. Recently I was asked during a change agent community gathering to share some thoughts on Buddhism psychology, my immediate thought went to the resonance of developmental stages of consciousness. Although I’m no expert in either of these fields, the studies in those fields have guided me in my both my personal practice and my work as a coach and OD practitioner. So this is my learning notes of how these 2 areas create resonance for me.

Part 1 Individual and organization’s stages of consciousness

Developmental psychologists have identified numerous features of an individual’s consciousness, such as cognition (what one is aware of), values (what one considers most important), and self-identity (what one identifies with).  These features of consciousness develop through recognizable stages, each stage revealing a markedly different understanding of the world.

What we often hear in the world of organizational transformation is from the language of Spiral Dynamics, this is made popular by the ground breaking author Fredric Laloux in his book “Reinventing Organizations”. I was totally inspired by this book when I first read it around 2015, it completely ignited the idealist in me. Because of many organizations experimenting on Teal for decades, it connected my idealism to the ground, and gave me practical hope for a more mature view of organizations.

In Laloux’s book, he used a version of Spiral Dynamics model to describe the different stages of organizations development. Spiral Dynamics is a model and language which describes the development of people, organizations and society. It helps us understand the value systems (what they care about and what motivates them) of different people and organizations, as they move through distinct stages of development.

The following picture summarizes the research by the authors Ken Wilber, Clare Graves, Don Beck, and Chris Cowan; Jane Loevinger and Susanne Cook-Greuter (Compiled by Barrett C. Brown, Integral Institute)

The intention of this model of development is not to say that any stage is better than another. Using such models is more about understanding how we think and act, how we interact with others. Understanding such a model can provide us with a way to look into an organizations collective consciousness.

What I resonate the most with is the stage of Teal (which Laloux referred in his book) and in the development stages referred as Turquoise.

“A capacity to trust the abundance of life”.

At this stage, there is a shift from fear and scarcity to trust and abundance. This decreases our need to control everything.

Here the summary from Developmental Stages studies.


Bottom line: Global order and renewal. Basic theme: Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit

What’s important: Holistic, intuitive thinking and cooperative actions; waves of integrative energies; uniting feeling with knowledge; seeing the self as both distinct and a blended part of a larger, compassionate whole; recognition that everything connects to everything else in ecological alignments; universal order, but in a living, conscious fashion not based on external rules (amber) or group bonds (green); the possibility and actuality of a “grand unification”; the detection of harmonics, mystical forces, and the pervasive flow-states that permeate any organization.

Where seen: David Bohm’s theories; Rupert Sheldrake’s work on morphic fields; Gandhi’s ideas of pluralistic harmony; Mandela’s pluralistic integration; integral-holistic systems thinking.

What we’ll observe in people who are at this stage is a growth mindset. Living a purposeful and meaningful life becomes the driving force. They live authentically and there is less judgement and more appreciation and compassion. 

     Part 2: My resonance of Teal with Buddhism Psychology

    What I particularly resonate in Teal with Buddhism practice, shows in a widely known practice, the Three Nobel Principles. 1. Arouse Bodhichitta. 2. Apply the awareness of non-duality. 3. Dedicate. This practice is encouraged as one of the essential daily practice for Bodhisattvayana and Vajrayana practitioners.  

    Here the quote from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s book “Not for Happiness”

    1. Arouse Bodhichitta. No matter which dharma practice you engage in, from ngoendro to offering a single candle, always do it with the intention that your practice will benefit all sentient beings. In this context, “benefit” does not only mean giving practical help, such as offering food or medicine, or for feeding people’s emotions, egos and delusions. Here “benefit” includes aspiring to be instrumental in the enlightenment of all sentient beings, without such an aspirations, it is easy for dharma practice to become self-serving. It’s vital always to bear in mind that we practices for the sake of all other beings, and that the enormity of the aspiration is what makes dharma practice both extremely powerful and inexhaustible, virtually guaranteeing that the result will be infinitely beneficial.
    2. Apply the awareness of non-duality. While practicing, we must remain constantly aware that everything we do is illusory – or at least try to bring that thought to mind. If we prick our flesh, our logical mind tells us we will feel pain. The pain itself will feel real because the ideal that phenomena are both solid and truly existing has an almost unbreakably strong hold on us. We must therefore try to get used to the notion that everything we see, do and think is an interpretation created by our mind, which itself is an important stepping-stone towards the practice of non-duality. And “getting used” to it means reminding ourselves about it over and over again.

     Remembering everything you experience is created by mind is also the direct antidote to pride and ego, and once it becomes second nature, you will no longer cling to your dharma activities.

    1. Dedicate. Always conclude your practice by not only dedicating any merit you may have attained towards your own well-being, but also for the benefit and enlightenment of all sentient beings.

    As a coach working in organizational and personal transformations, I find these 3 principles extremely helpful. From my own experience, when I have the intention of the whole system while work on any intervention, or even sending merely an email, that intention gives my actions, no matter big or small, a sense of purpose. This also makes everything I do feel meaningful and purposeful.

    The 2nd principle is then a direct antidote of any attachment that I might have when I hold the intention of the whole system. If I’m not careful, my clever ego will creep in and there is indeed the danger that whatever I do might in one way or another serve my own ego, in a hidden way. By applying the understanding of non-duality, I naturally will have less attachment of what I do. I will give the clever ego less space to interpret what I do. And from numerous small experiments I did, I noticed that the more I apply the awareness of non-duality the more flow I will experience in the work I do.

    Then the 3rd principle is about dedication. I feel this again ties into the 1st principle of having the intention. This will seal the circle of any activity.

    These 3 principles for me resonates very well with the Teal stage of consciousness. Having the driving force of intention and purpose, creating benefit of the whole system. And by applying the awareness of non-duality, it generates a mindset in me that is beyond abundance, because when we understand that everything is our own perception, then there is no concept of abundance or not, it is in another dimension of awareness.

    Those are my thoughts on the resonance of Teal with Buddhism Psychology, or rather a way of practice. Wondering if these thought make any sense to people. And certainly it will be a thought provoking exploration.


    Developmental Stages of Consciousness based upon research by:

    • Ken Wilber in Integral theory and Integral psychology
    • Clare Graves, Don Beck, and Chris Cowan in the development of values
    • Jane Loevinger and Susanne Cook-Greuter in the development of self-identity

    Other references

    Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Laloux.

    Spiral Dynamics was developed by Don E. Beck and Cristopher Cowan, based on the pioneering work of developmental psychologist Clare W. Graves.
    Books on Buddhism by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche “What makes you NOT a Buddhist” “Not for Happiness”


    Here another take by Dave Schrader. His work in the Leadership Circle Profile certainly triggered insights for me.

    This is a summary of one of Dave Schrader’s interview regarding creative leadership. 

    In the past, scientists thought that by the time he hit 20-25 years, our brains and personalities were matured and fixed. Now we know that`s not the case and that there`s several stages of adult development we can pass through. This is based on the developmental stages research.

    • Egocentric: The “ego ” is the center of the world. 
    • Socialized self: Instead of believing the world centers around us, in this stage we put ourselves in the natural boundaries of society to better fit in and be effective. This is the reactive self. 
    • Self-authoring stage: I write my own story by declaring my values, goals, and interests, and then living by them unapologetically. This is where the creative self starts to blossom. 
    • Self-transforming self. I’m always learning and transforming. At this stage we integrate all aspects together, welcoming various perspectives.  We move from “me” to “we”.  
    • Unitive self: The sense of “self” disappears. It is not a stage perhaps rather a state. 

    Dialogue with Dave Schrader.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq4fGsMiH6E