Reflections on the Revolution
Can we change humanity's mind?
How to change our mind
In 2018, Michael Pollan published "How to Change Your Mind," a book exploring psychedelic substances like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and mescaline, and their potential for transforming consciousness and healing. By 2022, Pollan had even starred in a Netflix series on the same topic. While I personally find psychedelics fascinating and believe in their potential to facilitate transformative shifts, this article will focus on broader ways to change our minds and participate in a "radical revolution of consciousness," a concept my late father Joe often spoke about.
Joe passed away eight years ago shortly after completing his personal memoir, Too Much Fun Dying to Stop Now. During one conversation that Joe and I shared – a year or so before he passed – we discussed Ancient Egypt and their sudden surge in innovative technology, including the construction of the pyramids. Joe theorized that the Egyptians experienced something he called a "radical revolution of consciousness" that led to a fundamental shift in their worldview, sparking rapid development throughout their society. He also suggested we may be approaching a similar phase of accelerated development.
Since Joe's passing, I've become increasingly interested in this topic and devoted myself to studying what it might take to shift paradigms throughout our society. I graduated last year with an Ecopsychology degree from Naropa University and wrote a thesis titled Radical Reorganization, which explores this paradigm shift throughout our society, with a strong emphasis on economies and organizations. Recently, I've been working to put my studies into action, and finding more meaningful ways to participate. In this article I will dive into a few events I’ve attended recently that explore this theme, and then I will summarize my view on what I think is vital for each of us as we explore what part we might play in this shift.
Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature recently held its 34th annual conference in Berkeley, California. Billing themselves as a “fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges”, the conference was a must-attend for me after hearing so much about it during my Naropa education. Keynote speaker Joanna Macy, a luminous figure in the field of Ecopsychology, coined the term “Great Turning” to describe the necessary evolution from an industrial growth society to a sustainable civilization. Her keynote set the tone for the conference; an all-encompassing symposium that delivered informative and inspiring talks by dozens of speakers.
Leah Stokes, Danny Kennedy, and Ilana Cohen pitched the importance of electrification, “The Charging 20’s”, and amplifying fossil-free research. Amara Ifeji, John A. Powell, and Rebecca Solnit talked about how stories shape society and how we can change those narratives. Erin Matariki Carr, Yuria Celidwin, and Jade Begay emphasized how indigenous wisdom and leadership should integrate into society. The conference’s depth and responsiveness towards society’s pressing issues was impressive and something to cherish.
Laura Flanders’ talk about worker-owned cooperatives and community wealth building stuck with me due to her insightful commentary on cities that are aiming to bring wealth and business back into local communities. These are critical moves that counterbalance the dehumanizing and globalizing effects of corporate capitalism. Another talk that resonated with me was by Saru Jayaraman, the founder of the One Fair Wage organization. Her deep insights on the continuing inequality present in the US left me with much to ponder. It’s sobering to note that origins of this inequality are deeply rooted in perpetuating cultures of slavery long after its abolishment. One of her goals is to ensure that restaurant servers are not forced to please diners in order to cover basic expenses.
Laura and Saru’s inspiring words centered on the fact that everyday people form the nucleus of this country. If we are concerned about the health of the world, then addressing the “big” issues like climate change that impact us all is necessary. We should not, however, disregard the “small” issues; mothers struggling to feed their kids, locally-owned businesses versus WalMart, or servers having to disguise themselves to achieve an income that meets basic expenses. Creating a populace that is engaged and empowered necessitates supporting all people in our society, especially those who’ve been traditionally marginalized.
The Bioneers conference provided much inspiration. I left feeling deeply motivated and ever-connected with those who attended. Joanna Macy’s conclusion summed up the entire spirit of the conference: “I’m going to suggest what you can do to save the world: Be glad you’re alive.” If we want to help revolutionize the consciousness of humanity, it has to start with looking at how we’re relating within our own lives. If we start to understand and accept the beauty of the life we are blessed with, then true change is probable.
Revolution Roll Call
Two weeks ago, I joined the Revolution Roll Call event in my hometown of Boulder, hosted by my close friends at The Mystery Works Collective. Unlike the bustling Bioneers conference, only about 50 of us gathered at a nearby regenerative farm known as Yellow Barn Farm. The event's primary focus was on building local connections, an activity that resonated deeply with everyone in attendance. We all shared a common interest in the kind of revolution that starts small, in our own lives and communities.
One of the most memorable aspects of the event was the opportunity for emergent conversations and meaningful dialogue. I was particularly inspired by a group of about 15 individuals discussing the concepts of communal parenting, polyamory, and the "it takes a village" approach to raising children. From this conversation, new relationships formed with the intention of supporting one another more directly and developing solutions that could benefit our local context.
Another emotional moment of the event was bearing witness to the slaughtering of a lamb. This experience brought to the forefront the reality of the process which provides us with meat. As a society, we tend to overlook this process, but this experience gave us the opportunity to pause and appreciate where our food comes from. This has given me and others a newfound respect whenever we consume meat or any other foods.
The theme of this Revolution Roll Call was water, and it was a recurring topic throughout the event. From discussing the lessons we can learn from water as humans to exploring local solutions to support our water resources, we shared tears of grief and joy as we explored this important topic. As we look ahead to future events, we plan to honor and understand other elements, like earth, fire, and air.
Overall, the Revolution Roll Call was a meaningful and practical demonstration of how we can create a greater sense of connection to the web of life and to each other in a community. By exploring ritual and connection in a community context, we can affect not only how we are living our own lives, but also potentially affect changes throughout our society.
Last week, we held a Consciousness Hacking mixer, and the topic of discussion was paradigm shift. Our small but engaged group came together to tackle some big questions, starting with what is a paradigm, and how does it shift? Honest, open and curious discussions like these are invaluable for sparking thought-provoking revelations and helping to effect real change. One thing I love about open dialogue is that it can surprise you. My intention was to talk about paradigm shift but with many newcomers to this mixer, a lot of the conversation flowed around “What is consciousness hacking and what does that term mean?”, and as we explored that together as a group, it actually became clearer how consciousness hacking and paradigm shift tie together. I’ll go into that a bit in the next paragraphs.
Consciousness Hacking (CoHack) was founded in the San Francisco bay area in December 2013, with a focus on creating a community of makers who build new technologies that promote human flourishing. The Colorado chapter was formed in 2015, bringing together individuals from Boulder and Denver for regular meetups. In 2020, we registered as a non-profit, and in 2022, were granted 501c3 status. I joined the team last year and am now proud to serve as Executive Director. Our organization is at an exciting stage of discovery, looking at how we can foster a more connected and conscious human society.
Consciousness hacking is a fascinating term. Let’s break it down: Hacking is cleverly manipulating software and hardware limitations to achieve new and inventive outcomes. Consciousness has long eluded precise definition, but is rapidly becoming more clearly understood through the lens of cognitive science. According to Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi in their book Systems View of Life, consciousness is a unique form of cognitive process that emerges when cognition reaches a certain level of complexity. It involves self-awareness and an awareness of one's environment, with a fundamental link between consciousness and social phenomena. Consciousness hacking involves understanding and affecting these complex cognitive processes in order to facilitate greater self-awareness, environmental consciousness, and cultural change.
Consciousness Hacking Colorado is a technology-inclusive and systems-oriented movement toward unraveling personal and societal transformation, starting right here in Boulder. We aim to facilitate holistic communication and connection to support the building of effective relationships that will enable all of us to thrive. Being situated in Boulder offers a unique opportunity to build relationships with many who are building technology and with many who are interested in a more holistic and integral way of living; and events such as this are a great example of what’s possible when we come together and openly dialogue.
Reaching a tipping point
As I reflect on facilitating a radical revolutionary in consciousness, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell always comes to mind. With an exploration of social epidemics, Gladwell demonstrates how small changes have a significant impact on social events. His book adeptly illustrates that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. It leads me to ask; What will it take for us to reach a tipping point for this revolution of consciousness, to shift paradigms in humanity?
Gladwell offers three key principles for achieving a tipping point. The first is the Law of the Few: To move a trend from one person to many, you must identify and target those special few—the people who have influence. The second principle is Stickiness Factor: Make sure your message has "stickiness," so it sticks with individuals after they've heard it. The third principle is the Power of Context: Be aware of the environment and how it affects people's behavior.
Gladwell's advice on effecting a tipping point is a valuable tool as we look to facilitate a revolution of consciousness. A simple and relatable message is essential for it to stick and spread. Understanding where social web influence is located is also key- we must harness it to effectively facilitate the spread. By tying the worldview change together with a change in systems throughout society, we can create an environment that aligns with a holistic outlook. This will significantly improve people’s comprehension of the message.
To bring about real change on our planet, it's crucial to foster local relationships which enable us to act locally, while also building ties with a global community that will facilitate widespread participation. Adopting an approach that's grounded in nature while still being systematic, we can greatly increase our effectiveness. By working harmoniously with the Earth's natural systems, we have the potential to transform our world for the better. The best place to start is close to home, by identifying where we have influence and can make a real impact. This may often be in our own neighborhoods and communities. Through starting small yet thinking big, we can participate in a change that extends well beyond any of us as individuals. While the timing and nature of this change is beyond our control, how we participate is up to us. My invitation is to find what you can do and do it well.