A Curriculum For Emotional, Psychological, And Spiritual Growth

15 February 2023
A picture of a person wearing sunglasses in front of a graffity wall to show the empowerment of a life well-lived.
By Ben Schoelzel

As the soul and the brain of Samaṇa, Ben focuses on changing his being in the world via a 2-hour daily meditation practice, authentic relating and interpersonal meditation, as well as in an ongoing IFS-practice. He started writing poems in his teenage year and rediscovered his joy for writing with the newsletter and articles for Samaṇa.

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are─or, as we are conditioned to see it.

– Stephen Covey

Right after high school, besides diving into radical constructivism, I also got engrossed by developmental psychology and read most of Jean Piaget's work. Jean Piaget was one of the earliest developmental psychologists looking at the development of children and teenagers.

It was fascinating to read his accounts of children describing their world as they grow up. It's still one of my favorite pastimes to ask one of my nieces or nephews questions about their understanding of the world. One of my recent favorites for my four-year-old nephew: "what do you think your mom / dad / uncle / aunt / grandma / grandpa etc are doing all day?" - give it a try, the outcome might surprise you!
A picture of Robert Kegans developmental framework
Human growth and development is a lifelong process

Developmental psychology and constructive developmental framework

Developmental psychology looks at what makes a human grow as they go through life. In the first half of the 20th century, it was believed that once humans are adults, they stop developing in their personality, understanding of the world, and consciousness.

However, more recently this understanding has shifted to the realization that human growth and development is a lifelong process. One empirically grounded theory of human development is the constructive developmental framework (CDF).
The constructive developmental framework (CDF) framework is based on empirical developmental research showing that an individual's perception of reality is an actively constructed "world of their own", unique to them and which they continue to develop over their lifespan.

Investing in our perception of the world is powerful

One of the central ideas of the Samaṇa Program is that our scientific schooling system is great at teaching children and teenagers cognitive and conceptual skills, but it really sucks at teaching emotional, psychological, and spiritual skills. I'd also make the case that most of our adult lives are removed from practicing such skills, unless one has a deep personal interest or professional need, such as therapists.

In short, the Samaṇa Program covers anything that relates to inner work. Based on our current scientific understanding, the quote by Stephen Covey that "we see the world, not as it is, but as we are─or, as we are conditioned to see it.", holds true.

Thus, investing in our perception of the world and our consciousness by doing inner work is one of the most powerful levers that we have to change our experience of the world.

"Orders of mind"

One of the most widespread current models of human development was developed by Robert Kegan, a Harvard psychologist, therapist and professor. He builds on the work of Jean Piaget and other developmental psychologists to form a theory of adult cognitive development that defines five stages of mental complexity or “orders of mind”.

These developmental stages are not about higher intelligence or IQ, nor are higher orders intrinsically “better”. What they represent are five levels of qualitatively more complex ways of consciousness. The mechanism behind developing from one stage to the next is taking what we were once "subject to" and making it "object".

An overview of Robert Kegan's model

The model is broken down into two broad categories:
  • Cognitive development
  • Social-emotional development
Cognitive development refers to cognitive and conceptual skills. Social-emotional development covers relating to others and our emotional competence.

These two together result in an evolution of one's sense of self. The Samaṇa Program focuses on social-emotional development as most of us are exceptionally well-trained cognitively. We also directly work with one's sense of self (the "waking up" part) and accentuate responsibility:
Great power brings with it great responsibility, and human beings, being the apex predator on this planet, are by far the most powerful animal alive.

Bringing this all together set us on our path to build a comprehensive curriculum of emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth.

I believe that one of the biggest challenges for humanity in a globalized world is to learn to coexist with each other. This task cannot be achieved solely by Socialized Minds (as defined by Kegan and representing around 60% of all adults), as it requires a more advanced consciousness. It is not only the responsibility of leaders, policies, or technology but of everyone to meet this challenge.

If you're keen on engaging deeply with your own human development, fill in the form on our website and register your interest for a cohort!

f you know of anyone who might benefit from the Samana Program or reading our newsletter, please introduce them to us!

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The information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult a professional for guidance about a specific condition.