Our last blog introduced four meta-principles to design learning. In this post, I will explore four domains of human development. The meta-principles in our last blog serve as a background for these four domains: Waking Up, Growing Up, Cleaning Up, and Showing Up.

First-Person, Intersubjective View

Before we begin, a note about development. We maintain that development today – given the pace of change and levels of complexity – demands deep learning, the kind that impacts “myself” as a learner in a first-person way. This “first-person” experience is both immediate and closest to me, as-lived.

Briefly, third-person learning focuses on “them” and “it” out there (research and topics) to understand an objective view of content. Second-person learning focuses on “you” and “this” to process my experiences from a subjective view. First-person learning focuses on “I” to witness “my” learning first-hand, inseparably, as both content and process from an intersubjective view.

This intersubjective view focuses on who we are, as-lived, interacting with other intersubjective minds. The world reveals discoveries – intimate and immediate – that disclose parts of me to myself. This learning – reductively referred to as transformative – involves much translation and integration to distinguish and organize the “being” that we are by unpacking previous learning that has defined who we are. 

Four Domains

These four domains of development support an aspect of learning as it occurs in each domain. Waking Up supports increasing awareness by practicing mindful contemplation; Growing Up expands agency by increasing responsibility; Cleaning Up integrates the many dimensions of our “self” by investigating shadow work; and, Showing Up enhances performance by engaging action.

Created by Integral theorist, Ken Wilber, I offer this framework as a context through which to process learning not as content to understand. When embraced and internalized, each domain offers a way to explore and engage learning from a part of an integral whole. Often an opening in one domain provokes action in another. If we constitute our lives from these four domains of development, we will find unexpected growth.

WAKING UP = this area increases awareness, which involves observing and questioning assumptions, frames of reference and worldviews. The learning within this domain involves mindful contemplation to tune in and “experience” the moment and to deepen emotional, mental, physical and social awareness. Practice over time will expand capacity to include a new view and a direct view of reality. At each domain of learning we will wake up; in a sense, we never stop waking up, and so Waking Up also requires observing items newly even if they look familiar.

GROWING UP = This domain ultimately means taking ownership and agency of our lives. With Waking Up, we become more aware, realizing what we need to upgrade. Growing Up begins to examine and upgrade our reflexive, defense mechanisms, and coping strategies. We examine the need for instant gratification and our desire for clinging and grasping to satisfy our compulsive habits. In this area, we form disciplines to manage time, finances, and energy to gain a clear and grounded view of reality. This also includes any studies to form our professional identity. Growing up will also lead us back to Waking Up as any growth is not linear and continues to expand awareness.

CLEANING UP = In this domain, we become a warrior for freeing ourselves from concealed constraints, and fixed patterns. Cleaning Up involves the courage to own our WHOLE self: to integrate our individual past, our history (heritage/culture/nationality), and to examine our shadow self. The Jungian shadow is composed of the dark and unknown aspects of personality. It can be both positive or negative; most focus on those negative, repressed, or primal aspects. (See video by Jack Kornfield.)

With realization and practice, our shadow can become the fuel for our commitments. But first, we confront our own ego – self-destructive habits, incomplete items, and areas of unworkability in our lives. Experiencing insights in this area can lead back into Growing Up to upgrade our disciplines, practices, and structures.

Carl Jung saw the “first important work of a person’s life as the development of the ego – establishing how one is in the world.” Unless we are willing to spend time here, little growth is possible. What constrains us lies in our shadow. Jung was clear that until we examine and develop our ego, we cannot engage in spiritual development. Rushing past the ego reifies our spirituality as another “identity.” This is harmful to our growth, as the ego’s desires will dominate if we are not aware of our shadow.

Likewise, a leader’s shadow will dominate organizational life. Whatever a leader conceals consciously or is concealed unconsciously will reveal itself when confronted by perceived threats, by unpredictable change, or by uncertainty.

SHOWING UP = As Woody Allen said, showing up is 80 percent of life. This is where leadership is observed by others. The previous three domains focus on expanding awareness and letting go. Showing Up engages commitment in action. While each domain involves some action – personally, interpersonally, and collectively – here we engage on the court of our lives. If we are in our heads, assessing, worrying and not on the court acting now, we are likely stuck. And when stuck we need to become aware of how to question, examine and engage situations and others. And, we need to know where to go and who to consult to avoid becoming a perpetual bottleneck for multiple systems or platforms.

Check out our Learning Center for resources to support each domain of learning, including Showing Up.

A Future Focus

Most adult development starts and stops with Showing Up as increasing performance. There is a pull in business and education to ask how can we perform better and be more productive? This past-based question seeks an answer based on past performance. Today’s volatility demands future-based questions.

What are we missing in our culture, or individually, that constrains performance? What will increase our performance in the years to come? Why doesn’t our culture include more leaders? These questions get us beyond our current or past frames of thinking.

Performance involves more than doing or producing more; it begins with being more: increasing awareness to engage, examine, express and execute new ideas. None of that happens without the willingness to surface tensions, address disagreements directly, and encourage greater participation. Showing Up draws from the previous three domains to venture beyond physical action or performance to include emotional, mental and volitional awareness, action, and commitment.

An Integral Focus

Most development programs focus on skills that improve Showing Up without understanding the impact of Waking Up, Growing Up and Cleaning Up. Without exploring these other domains, Showing Up will at best improve on the current understanding, which was developed using past assumptions. It cannot create new openings.

Some organizations have ventured into Growing Up by identifying new skills or competencies, this improvement on what currently exists will be hollow without a focus on Waking Up and Cleaning Up to venture into different perceptions and possibilities.

We’ve all learned who we are as learners and as leaders from past assumptions that have defined our limitations. These four domains work together to integrate and embody both growth (adding competencies) and development (expanding capacity) to “upgrade” our learning profile.


Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiryIntegral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.