Based on the book “Consciousness in Action”
by Andrew Beath
I contend that real prosperity is a function of the depth of one’s gratitude for the gift of life and appreciation for the natural world. Lasting social prosperity stems from generosity and concern for others. Personal prosperity comes from being kind and thrives on an open mind, surprise and spontaneity. This, multiplied by millions of individuals, results in a compassionate society and an eco-economy, one that cycles through production and the use of products in ways that are sustainable and healthy not only for humans, but also for all of the Earth’s many living beings.
To be prosperous is to know one’s soul. To create a prosperous society is to live in ways that help heal our culture and our planet. It is a lifelong personal process, a fascinating adventure whose essence I refer to as natural harmony — the mutually beneficial reciprocity woven into the web of life that has allowed life on Earth to endure and evolve over billions of years.
The 13th century Zen philosopher, Dogen, defined enlightenment as an “intimacy with all things.” To me this means the more we live in ways that honor our relationship to each other and the natural environment, the more fulfilling our life becomes. But, at present we are engaged in the opposite — addictive forms consumption that ruin personal and planetary health.
Our emotional and psychological insatiability, the force behind our production/consumption economy, is motivated by feelings of isolation and insufficiency — and by the illusion that something from outside us can fill the emptiness within. But intimacy produces internal prosperity, creating openings for love. And what we love we want to protect.
In my recently published book, Consciousness in Action (Lantern Books, May, 2005) I propose that our prosperity depends on our planet’s health and that creating a healthier culture and environment will require a series of individual and society-wide awakenings based on a more profound understanding of our interrelationship with all life — a deepening of intimacy.
I use the term “liberation pathways” to describe the many processes that can expand our awareness, heal our wounds, reduce our fears and, thereby, create intimacy and ally us with natural harmony. With the ecological destruction steaming ahead, is there time to complete this process? I don’t know, but that’s what makes participation in the adventure even more compelling. The personal transformation sections of Consciousness in Action are structured around a gestalt that I call “the seven attributes of conscious activism”.
My definition of conscious activism is engagement in the world that expresses and reveals our most profound understanding of the nature of reality. I was discussing these ideas with Ram Dass, an accomplished spiritual teacher, and he offered his own definition: conscious activism is helping to liberate the compassionate heart of every individual.
Activism for progressive social change is needed on several fronts: non-violent action in the field to protest or prevent activities that are destroying the “commons”; the development of technologies and organizations of people dedicated to finding alternatives to those means of production that are gnawing away the health of the Earth; and expansion of awakened awareness — the change of consciousness — that creates “a vision all living things can share”, resulting in a sustainable, mutually beneficial future.
My own sense of prosperity is generated from the recognition that to live in appreciation of interrelationship and intimacy is the most fulfilling way to be alive.
This is also a common thread in the comments of the people whose life examples I use in the book to elaborate the seven attributes. Their stories ground the philosophy in very personal ways and provide guidance to the reader.
We examine how, to a large extent, our modern lives and presumptions about reality are shaped by economics, politics, and Madison Avenue images. How we perceive the world, our attitude toward it, is shaping the physical and biological character of our planet.
Our worldview is literally creating the Earth’s future. Our level of appreciation or disdain for the Earth’s healthy functioning is determining the extent of additional global warming, ozone holes and species extinctions. To cannibalize the Earth in order to produce “goods” (an ironic term) is to create poverty, not prosperity. Thus, we see how our internal turmoil is imposed on our external world.
For an economy to be both prosperous and sustainable it must employ healthy means of production, distribution, recycling and waste disposal that is cyclically regenerative. No matter how high our personal income we can not be prosperous while we disrupt our climate, toxify our air, pollute our water and make our children ill from their surroundings.
In our rush for profits through ownership and control of the means of production, we have forgotten the concept of the “commons”, that is, the atmosphere, the oceans, rivers and lakes, the magnificent forests, mountains and open plains, and the many creatures that inhabit these areas. For example, huge factory ships with massive drag nets scrape the seabed indiscriminately gathering all kinds of aquatic species causing fish populations to collapse in many areas of open-ocean.
What is the prognosis? What means of salvation could potentially direct us toward a healthy relationship with the Earth and bring forth a prosperous future? To address these questions it is helpful to consider that the destruction we have perpetrated on the planet is catalyzing the next step in the evolution of human consciousness. Damage we are causing is the impetus driving evolutionary change and is itself evidence of birth pains associated with the delivery of the next generation of consciousness, which will replace the production-consumption era.
The book examines how the pressures of our human-nature relationship catalyze each step forward in the evolution of human consciousness. Our current evolutionary awakenings are coming from new insights about our interrelationship with the Earth’s dynamic living systems. Thus, we are on the cusp of a new era, born of our excesses.
There is the prospect of a whole new economy waiting to provide a more authentic prosperity, one that makes products and services without exacting hidden costs of waste and wastelands for our children to clean up. The revamping of each harmful industry will create a multitude of healthy jobs while acknowledging the importance of protecting the commons.
Discovering that a greater life-depth is waiting to be experienced changes one’s priorities, which in turn provides freedom to explore our deeper potential and more fully recognize the world’s sacred nature. When this insight reaches enough people, our cultural definition of prosperity will inevitably shift away from the worship of fame, fortune and power, toward one that values harmonious interrelationships.
All the pieces are in place, the wisdom is at hand, to turn the wheel of human
destiny away from consumption and toward appreciation for all life. It requires
enough of us to recognize that living in intimacy is mutually beneficial for
everything — and in the process we’ll discover that spending one’s life this way
is as prosperous as one can be.
Andrew Beath founded the non-profit EarthWays in 1987 which has initiated projects to protect wilderness and assist indigenous communities in many countries. He has recently started several “centers for conscious activism.” For more information: www.consciousnessinaction.com
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