I have for some time cherished a vision of people of diverse backgrounds, life experiences, expertise, world views and spiritual/religious traditions coming together to sit together in full-hearted sharing and deeply respectful listening that honors the validity of each point of view. I have just had that experience, and was grateful to witness the “something greater than the sum of the parts” that occurs when people join in the spirit of true collaboration to address world conditions.
The Awakened World 2012 Conference took place between October 13 and 21 in Rome and Florence, Italy. Convened by the Association for Global New Thought, the International Interreligious Peace Council and the Interreligious Engagement Project, the conference called together 200 religious and spiritual leaders, secular experts and grassroots activists from the great faith traditions. We all gathered in acknowledgment that global culture has entered a period of progressive values-shift and that religion and spirituality are evolving at a dramatic pace.
The conference design was a clear departure from a “talking heads” format of platform presentations. Instead, it embraced group-wide participation in small group working sessions. The four domains of inquiry were: Reconciling with the Other, Transforming Society, Embracing the Earth Family, and Re-discovering the Sacred. Each working group explored three dimensions of the 21st Century evolution of religion and spirituality:
– Signs – compelling indicators that ours is a time of real change in religion and society
– Shadows – obstacles to this evolutionary advance
– Solutions – new initiatives, projects and action plans to support our progressA Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century will result from this process, and I will post it here when it is completed. The intention is for this document to provide the framework for an ongoing global process of interreligious and intercultural dialogue and engagement.
So much of the experience of the conference took place at the level of the heart as spiritual and societal leaders mingled with people of equal spiritual and societal concerns. The process was designed to be non-hierarchical, and any signs of inequity were forthrightly communicated and corrected. Sr. Georgene Wilson described the experience of “awakening into a consciousness of ONE-ing.” She wrote, “Together we practiced seeing each other as good, and behaving as sisters and brothers who were sharing our best spiritual practices and deep values.” The domain I co-facilitated, Embracing the Earth Family, was lively, deep, caring and filled with the voices of love, faith and concern for our beautiful planet and all its creatures. There was awakening to different points of view and powerful agreement about what is important, and this was so across all the working groups. If we were a representative example of many others alive today then our world is full of people who care and are motivated to help bring about improved conditions and greater equity and justice for all.
My personal take away: engage in at least one global project, and make at least one lifestyle change that will benefit the planet. I look forward to doing this.
Let me how you feel, about any of this.