The awakening society


I think it’s really cool when people try their best to help others. (Instead of, say, watching anime all evening…)

Awakening, Enlightenment, Higher Consciousness – we tend to associate this with hermits, Zen monks and New Agers going “ooommm”. Awakening to higher states of consciousness is indeed a very private, personal thing. But consistently living at a higher level of consciousness has consequences for those around us, as has living at a low level. What would happen if the average citizen put a little more “ooommm” in their life?

I am not proposing that you do this instead of caring for your kids or earning your own living. Rather, that one takes some time from watching TV (which is usually actively harming the mind. ) The television keep you in a constant state of moderate stress with its frequently shifting images, while you are helpless to influence what you see. This wears down your body and brain. Meditation is a scientifically proven anti-stress. Or you could choose any other “sitting practice”, such as prayer or lectio divina (holy reading) if you are religious (which is not as bad as it looks – the guys on TV are not representative of real religion). For those fearful of both religion and mysticism, at least set aside some time each day for contemplation of beauty, whether it is a piece of visual art or a timeless musical composition. The scientifically inclined may want to experiment with brainwave entrainment.

Meditation and other “sitting practices” make you more aware. Biologically, they reduce stress and restore natural rhythms to the body. Mentally, they calm the frenzied churning of the mind so you can think and feel more clearly. Subjectively, the constant “now” that we live in seems to expand, infused by eternity. But what about the social dimension?

First off, the growth in awareness is not something new and magical. All of us have grown in awareness through our life. We started as a purely biological parasite with no awareness whatsoever. We gradually became aware of ourselves and the distinction between self and (m)other. Then we grew in awareness through many years of play and learning, a time of great confusion that hopefully lessened as more of the pieces came together. When we grew up, we learned to think beyond the purely selfish and beyond the moment. You can say our circle of awareness expanded in space as well as time. This process continues in some adults, and they become mature. Others don’t.

The acute problems in any society comes from those who are severely lacking maturity. The rank and file criminal falls squarely in this category. Unable to think beyond his selfish wants to empathize with others, unable to see the consequences of his actions in future time, he acts without forethought or afterthought, tossed by the waves of his excitement and the manipulations of others. Their severe lack of maturity is seen in their toddler-like sense of entitlement.

But crime is not the only fruit of low awareness. Unreflected sexual behavior brings broken hearts and unloved children, not to mention the spread of diseases ranging from nuisance to slow, painful death. Impulsive shopping causes shortages further ahead and sells us into varying degrees of slavery. It is also one of the biggest sources of family tension. And it destroys the environment by squandering resources and overflowing the landfills with yesterday’s shiny things.

In our social life, lack of awareness and maturity quickly gets on other people’s nerves. Those who are more mature think we are idiots for being whiny and self-centered for no reason. Those who are not more mature still think we are idiots, but because we hog the spotlight and don’t realize that they are the center of the universe. While having common enemies may still keep us together, deep and lasting friendships are hard to maintain unless we have grown to care about others and give them room to be themselves. Instead we get dysfunctional pairings between the needy and the intrusive, or between the martyr and the persecutor.

These pairing frequently form the basis of family life as well. But while an immature person may be great fun in the bedroom, they are that much more vexing elsewhere. And the worst of the horrors is an immature parent, which brings the madness on to the next generation, distorting their tiny minds and making it hard for them to grow and mature naturally themselves. Luckily some in each generation manage to find other role models, or we would have been doomed to an endless cycle of madness.

Now, it would be cool if we all reached Satori, Nirvana or whatever your name is for the ultimate Enlightenment. But my claim is that just a little more awareness would do a world of good. For the criminals, this would unfortunately have to be enforced from outside. But the rest of us have the choice to set aside a little time on a regular basis to work on our consciousness. And it is the regular practice that does it, even if it is only a little.

What would life be if people were a little more mature? They would be calmer, not showering you with their stress like a wet dog shaking itself before you. They would be happier, more content and grateful; instead of whining so much, they would smile more and be excited about opportunities for themselves and others. They would be less selfish, more willing to share, more trustworthy and more willing to trust others. They would have more friends and fewer rivals. They would be wiser, managing their time and money better. They would show up in time and not having to run off in a hurry; they would live simpler lives and have a little time and money to spare for those who actually need a helping hand. They would not be quick to judge others, but on the other hand they would be able to admit their own mistakes and even apologize and try to make things better.

Life in a more aware society would not be paradise or utopia. While meditation and wisdom may protect against many accident and illnesses, eventually we all sicken and die. Finite resources would still be finite, even if we used them more wisely. There would presumably still be earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. But everyday life would be a lot better than it is now. And it is pretty good now compared to how it used to be. There is nothing that keeps us from making a better world for ourselves and your children. Nothing but our own excuses.