We live in a world in which egocentric views,short-sighted decisions, disrespect for our natural environment, wars over ideologies, etc (the list goes on a couple of paragraphs) are still prevalent and recurrent themes even now at the dawn of the 21st century.
Idealists like myself like to believe in an emerging culture of creative thinkers & leaders that will slowly guide us to break free from the old beliefs & power structures until we reach a tipping point after which global change starts accelerating very fast on its own accord.
Some people choose to refer to this as the global paradigm shift in the way we see the world, some others refer to it as the evolution of human consciousness. Others talk about the transcendence of individual & collective consciousness from the grips of the ego.
The latter is a nice metaphor which I opt to use for its ability to fit in diverse fields of human knowledge such as Spirituality, Jungian Psychology, Metaphysics, Consciousness studies, Systems thinking and others.
I see the world as still being dominated by ego-consciousness simply because the majority of individuals on this planet are still held by the grips of their ego. The rite of passage from ego-based consciousness to a more transendent eco-consciousness is an individual one as much as it is a collective one. Spiritual teachers like Andrew Cohen in fact believe that this shift in human consciousness operates collectively and synergistically within a group or network of like minded individuals with the same intentions & obectives.
This notion struck me as very plausible. In fact I very much believe that just like our language, thought,behaviour & belief systems do not operate in isolation but are influenced and partially determined by our social environment, so is our spiritual development. We have to start seeing things from an ecological point of view and not a mechanistic one because life & consciousness, like all other things, are networked and highly interconnected. It is no coincidence that many disciplines are now giving a lot of importance to understanding phenomena in terms of network dynamics and complex systems.
The shift from ego-based consciousness to an eco-based consciousness is also a naturally painful one. Parallels can be drawn. In our lifetime, growing up, accepting changes,taking responsibility, breaking away from the mold and leaving our comfy cocoon is never a smooth transition. But it’s part of life if we are to mature and wisen up.
I would like to suggest a few points to contemplate and meditate upon in order to open up one’s mind to the possibilty of eco-consciousness. One of my intentions is to integrate these perspectives in my general world view and habits. Here they go:
1.Don’t take it personally: It’s not about you.
We are emotional and subjective creatures by nature. The concoction of high emotional arousal together with taking things too personally or subjectively can be a lethal one. Throughout history millions of murders, torture, wars, suffering, etc was purely the result of these ingredients. Taking things too personally makes us irrascible, touchy,stressed out and often hurt.
Entering eco-consciousness means above all to feel and understand that it’s not about us, that we are tiny fleeting fragments of the whole and that our concept of the self, no matter how strong and real, is only a construct. We hold no special position in the general scheme of things even though it naturally feels that way since we are looking at the world from our first-person point of view. Understanding this is hard but an ultimate liberation. Imagine seeing things with clarity and objectivity even if you are being criticized, taunted or ridiculed. Imagine keeping a cool head instead of losing perspective or being hurt.
This is not a nihilistic position as some tend to complain. It’s not aimed at destroying the sense of self or not looking after your personal rights and freedom but about reframing your reality through a broader perspective in which the self is only a part of the whole.
2.Everything is interconnected: Are you a node or an end?
Another important shift is that from having a sense of seperateness to a sense of oneness and unity. This is a recurrent theme in many spiritual traditions but again it is naturally a counterintuitive one since we are programmed to identify ourselves and the world as different objects seperated by physical boundaries.
Modern science is also reaching a point of understanding the interconnectedness of everything in the universe at the very basic quantum level of matter. I very much suspect that this interconnectedness happens also at the level of consciousness including our states of mind,emotions and thought but we have yet to understand this scientifically.
Try to imagine yourself being connected to a universal network. You can either be a node, that is a medium or conduit that connects and conveys energy,love, positive emotions and good vibes or an end terminal that doesn’t connect to anything else. When you are a node, you are a mover and shaker of life. You give to others around you and you bring forward a lot of things but you also receive a lot of things. You are tapped into the universal stream. The more you are open, the more will flow in you and out of you. The more you are generous, positive, helpful, creative and motivate, the more you are reinforcing the network of life.
The opposite is also true. The more you are selfish, disengaged, negative, suspicious, resentful, envious, etc, the more you are closing yourself to the stream of life.
We have to start seeing the dynamics of life in terms of this sort of network fluidity. This is very much in line with Taoist philosophy.
3.You can affect people,situations and futures: Take responsibility
This is closely tied to the previous point. Since we are so highly interconnected to the web of life, everything we do has some effect on other people, the enabling or disabling of circumstances or some future course of action that in turn influences other people and outcomes. Life is an intricate balance and since we are plugged in the system every single action has a footprint on that balance. Ancient wisdom has repeatedly come up with this notion such as in many native American tribes or pre-christian paganic & shamanic cultures.
Think about those words you’ve heard as a kid or that particular episode in your life so many years ago that still remained impressed in your mind and which still bear influence on the way you see life. Do you get the point? Even little actions from one person can leave an effect in the consciousness of others many years and miles away from its origin.
Hence shifting from a more ego-centric to a more eco-centric worldview implies being more sensitive to how you responsibly act and react within the fine balance of life. More in this article.
4.Your perspective is always partial by definition: Keep on looking & listening
In the first point I mentioned the peril of seeing things personally and subjectively. In the same vein, it is equally dangerous to lock ourselves within a fixed and narrow view on life. This happens all the time and is the cause of so many quarrels between people,groups,cultures and nations.
It is not having a particular stand or viewpoint on life which is problematic but blindly holding on to it at all costs and discounting others’ views or the possibility that your perspective needs to change or grow. Think objectively about how certain perspectives you held on to very strongly in the past changed. Could that happen with your present ones?
We always see life through certain filters – time, place, culture, beliefs,objectives, likes and dislikes, etc. This is a convenient necessity but one which could hold us blind or tunnel-visioned.
Keeping an open-mind means keeping your views and theories open to correction and change.
5.Everything is impermanent: Loosen your grip on things
Possession is also a trait of the ego-based consciousness. We live in a world were possessions matters. It is not just material possessions but also relationships, status, achievements,influence and power. We measure wealth and power in terms of possessions.
The value we give to possessions comes mainly from two basic beliefs: The belief that resources are scarce or limited and that whatever we possess has permanence in time. Both are wrong assumptions. Resources are not scarce as we believe. They are neither permanent although permanence is a relative thing (something that outlives you could be relatively permanent but not absolutely so).
Contemplating on the notion of impermanence is important. Sometimes we trust that things will remain the same forever but they obviously don’t. Those of us who stay attached to this idea are the ones who will find it hardest to accept changes in life. The step to eco-consciousness involves evading this limitation. It involves grasping the essense of the dynamicity and impermanence of life and embracing it.
6.Be a critical thinker but not judgmental
Being critical and judgmental can be two different things. Being critical and analytical is a positive thing unless not done in a one-sided and narrow way. Adopting critical thinking means being rational and keeping balance so as not to be overcome by the irrational side of our being which begets poor judgment based on irrational fear, dogma, bias and preconceptions.
Being judgmental on the other hand, means being harshly critical to others even when it is clear that this does more harm than good. Being judgmental is not an action but a predisposition. It is not healthy since it promotes dissent,hostility, negative feelings and unhappy relationships.
7.Develop your awareness
I have written before about the subject of awareness on previous occassions. I regard developing awareness as being the one most essential thing to expand oneself on all levels of being – physically,mentally & spiritually. If I had listed these points in order of importance (which I haven’t) awareness should be the first one.
Awareness is the key to everything – literally. Awareness is the tool that punctures through the veil of our distorted reality and limited self-centred views. It connects us with our true selves, with our purpose in life and with our outer reality. This is what makes it such an important asset in our shift in consciousness.
8.Love is the supreme guide
If we are all interconnected at some level in a highly networked web, then love is the binding force that strengthens that web. It is like a fluid that runs in the network and reinforces the connections through which it passes. There can be no eco-consciousness without having love as a supreme guide.
9.Accentuate positive sentiments & feelings,attenuate negative ones
If we are to be healthy nodes in the web of life, we need to switch on and maintain the right qualities. Letting our negative emotions such as guilt, fear and pessimism run high may force us into builiding barriers which closes us down and throws us into egocentricity.
Accentuating feelings such as hope,loving-kindness and compassion makes us cultivate positive states of mind which in turn is reflected in the way we interact with others and the world around us.
10.Scale up your thinking: From local to global to Cosmic
I see a lot of people from where I come from who are so stuck in local thinking. Local thinking makes us think small, limited and detached from more distant realities people are living in. Local thinking is one of the hallmarks of egocentricity.
When one broadens his views and appreciates that the values and issues other countries and cultures live by are also important and of relevance, one starts thinking more globally. It is then that one understands that there are problems and issues that affect all of us on a global scale.
The next leap in thought, that from global thinking to cosmic thinking, is more of a mental excercise since one cannot have any direct ‘cosmic experiences’ but it is a good excercise nonetheless. There are so many things to contemplate on and Man has been pondering on the universe and his relation to it since the beginning of time.
Astronomic data and theories brought alive by stunning images of our home and neighbouring planets, distant galaxies, nebulas and even celestial phenomena in our own galaxy have been an enormous injection in our collective psyche over the recent decades. We have almost grown accustomed to the idea that we are not only inhabitants of a planet but of an endless universe of possibilities and natural phenomena. The more we ponder on this wonderful vastness the more we entertain the idea that we are very probably not alone either but there are possibly a large number of other beings who can be considered our cosmic brothers and sisters.
In a way this has given us an intimation with perceiving and conceiving things in a more cosmic’ way. I think that our collective consciousness has been scaled up one notch in this direction.
Individually, however, we can do more than that. We can contemplate more often, wonder, imagine and dream about the universe we inhabit and our relationship and belonging to it as a species.