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Shared Mindfulness and the Commons

on Sat, 08/23/2014 - 19:19

(This blog was originally published in Huffington Post.)

People like you and me, who have been committed to grow in consciousness throughout the millennia, have always practiced various forms of mindfulness in community. Today's fledgling "shared mindfulness" movement is both a continuation of a noble tradition, and at the same time, a timely response to our life conditions in the 21st century.

The air that I breath, the dramatic skyline of the ragged mountain range that I look at with fascination, humankind's knowledge that's been accumulating over the ages, the land and the rivers, the internet, all these are our common heritage, or "commons" for short. More and more parts of them are privatized or under the threat from the private interests that run our social and economic systems.

"Many people want change but they are unaware of how to really bring about that change... That change must come from within, must start with a change of spirit; it isn't just about change in the political system and putting in a new party or a new government because if we don't change our spirit and how we view things, then all what we'd do is end up constructing a system, which has all over the traits of the old system..." says the narrator of this film at 1:41.

That's why I'm paying attention to the relationship between our inner and outer worlds, and how they affect each other. More precisely, if you believe as I do that none of us can be free until all of us are (both in the inner and outer sense of freedom), then plain mindfulness is just not enough.

What we really need is a "right mindfulness" that is ethically grounded in the common good, and described by Purser & Milillo in the Journal of Management Inquiry (May 2014) as follows: "Mindfulness is not merely a compartmentalized tool for enhancing attention but is informed and influenced by many other factors--our view of reality; the nature of our thoughts, speech, and actions; our way of making a living; and our effort in avoiding unwholesome and unskillful states while developing those that are skillful and conducive to health and harmony."

The questions of what are we mindful of and just how long is the radius of our attention, keep coming back to me as I read one of the comments on my blog about "The Wisdom of Crowds" and the colors of collective intelligence." The commentator wrote:

"We now have the technology to deliver an abundance of a large and expanding set of goods and services to every person on the planet, yet we are prevented from doing so by the incentives of the market, which now dominate our social and legal systems. Thus it is clear to me that we need to go beyond markets."

The good news is that it is getting clear also for millions of people living in/for the new socio-economic paradigm of the commons/peer-to-peer/open source movements and their emerging ecosystems.

The privateers of the market need the "wisdom of crowds" technologies to try predicting its future moves, driven by the desire to control the future.

The commoneers of the new paradigm need true collective intelligence and wisdom that are growing out from their conversations and driven by the desire for liberating the future for the common good. You can find more about the later in the excellent blog of Tom Atlee on Comparing "the wisdom of crowds" to real collective wisdom.

• Given this epochal context, how can I exercise a mindfulness that can make a difference in helping me discover the "We-in-the-I", experiencing that in a sense, all humans are just like me, they deserve to be happy, fed, have a meaningful life, learn and evolve?

• How to sense, think and act from that "We-in-the-I"?

• What value can collective mindfulness add to social movements and enterprises, peer-to-peer networks and open source project?

Those are some of the questions that attendees of the next Mindful Café are going to explore in the "Shared Mindfulness and the Commons" meet-up in London, 29 August. That's part of a broader enquiry into the relationship our inner and outer freedoms, individual and collective. That enquiry is based on the co-arising of those dimensions and rejecting the idea that the inner defines the outer or the other way around. It means that we need to work simultaneously for the mindfulness of the commons and the commons of mindfulness.

If you're with me so far, you may be interested in what are the practical implications of all this?

Everywhere, where people co-produce and co-govern the resources essential to their livelihood, they have a commons. The success of their enterprise depends on how wisely they constructed the rules of their common affairs, but not only on that. No matter how well-thought through are their structures of production and governance, as long as their structures of consciousness are caught in the stale patterns of their individual and collective ego, they will just reproduce the old vine in new bottle. Their best chance to prevent that is creating presence-oriented spaces and practices for individual and collective self-reflections, as some enterprises are already doing it.

Another implication of this line of exploration is that the commons of mindfulness needs to support the mindfulness of the commons. What is a "commons of mindfulness"? Let's revisit the opening sentence of this blog: People like you and me, who have been committed to grow in consciousness throughout the millennia, have always practiced various forms of mindfulness in community. A modern-day update of that community can be the knowledge commons of shared mindfulness introduced here.

Does any part of this exploration inspires or at least intrigues you? I'm truly eager to read your thoughts about it.