadership as “a new form of visionary leadership, which is seated in a transpersonal intelligence, beyond personal ego, deeply authentic, integrated, open, intimate, and aware”.
(05.40) Based on her article The Senses: Demystifying Awakening, and in relation to the themes mentioned above, O´Fallon starts out by explaining the difference between concrete, subtle and causal objects and how such sense objects relate to awareness, and further, how these distinctions also point to different qualities and experiences of non-duality. (18:08) She then goes on to explain how the capacity to notice different objects (concrete, subtle and causal) develop in a stage-like pattern, where the ability to notice a certain object first happens by accident, before it later becomes a natural capacity running in the background. She explains in detail the four stages involved in this process of “state to stage” development. Further on she uses the image of a “rocking chair” to elucidate how there is a reoccurring movement from being able to first hold a focused attention and later on a more open awareness. This pattern starts when trying to focus on concrete objects and the same pattern reappears when moving on to subtle and casual objects. In other words, there seems to be a trajectory going from sharp focused attention leading into a more open and expansive awareness. The really interesting thing about her lucid exposition is that she uses the framework of psychological development in children to explain how these capacities naturally unfold.
(28:00) We then go over similar territory, but this time using another lens; our ever increasing ability to hold different perspectives. How does our capacity to hold first-, second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-person perspectives unfold, and what is it that comes up at each new stage of development? I found it especially interesting to reflect on the capacity to start seeing ones own assumptions, which comes with the fourth person perspective, and how the fifth person perspective entails a dramatic shift in identity.
(41:20) Another interesting point that emerges is how we can look back at our own biographical history and see how the story we keep telling our selves changes as we mature and acquire a deeper understanding of ourselves and life in general. Another “rocking chair” dimension to our development through the stages is the subject/object process; how the subject at one stage is “owned” by something, for instance an assumption, but at a later stage this subject has become an object for a new subject.
(48:10) Again we enter the domain of developmental psychology as we use our common experiences from working with children in school. For instance, how can we help children develop their attentional skills, and how can we support them in getting to know their own interior space? Another point here is the ability to visualize and feel into another persons perspective. O´Fallon gives some good examples on how to work with children helping them to cultivate the capacity to hold second person perspectives, a prerequisite for empathy. After this she returns to the concept of stages of development, emphasizing what it means to actually stabilize states to such a degree that one can call it a stage.
(1:02:10) We then look at how one can apply an understanding of states and stages to the domain of formal meditation practice, for instance, seeing what type of practice will benefit people at different stages of development. At the very end O´Fallon shares her perspective on how she thinks her work, and the overall work with researching states and stages, will develop in the years to come.
“The idea of a state is like a carrot on a stick, it helps you find your way to awakening. When I say demystifying awakening, what I´m saying is that people love the mystical, but to me, when the mystical becomes ordinary it´s not a mystifying thing. So it´s demystified in the ordinary and then there is just this – just this” – Terri O´Fallon, from the interview