Centering Our Awareness
for Peace & Justice

Here's an excerpt from a message I sent to peacemaker Sharif Abdullah. He was recently in Asheville, speaking to a group of people interested in Sacred Activism.

Sharif's life work is promoting inclusivity. He works to build understanding and connection among diverse groups of people and trains the leaders of the 21st century.

Founder of the Commonway Institute and the Common Society Movement, Sharif is a holistic thinker, change agent, and paradigm shifter. He's a frequent speaker at Institute of Noetic Sciences and New Dimensions events, among many other prominent venues, often sharing the stage with Deepak Chopra and the likes.

Dear Sharif,

I loved the moment during your presentation in which you displayed the photograph of the earth from space. You said something like "Look at this picture with more than your eyes. You have to look at it with something deeper." At the same time, you brought your palms down from the level of your chest to the level of your waist.

Several times during the afternoon you asserted that transforming the dead-end "mess" we've created into a sustainable future depends on our changing our consciousness. Given our brief time together, we didn't have a chance to explore just how to generate the inclusive consciousness that peace, justice, and sustainability require.

In my own work, I name the divisive patterns of perception sustaining the "mess" as "conquest mentality." I name the holistic patterns of perception as "connection consciousness." And I suggest that the evolution from one to the other follows from a change in the locus of our awareness. "Conquest mentality" reflects the dualistic thinking that's the intrinsic function of the cerebral brain.

When we're "using our heads," we automatically perceive distinctions and engender separation. What starts as the discernment of differences sets the stage for a hierarchy of ranking and leads to domination, appropriation, and exploitation. According to this conquest mentality, headquarters is home to the top dog, the head honcho, the head of state — the person who has been most successful in getting ahead.

"Connection consciousness" arises from focusing awareness not in the head but in the body's center — what the Japanese call hara. Spiritual practices and healing arts native to every continent systematically develop this consciousness. They do so by activating the body's core energy with invigorating patterns of movement and breath.

Even contemporary Western science reveals the significance of the body's center as it investigates the "gut brain," the enteric nervous system that the belly contains. Research affirms the belly's participation in the deep wisdom we call "gut feelings" and "gut instincts."

While indigenous cultures celebrate the body's center and cultivate its power, contemporary Western culture denigrates the belly. Contemporary culture regards the belly as shameful, not sacred. The culture makes the belly, especially the pro-creative power centered in women's bodies, a target of assault through rape, incest, and other forms of sexual and institutional violence.

I totally agree with you. The "mess" we're in is not the product of many problems: it's the manifestation of one problem. The same pattern of perception, the same "conquest mentality," executes the exploitation of native peoples, racism, economic injustice, the degradation of nature. The same mentality marginalizes emotional sensibilities among men, demeans women, and shames our bellies. It denies the immanence of the sacred and reduces value to the price that can be attached to a commodity.

A regular practice of hara-energizing movement and breathing exercises kindles the soul power concentrated in the body's center. Women and men who engage in such a practice develop and manifest soul qualities such as confidence, compassion, creativity, intuition, and sense of purpose in the details of their daily lives. Self-absorption yields to self-fulfillment, unfolding into a sense of kinship with creation.

As one woman describes her experience following a hara-energizing practice I shared during an afternoon workshop:

"I found myself looking out through the picture window and saw the fir tree out there. My fingers were the tree's fingers. The tree's light green needles at the tips of its branches were like fingers, like my fingers."
Her words offer an eloquent example of connection consciousness.

I truly believe that such a hara-energizing practice is key to moving our awareness into the body's center. It's key to shifting our perception from conquest mentality to connection consciousness. It's key to generating the inclusive consciousness we know is necessary for human survival on a sustainable planet.

On one level, this hara-energizing practice is body-mind training for spiritual activists. On yet another level, it's consciousness training: the practice engenders the intrinsic awareness that we're kin to all creation. It awakens our capacity to see with the "something deeper" you indicated when you brought your down-turned palms to the level of your waist.

Seeing the earth from space with that "something deeper," informed by the consciousness focused in our body's center, we see the sacred home that we share with all of life.

Bright blessings,



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