Does the news of the day get you down—global violence, economic and social unrest, and environmental disasters? Do you fear what the future will hold for you and your loved ones? Do you long for things to be better, yet feel helpless? There may just be another landscape with hope for a better world.
We are in the midst of a cultural sea change. We can hasten this change by embracing it and riding its waves. Though the ride may be rocky, it offers the exhilarating opportunity to better understand what it means to be human and to create a vision for how we want to live.
Jim Kenney brings this evolutionary hope alive in his compelling book, Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope in a Time of Cultural Sea Change. Jim, a leader in the global movement for intercultural understanding, is co-founder of Common Ground in Deerfield, Illinois, and trustee-founder of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. His premise: the disturbing cultural problems of today are a consequence of the resistance to change as “older values of patriarchy, racism, war mongering, and exploitation of nature are slowly giving way to newer values of gender equity, human rights, nonviolence, and ecological awareness.”
Kenney compares this time of massive change, which he says started in the 1960s, to an earlier one that dawned with the Renaissance and culminated with the emergence of modern science. The current sea change, however, is progressing much more rapidly. He cautions not to mistake the most disturbing phenomena of our day as new values. Rather, they essentially represent a resistance to change and letting go of the old declining values.
To create a vision of the sea change we desire, Kenney says we must learn to reorient ourselves to a changing world and be part of writing a new story. It’s important to continue to honor the best of the older essential values such as justice, honesty, loyalty, and kindness. We must also familiarize ourselves with the newer emergent values aligned within the concepts of peace, justice, and ecological sustainability. Rather than listening to naysayers, become a source of hope. Seek out and share evidence that demonstrates how values and behaviors really are changing for the better. Become a catalyst for positive change by adopting a cause in your community such as fighting poverty or hunger, and make a personal commitment to these causes. Kenney says we need to revive the adage, “Think globally, act locally.”
Adapting to change
No matter what we do to prolong the status quo, change is inevitable. If we resist change, we resist the law of life. Our bodies grow old, new leaders arise, old technology becomes obsolete, new technologies emerge. If we fight these changes, we only hurt ourselves. Denial will not stop the world from moving into the future. We can accept change by educating ourselves, aligning with allies, and doing our part to promote positive transformation.
Changes, whether sea changes or personal changes, can be challenging. In the 1960s and 70s, I felt a conflict between my dedication to my traditional job and my personal interests. I had a deep curiosity about yoga, meditation, belly dancing, different religions and cultures, and new ways of perceiving the world that were becoming in vogue at that time. While yoga teachings spoke of union and wholeness, I felt divided. Heaven forbid that a corporate client would see me in a belly dance costume, much less headstand or lotus position.
Yoga and meditation
As we ride the waves of these current times of unprecedented change, stress has become a number one health issue. Increasingly mainstream medicine is recommending yoga and meditation as antidotes to stress, and mainstream society is embracing them as complementary modalities to traditional ones. Even the military is promoting yoga and meditation to treat veterans who’ve returned from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2005 Richard Miller, PhD, was asked to participate in a research study by the Department of Defense (DOD). Returning vets were taught yoga nidra, a guided meditative practice for deep relaxation and healing. While the results were positive, the DOD was reluctant to adopt a practice known as “yoga nidra”; so Richard changed the name to iRest (short for integrative restoration). (Ironically, by the time the research results were published, yoga nidra had become an accepted term.)
Working with veterans had never been on my radar screen when I did my iRest training. Yet in my continuation of welcoming change, I co-founded the Veterans Restorative Project, a not-for-profit organization. We offer iRest programs—more than 30 a month—free to veterans and their families and caregivers in Northeastern Illinois.
Clear conscious vision
The mainstreaming of yoga is only one of many societal trends suggesting that the world may indeed be moving towards greater consciousness. But what does consciousness actually mean? It means not being at odds with the world, accepting responsibility for one’s thoughts and actions, being connected with like-minded people, and having the ability to access an inner core of being that enables one to act for the greater good.
We don’t have to allow media reports and society’s mood to be our own. Nor do we need to shut ourselves out from what is going on in the world. Having an awareness of what’s happening and educating ourselves on the issues are important. But even more important is taking time to deepen our conscious awareness through practices like meditation and self-inquiry.
Do you want to focus on what’s wrong with our world—or on what is right? As you ride the turbulent waves of the sea change occurring in the world, learn to know and understand your true values and how they align with conscious vision. Become what you want to see in this diverse, interconnected world.