Some argue that we, as a human race, are regressing. We are destroying the planet with mindless acts of deforestation and ever-increasing mining, forcing species to extinction, and emitting tons of carbon. Causing ocean acidification, depleting food, water and energy supplies and so on. Interestingly, despite these, and other horrifically destructive acts, more people than ever before are entering a new age of knowing or awareness. Has the Age of Consciousness arrived?
More people understand the meaning of the word consciousness and its implications than ever before. Has the tipping point finally been reached? If so, why now? Is it the result of increasing numbers of people searching for meaning, purpose and connection in their lives? Can we thank Quantum Physics and Neuroscience for answering questions that once divided spiritual and scientific thinkers? Or is it that people have had enough of current ways of doing things and the devastating effects on the planet? The list of possibilities is endless.
While the reason may be elusive, there is no denying that, as a human race, our awareness is evolving at an alarming rate. A few years ago the word "conscious" meant being awake and aware of what was going on around you in your immediate environment. Unconscious meant being asleep, knocked out, or unaware of what was going on around you.
In the new Age of Consciousness, "conscious" means something much more. It may be more akin to mindfulness - awareness of one's existence, thoughts, feelings and environment. And it goes even further - being awake, alive, accepting of life as it is, connecting with others on deeper levels, being present to the bigger picture, and the greater good for all. It is the recognition of interconnection between ourselves and our world. The most profound level of responsibility imaginable – that each of us, and our thoughts, feelings, and intentions create the world we live in. Karl Jung meet Buddha and John De Martini. Eckhart Tolle high five.
What evidence is there for the Age of Consciousness?
By now some of you may be thinking where has this hippy been hanging out? No I didn't just step off a plane from Byron Bay or Ibud, Bali, to find evidence for my assertion. I didn't need to.
The Age of Consciousness is gradually unfolding in all areas of society from our daily lives to our business practices. It seems that everywhere we turn there is reference to mindfulness, or consciousness, people making a difference, changing our world, or giving back in some form or another. Conscious philosophies and practices are gradually finding their way into mainstream society. In time, this can only lead to a huge shift in humanity.
Only last week I was visiting the Head Office of an international bank and a beautiful painting caught my eye. Admiringly, I walked closer and noticed there was a Hindu God in the centre of the painting. To the left was an image of the chakras. I have come to expect to see paintings like this in retreats in exotic places, not in banks in the middle of Sydney CBD.
Two weeks ago I heard a story about a café on Sydney's Northern beaches with a quote from Erkhart Tolle on a blackboard inside. When my friend told the chef she liked it, he told her of his passionate plans for developing consciousness in children around the world.
A few weeks ago a client forwarded me a brochure for a Mindful Leadership program advertised to the public sector. Is mindfulness moving into the public sector too?
A few months ago an electrician arrived at a client's office with "compassion" written on the sleeve of his shirt. I asked him why and he told me it was a charity his company supports.
And these are just a few local examples – what about the Bangladeshi bank focused on ending world poverty? Or the increasing cafes around the world that operate on donation only? Or the vast number of businesses around the world that donate to charities when you purchase a coffee, or have an introductory meeting with an accountant, and so on?
More people than ever before are talking about consciousness, mindfulness and social change. It is not uncommon to have deep, connected conversations with strangers about the raised awareness of many people on the planet.
These are only a few examples of widespread change that is affecting the way we view and operate in the world. We are operating in a different paradigm. Whole disciplines or fields are also metamorphosing into more conscious practices.
The heart is no longer just the organ that pumps blood through the body. It is no longer something that must be left at home, with your emotions when you go to work. And no longer considered second to reason. Increasingly we are hearing about the precious influence of heart wisdom. A voice not to be ignored. Heart nourishing is now seen as vital to every aspect of our lives - from disease prevention to ensuring brand loyalty.
People are connecting more and more through heart-based dialogue – even in executive boardrooms. There is also strong recognition of the importance of vulnerability and heart-based dialogue for connection with others. Only a few weeks ago I saw a post by a CEO asking for feedback on the connection between vulnerability and the influence of leaders.
Research is mounting that mindfulness and conscious practices can benefit each of us in all aspects of our lives. Corporations and law firms are hiring teachers to teach their staff mindfulness and other meditation practices all around the world. What a shift! Leaders are being taught these skills in leadership programs (sometimes under different names so as not to scare them off!).
There are measures of spiritual intelligence, calls for spiritually-based and compassionate organisations, and references to spiritual and holistic leadership. It all sounds very left field, however, these days it is not so uncommon to see the words spirituality, mindfulness, consciousness in mainstream venues and on mainstream programs in a variety of industries and domains.
No longer are yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and conscious practices just optional extras at "hippy" health retreats in beautiful remote areas around the world. They are now mainstream activities. And they are not only popular activities outside of work. They are also now an important part of corporate well-being programs.
People are calling for mindful mediators and psychotherapists, and groups are forming that promote conscious business practices. Coaches, counsellors and psychologists alike are recommending mindfulness and conscious-based practices for stress relief, aiding mental clarity, the management of depression and anxiety, and the treatment of some personality disorders and so on. We have mindful eating practices to assist with weight loss and food enjoyment.
We are also seeing the infiltration of mindfulness and meditation into the very scientifically guarded field of psychology, as ever-increasing evidence mounts for the benefits of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation. Therapies that are mindfully-based, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, are quickly increasing in popularity in clinical and organisational settings. I predict that these therapies will one-day rival Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as the leading psychological treatment for depression, anxiety and a range of other issues.
Business has not been left out of the shift to the Age of Consciousness. There are movements around the world from some of the most successful companies (Google, Amazon, Pepsi and so on) to shift away from traditional shareholder models to ecological models of business. When leaders of organisations view their corporation, organisation or business as an ecosystem, they view each of the parts as equal to the other parts. Employees are just as important as customers, who are just as important as the community, who are just as important as suppliers, who are just as important as shareholders and so on. Some of the most successful businesses around are following these principles. Competitors that do not follow suit may find traditional business models unsustainable. People want to know that businesses care.
It must be the final frontier when the legal system recognises the need for the law to take the well-being of individuals and society into consideration. Judges and magistrates around the world are now taking well-being into account in their determinations. Get used to it - therapeutic jurisprudence is growing. Some lawyers in the US are now seeing their role as healers rather than warriors. They are now considering, not only legal rights, but the mental, emotional and physical health when advising their clients. Wow!
Times are changing and gradually a huge shift in humanity is taking place. And surely, in time, as the power shifts to those more consciously aware, as one day it will, so too, these destructive patterns of human behavior will cease or minimise. We can only hope.
Caryn Cridland is a Psychologist, Lawyer, Mediator, Leadership Consultant and qualified Yoga Teacher. She is the Managing Director of Mindful Mediation, a specialist workplace mediation, facilitation, coaching, and training consultancy that provides services to leading organisations.