Conscious Evolution: Why We’re Better Together
by Linda Sechrist
After decades of studying issues of environmental destruction, poverty and war, Malcolm Hollick, Ph.D., author of The Science of Oneness: A New Worldview for the Twenty-First Century, concluded in 2006 that a better future for humanity requires a more holistic worldview. It must be one that reflects the evidence of both new sciences and established spiritual traditions, all of which point to a deep unity, or Oneness, the grand reality underlying and often belying the superficial testimony of the senses.
Hollick concluded, “We become open to the experience of this unity only when we recognize at the deepest intuitive level that we do not exist as separate selves.” The founder of the Findhorn College Foundation, in Scotland, recognized that while the old worldview has disintegrated, the concrete of a new one has not yet set. He also observed how the acceleration of scientific findings—advancing knowledge and understanding of the universe, as well as the meaning and purpose of life—would continue to influence the general worldview.
Within a decade, of the publication of his book, hard scientific evidence across many disciplines—particularly physics and biology—as well as pioneering ideas and anecdotal evidence presented by leading philosophers and authors, affirmed the existence of a reality in which everything is connected and linked in a coherent whole.
Such thinking further revealed that evolution has equipped humans with genetic wiring for co-creation, cooperation and collaboration. Martin A. Nowak, a professor of biology and mathematics at Harvard University and co-author of Super Cooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed, explains that most great innovations of life have resulted not from competition, but cooperation, the real “master architect” of evolution. Nowak believes that figuring out how cooperation comes about and breaks down is the key to human survival as a species.
Books such as The Bond: Connecting Through the Space Between Us, by Lynne McTaggart, a scientific researcher and award-winning journalist, and The Golden Motorcycle Gang: A Story of Transformation, co-authored by motivational speaker Jack Canfield, are helping individuals to see through the illusions of the old “survival of the fittest” and “I win, you lose” paradigms into one expressed in terms of connectedness and relationships. This new “Me-We” thinking and way of being has been spreading; it now informs everything from enlightened environmental stewardship to economics, as well as health and spiritual well-being.
How Community Works
Canfield emphasizes the valuable lesson of collaboration and cooperation he learned while working for W. Clement Stone, a philanthropist and self-help author: When working together, focus on overlapping goals and interests, and not on differences.
In Chicago, Illinois, where the Eat Fresh Eat Local movement sparks successful collaborations, the focus is on food, rather than issues of race, sex or economic disparity. There, hundreds of people are growing food together in communal spaces on city-owned land, privately owned empty lots and rooftops, as well as in school gardens, food forests and urban farm sites.
“Self-reliant, community-operated urban farms and the food centers that retail the produce to residents in surrounding neighborhoods—some in the city’s most isolated and impoverished communities—are economic drivers that create jobs,” says Erika Allen, projects manager of Chicago’s Growing Power office. The daughter of national organization founder Will Allen notes that local workshops resemble a cross-section of the world. “Participants from different countries, cultures and economic levels come together for three meals a day, where we connect, share perspectives and learn from one another.”
Another successful initiative, Building a Healthier Chicago (BHC), brings together the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Office of the Regional Health Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Chicago Medical Society and the Institute of Medicine of Chicago. The BHC agribusiness project develops and maintains a system of more accessible food supply, distribution and markets where people live, work, play, pray and learn.
Neighbors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, organized park cleanups with the long-range goal of replacing crime and litter with learning. Now, Riverside Park, once an area of urban blight, has both a college-level field research station and grade school outdoor classroom, offering innovative school, adult and community programs operated by the Urban Ecology Center (UEC). Programs serve 44 schools and have spawned two branches in Washington Park and Menomonee Valley to serve residents in those areas.
The UEC’s latest project, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee County Parks, private businesses and local landowners, is an arboretum that will protect and restore 40 acres of land for native species and wildlife habitat along the Milwaukee River. “With the creation of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, southeastern Wisconsin has a new, biologically diverse space for growing future environmental stewards,” says UEC Executive Director Ken Leinbach. He particularly likes creating spaces and resources that give people that wouldn’t normally connect a place to bump into one another.
College settings are similarly intended to encourage stimulating and expansive dialogue among diverse populations. At Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, recent environmental study grads Dana Rubin and Hannah Blackmer met Frances Moore Lappé when she visited to share the message of her book EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want. As a result, the pair embraced the need to shift their view of the world away from looming negatives to focus on creating positive connections and meaningful relationships that recognize life’s interdependence and fuel constructive change.
After more research, the duo built a simple website named Convenient Resilience.com and created a blog before commencing a coast-to-coast, 100-day, solutions-oriented journey last summer. They posted nearly 30 “webisodes” of heartfelt interactions with individuals and organizations with stories to tell, like the group at 2100 Lakeside Emergency Men’s Shelter, in Cleveland, Ohio, that is using small-scale, practical and cost-effective solutions to lessen their impact on the environment. “The personal stories we heard affirm what we learned from Frances—that it’s possible to locally solve global problems together,” advise the sojourners, who travel in a grease-powered car.
“Learn to think beyond negative thought traps that engender fear,” advises Lappé. “Thinking, ‘There isn’t enough to go around, so I have to grab what I can now,’ for instance, focuses on separateness and lack, which is precisely what got us into the state we are in.”
A big-picture, more-whole-systems perspective forms naturally when individuals come together to explore the power of building intentional coherence. The Art of Hosting (and convening conversations that matter), World Café, Vistar Method for Circles and OpenSpace collaborations leverage technology for the practice of mindfulness to foster deeper connections, authentic conversations and outside-the-box ideas, all contributing to a more enlightened collective intelligence.
One’s own new world perspective can even emerge as a result of a dark night of the soul, as Patricia Ariadne, Ph.D., author of Drinking the Dragon, has observed with clients that have undergone a personal metamorphosis as a result of the economic downturn. “Often, the entire process of transformation indicates a spiritual initiation— a renewal or rebirth—that acts as an induction into a level of expanded consciousness and new relationship with Spirit,” remarks Ariadne. “True spiritual progress inevitably leads to a desire to be of greater service to others, to go from ‘Me to We,’ which I believe is our mandate for the 21st century.”
Living mindfully can literally change our brains, states Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., in the introduction to A Mindful Nation, by Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, which reports on the supporting science. “Mindfulness… can improve our capacity for perspective taking and decision making, and enhance our emotional intelligence and our ability to act with clarity and wisdom, alone and in concert with others.” Kabat-Zinn is the founding director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester.
“A peaceful revolution is being led by ordinary citizens across our nation,” confirms Ryan. “At the core of it is mindfulness—finding ways to slow the mind, pay attention to the present moment and see how you are connected to others and can work in a spirit of cooperation with get things done.”
The inner impulse to recognize the deeper unity of all life and sense the reality of Oneness is bubbling up within individuals, small groups and organizations, and finding expression in writings and teachings, according to Barbara Marx Hubbard, author of Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution. Individuals that feel compelled to join with others in expanding their consciousness to help foster systemic change and a culture of a higher order are invited to find a compatible group. Hubbard offers webcast training for Agents of Conscious Evolution (ACE), now 3,000 members strong; Craig Hamilton, founder of Integral Enlightenment, provides an online telecourse called Awakening to an Evolutionary Relationship to Life.
“Evolutionaries sense that we are facing a critical moment in the unfolding of our human story and feel called to create pathways to a better future,” says Hamilton. He notes that
the 35,000 participants in his most recent introduction to his webcast were interested in where they could find a supportive community of kindred spirits committed to living life on the same level. He states, “We instinctively know that we can accomplish more together.”
A partnership with The Shift Network, which empowers a global movement of those intent on creating an evolutionary shift in consciousness, has enabled Hubbard, a featured sage in the documentary Awaken Soul to Soul, and her ACEs to launch a global initiative to mark the inauguration of a sustainable planetary civilization on December 22. Thousands of individuals are now working in collective hubs across the United States to prepare for the Planetary Birth Day celebration.
An initial concern for many individuals seeking to experience Oneness is, “What happens to my identity?” Christopher M. Bache, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the department of philosophy and religious studies at Youngstown State University, in Ohio, reassures us that within the matrix of connectivity, individuality is not suffocated, but paradoxically liberated into deeper forms of self-expression.
“While opening to the collective fields that surround us melts the boundaries of the private ego, bringing about the ‘death of self’ noted in spiritual literature, as the ego dies, a deeper form of individuality is born—not an isolated individuality, but one that thrives in subtle give-and-take,” explains the author of The Living Classroom: Teaching and Collective Consciousness.
While the idea of a future in which American and other cultures reflect oneness can seem distant and idealistic, it is already present in South Africa’s Xhosa community in the form of Ubuntu, a worldview which means, “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
According to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Ubuntu iterates the essence of being human and speaks to the fact that it’s impossible to exist as human beings in isolation. We are people through other people.
“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected, and what you do affects the whole world,” he observes. “When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. For more information and in-depth interviews on It’s All About We, visit ItsAllAboutWe.com.