Shifting Consciousness to support a value-based leadership in all spheres of society which will lead communities towards the creation of peaceful and more egalitarian societies
As we step into a future, shaped by the 4th industrial revolution, it asks of us to reflect on the quality of leadership needed and the values we hold for that future.
At the turn of the millennium, the UN hosted The Millennium Summit to which faith leaders were invited. It was evidently clear that we live in a world where we have more resources; access to more information and data, communication and travel has become increasingly easier and we have better technology to deal with our global challenges. Despite all of this, we seem to have regressed in our endeavor to improve the lives of people. Why is this? We lack the political will to make the fundamental changes that are needed. Again, it is not a question of resources or technology or information, but the need for a change of heart; a change in consciousness.
Many of you may have walked through the corridors of the UN buildings in New York. During my visit in 2002, I was struck by a wall hanging outside the doors of the General Assembly hall. It reflected a pyramid showing world expenditure. At the tip of the pyramid was what the global financial resources need to ensure that everyone on the planet has safe drinking water. The second level was to enable 100% literacy. At the base of the triangle, it reflected what the world spent on arms and war, on a daily basis. What we spend on war is a 1000% more than what is needed to enable every person to have fresh drinking water. What will it take to turn this pyramid the other way – so that we invest in health, literacy and dignity rather than fear, greed and destruction? Again it’s not a lack of information or technology – a change in heart, a change in consciousness is needed.
In the teachings of the Brahma Kumaris, one of the fundamental spiritual principles we base our work on is, that the world around us is a reflection of the world within us. I quote here from Sister Jayanti, “The spiritual truth which is a basic principle, that whatever is within is reflected without. The inner state of human beings creates the outer state of the world.” Instead of seeing ourselves as passive passengers on this stage called life, it is our collective consciousness that manifests the world around us. So, any sustainable and transformative change has to begin with ourselves, the transforming of our consciousness.
Our inner personal world and the systems we find ourselves in are integrated, and so, any real change has to begin with ourselves. If we want to dissolve patriarchy and the oppressive power it holds over us as women, we need to begin to see ourselves outside the confines of how the patriarchal world sees us. As much as we may fight these systems, we have internalized them and unless we challenge our own mindsets, we will keep feeding into them.
A change in consciousness implies a change in the way one sees oneself. We have an outer identity, or physical identity which is based on the context we find ourselves in, in terms of gender, race, nationality, class, religion, education, positions and roles etc. When we live with this physical identity as our primary identity, then it influences our vision of ourselves and the other – we begin to quantify our value in terms of these external labels. This limited or material mindset is the very basis on which we have built systems, processes and policies. This limited mindset inevitably triggers comparison and competition which in turn triggers insecurity and a survival mindset. Today we have become consumed by a global culture of materialism. In this culture, we see people as consumers and markets to be exploited, rather than contributors and individuals worthy of dignity. Therefore, today the advancements in technology and transport, instead of truly serving humanitarian needs, have become a means to exploit markets and increase profits for the limited few. Our systems are built on greed and greed can never be satisfied, so it gives birth to fear, anger and sorrow.
But, for a moment, if we could consider the eternal question of ‘who am I, really?’ that innate self, beyond the labels, we discover, at our core, a universality; at the core of our being we are soul, consciousness. This inner consciousness embodies peace, love, compassion and joy.
To identify with this inner self is the method to free myself from the confines and constraints of the physical limitations. The practice of returning to one’s original identity and remembering ‘who I am, always’, as we play our different roles and honour our various responsibilities, is crucial. It enthrones us on our seat of self-respect. When our subtle inner abilities are integrated in the wholeness of our being and allowed to be expressed with the support of self-respect, actions are performed with a high level of integrity.
Our worth comes from the original and innate qualities of the soul; truth, love, purity, joy and peace. It is from these values that a women’s beauty is derived and radiated through her features. To believe in the beauty of one’s innate worth and to see the self in the context of this eternal reality, rather than just the transitory physical appearance, gives a tremendous boost to one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. This leads to a deep inner security and stability which enhances ones capacity to serve, to appreciate and encourage those around me and to have clarity of thought and purpose.
If we have a fragmented vision of ourselves, we create and sustain a world of fragmentation. If we see ourselves as a whole, interconnected with all life, then we live with the conviction ‘your peace is my peace, my joy is your joy’. This awareness then begins to influence and dominate our values – from competition to co-operation, from materialism to simplicity, from ambition and self aggrandizement to humility, from power to dignity and from control to an attitude of serving. So in essence, our consciousness leads to our vision which creates our values. Without changing consciousness there cannot be sustainable transformation.
To meet the challenges of the future, we need leadership that holds the practice of self awareness as a key focus. Only when I am self aware can I continue to undo the internalization of prejudice, and recalibrate my own internal compass on a deeper truth, the truth of who I am, always, and who you are, always. This inner awareness builds inner trust and self trust leads to self respect and respect for others, which lies at the heart of authentic leadership. Integrity and ethical standards then sustain it. Leaders must constantly look within to take power and support from the essence of their self worth, and then turn, look outward and see others through the lens of equality and respect.
It is no longer enough, if ever it was, to lead from the front. What we must learn to do now is to lead from within, because effective leadership of any kind is built on inner strength; the strength of vision that sees and brings out the best in others, the strength of example that inspires action in others and the strength of self-respect that enables one to serve and care for others
Power is no longer in the hands of others who make decisions for us, but within our own hearts. To lead, is then simply, to be visible as one who follows his or her own inner principles, conscience and truth.
That inner truth is within each one of us, and the more we draw from it, the more we become leaders who inspire others to join us, making us together, the co-creators of our common destiny; a destiny in which justice, freedom, equality, respect and individual potential flourish in a world at peace with itself, a destiny for which we have been waiting for too long.
Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University