“Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed — be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable.”
– Vaclav Havel, playwright, activist, Czech independence leader, Czechpresident, and what the New York Times obituary called “a global ambassador of conscience”.
World conditions indicate we now need individuals, (in my case the focus is on lawyers), who have “high ethical standards and moral integrity, who dedicate themselves to developing new ways of thinking and acting to help resolve the social, political, economic and ecological challenges of the twenty first century” (Worldshift 2012, Making Green Business, New Politics And Higher Consciousness Work Together” Ervin Laszlo).
The purpose of my work is to raise consciousness in the legal profession. This concept, while crystal clear to some people, who go on to ask how I do this, is completely impenetrable to others who look at me quizzically and ask “what consciousness?” To me it’s quite amazing that something that has been written about since people could first write (ancient Sanskrit texts) is still relatively unknown in large tracts of the Western world. But whether we know about consciousness or not, even a rudimentary understanding of global changes should be sufficient to show us that unless we shift our consciousness, there will be a general breakdown of civilization.
According to the ever-useful Wikipedia, Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as:
“subjectivity, awareness, sentience, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.”
One of the issues in trying to define “consciousness” is that each field of study defines it in a different way. So philosophers go into long-winded explanations about how anyone can ever really know anything (if we use our senses, these could be faulty – for example the discovery of colour blindness showed us that cannot know if we all see the colour red the same way).
Psychologists and neuro-scientists look at different parts of the brain and how and where information is stored for example often we think we don’t know something but later we recall it, so that information must have been there all along.
“In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient’s arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli.”
When I talk about consciousness I’m generally referring to our awareness, what we are able to know, sense, feel, and intuit on all levels: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
How does this relate to lawyers?
Take a moment to imagine this: a lawyer sits in his office surrounding by files and law books. His level of consciousness is informed by his education, the firm he is working in, the colleagues he associates with daily, the materials available to him and his interactions with his clients – in other words the things that comprise “his world”.
What I propose is a deepening of consciousness that is two fold:
- the inward journey: Helping lawyers develop a greater understanding of themselves, their own values and worldviews and how this affects their thinking, their ability to help their clients intellectually, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually (to help a client find forgiveness after suffering a deeply painful wrong is surely spiritual assistance?) This type of personal development work helps lawyers connect with why they were drawn to the profession of law in the first place and can help the lawyer find alignment between their personal and professional lives. It can also help the lawyer uncover a purpose or mission far more fulfilling than that of “providing for the family” or simple material gain.
- The outward or upward journey: Helping lawyers shift their perspective from
the pile of files on the desk in front of them:
to their law firm’s level of organisational consciousness and values and the effect this has on the individual lawyer and his clients
to the legal profession generally in the country, its general orientation and world view and how the individual lawyer can function within this system (understanding systems thinking is helpful here)
To the shifts taking place globally – that there is a growing realisation that the true interests of people include physical survival, stable relationships in society, a meaningful cultural and social identity and remunerated and socially useful work.
Lawyers who are able to shift their perspective from the immediate (their client files needing urgent attention) to a much higher “helicopter” view of their role in society as one of healing conflict and contributing to stable relationships or helping create a judicial system dedicated to social and economic justice – these are the lawyers the world needs now.
At present, the frameworks most influencing my thinking on consciousness are:
- Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework
- Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness which is contained in his book “Power v Force”.
- Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck and Chris Cowan in the 1990’s, based on the work of the late Professor Clare W Graves.
These are all very weighty models about which many books have been written by hundreds of people taking the ideas further and in some cases criticising them. To try and capture such complex frameworks in brief is daunting and I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel so I will try to find the simplest explanations online of each of these frameworks and models, and present them in the next post.
Have you read Transforming Practices? Really interesting book in this area. (Or at least the first part I’ve read is interesting, and it came highly recommended.)
thanks Alison – I just looked it up on Amazon and it looks great. I am sure it’s mentioned in Kim Wright’s book Lawyers as Peacemakers, but there are so many wonderful resources I have not had time to get to yet! Slowly I make my way between absorbing more knowledge and working with what I already know…the doing, the being and the reading. Right now mostly it’s just BEING, in Bali! I look forward to continued collaboration with you in 2013!