Turning Our Crises Around From the Inside Out: Inner Pathways to Global Transformation
Our present state of global crisis has been called a liminal time, an initiation, a rite of passage — a time of limbo between two worlds, one dying and one being born. We are going through a collective soul-searching now, each in our own way — a passage with the potential to usher in a new way life of Earth. How can what is deepest in us express itself in our world — what is true and most beautiful? How can our deepest essence come through — in this crisis, despite it, because of it, and even beyond it? This is what we are now being called to answer.
Like any rite of initiation, this is a time of great unknowns — we don’t know what is on the other side, and we don’t know if we will get there. We don’t know if it’s the end of the line, or a dark night of the soul. We are called on a collective hero’s journey, but we don’t know if we will emerge triumphant, or even if we are the heroes, the culprits or victims.
But there are some clear signs in the darkness… the kinds of questions we need to be asking if we are to make it through to the light. These questions are in fact the perennial questions of life human beings have been asking since time immemorial — but now, more than ever, it is urgent we face them, because time is running out. These are times of reckoning for the human race. We are right up against the end-times, unless we can turn them into new beginnings, to be reborn from the fire.
What have we come from, and where are we going? Who are we really, and what are we doing on Earth?…The collective, and the dynamics within it, mirror ourselves, writ large. If we are to get to the roots of our collective crises, we must also get to the roots of who we really are.
To many it feels we are at a dead-end, with no way out — the end-times of human life on this planet. For all our claims to unlimited growth and freedom (because of them, in fact) we have cornered ourselves in a trap, and there is no exit in sight, as it closes in tighter and tighter…What is the way out then? Are there inner pathways to the freedom and power we need to turn our crises around — a source of inward seeing, or insight, that can give us the wisdom, inspiration and guidance needed?
We need to turn our systems around, but we need to do that from the roots, which in fact are within us. A divisive consciousness — cut off from our connection to nature, others and our own Source — is at the root of our systems, and at the root of our crises — and this is what we must, first of all, heal and turn around.
Covid is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind it is the whole nexus of climate and eco-social collapses hurtling towards us, and the global capitalist system driving them, that spawned the conditions for them to arise. Behind that, deeper still, is the divisive consciousness we carry in our psyche and our culture (particularly our modern Western one, which has now spread to the world.) It is from here we must leverage the power to address our crises, ignite the revolution to turn our dying world around, into a true rebirth and renewal, conversion and redemption, a rising from the ashes.
The deepest roots of our crises lie within our own consciousness, and it is from here we must leverage our power, a true revolution, to uproot them, turn them around…How do we go to this level, then? How do we find the fulcrum for the full-scale, whole-systems transformation demanded of us today, fundamental to our survival and our continued evolution?
The point is not to withdraw from the world in denial, neither to fight it head-on. It is not to ignore, nor to try to force our hand on the outer dysfunctions in the world (collective, social, relational) but to see what they reflect in us and, first of all, correct them from inside. Because they are always intimately connected, the inner and the outer. Pull the strings from the inside, and you can change the outer; inner wisdom, love and caring ripple out into wise action, ripple effects that create tipping points towards a critical mass, quantum leaps beyond what we can imagine.
Limitless growth is not the answer in the economic dimension; nor strong-men leadership in the political; nor domination of the Earth in the ecological; nor transcendence in the spiritual. These may have seemed the answers once, but now they are the problems. We have to reverse our hierarchy of power, values, energies and attention, and start small, at the core of our being — which, astonishing as it may sound, is the same for all us, individually and collectively. This is the ground of existence, our essence, the very Source of the whole of creation of which we are a part.
Relating to Others and Nature from Essence, Heart or Ego
There are three basic dimensions to our being, ego, heart and essence: the egoic dimension, where we experience separation from each other and nature; the heart-full or soulful dimension, where we experience interconnection with each other and nature; and the eternal dimension, the unified, universal field where all is already one, undivided, always has been and will be, prior to any sense of separation or even connection, the indestructible, all-pervading basis of our being.[i]
In our evolution, personally and collectively, we move from the eternal dimension to the egoic dimension and back again. We have reached the peak of the egoic dimension today — hence our explosive crises — and are being called back home. Yet this isn’t simply a return to an undifferentiated, uniform state, or simply void or emptiness, an annihilation — for in our return to the eternal ground, we enter into new ground — conscious co-creation, the expression of the eternal through the infinite forms of this world, the spirit of the sacred infusing the healing and transmutation of ourselves and our planet.
Inner and Outer Transformation Go Together
Now for true confessions…I must admit I am a kind of spiritual addict. For me, for many years, going to that deepest eternal level (and staying there) was all that mattered. But it didn’t work. That deepest level needs to embrace the outer levels too, expression in the world. I know for many in our modern culture, it is just the opposite — they live on the surface, and never plumb the depths. Either way, it doesn’t work — we need to bring them together. What matters is the flow, the fluency between them; that the depths of our true unity can flow easily into actions of love and interconnectedness in our world, expressing themselves at all levels.
The transcendent (eternal) dimension isn’t somewhere else, “out there”; it embraces and infuses all of our existence, the immanent, in this world, as well as going beyond it. The infinite, our true nature, essence, exists before and beyond all time and space, but encompasses, contains and pervades them both, and all that happens within them.
This eternal dimension, while it is the basis of all changes — separation and connection, turnings and returning — itself remains changeless, the space of pure potential. Everything arises from, plays within, and melts back into this. It is our home base, who we really are — our true irreducible Essence — before and beyond all the ups and downs, of life and even of death.
Yet this Essence expresses itself as everything, everywhere in the world. It is never separate, from each of us, from others, from nature, the whole Earth, the Cosmos. All of that, all of us, are its direct expressions, the outer manifestations of its invisible template, its evolutionary unfolding.
Just as Essence itself expresses itself as each of us, others and the whole web of nature, so are each of us, inextricably interconnected within it — to others, nature and the entire Cosmos. In the Balinese Hindu tradition, they have a lovely principle called “Tri Hita Karana.” It refers to these three living relationships: with each other, nature, and the Source of all Creation, that we need to honor and respect if our lives are to be happy, fruitful and fulfilling, for ourselves, the others around us, and the sacred world we belong to. The whole of life is a celebration of these sacred relationships, which all spring from the same Oneness, our eternal true essence, as the myriad diversity of life, and in death, return to it.
If we cross the three depth-dimensions to our being (ego, heart and essence) with our three living relationships in the world (with others, nature and our Source), we arrive at a virtual map and symbol of both the eternal dimension and the evolution of our being. On the vertical axis, the depth of our perception, where we are coming from (ego, heart or essence); on the horizontal, how we relate to others and nature, whether from separation, interconnection or unity. The deeper we go from ego into heart and essence, the more we connect with others and nature not from the delusion of separation but interconnection and unity, our essential true nature.
I believe it is on this cross that we can be resurrected. In our evolutionary journey, we move from unity to separation to unity — a conscious, willing unity at a higher order, chastened by our hard lessons and opened to a new reverence — in our relations to others, nature and our own eternal Source. And if all this still sounds too complex, all I am saying this: it is through separation that we have been suffering; it is through interconnection and Oneness, through love, that we will heal.
In a healthy society, we live from this eternal Source — our deepest true nature — and the heartful, soulful level, which honors our interconnectedness with it, each other and nature; this is then reflected in our personal actions at the individual level. This means the individual level becomes a vehicle for our deeper unified nature, rather than an egoic expression of separation. Conversely, in an unhealthy society, we ignore, at our peril, and to our tragic loss, both our deepest essence and the heartful dimension — living only from the surface, the ego, that operates only from competition and separation, from all others and nature.
We find ourselves now in a rite of passage from an egoic society to a heartful, interconnected one. Today we are called by our crises to re-connect with these deeper, truer and more fulfilling levels of our being — it is there we will find the wisdom and love to triumph through these hard times. They have become hard because our hearts themselves have hardened, to each other and the beauty all around us. It is time to open them again, if we are not only to survive but to thrive in well-being and joy, the birthright of this blessing of being alive on this Earth.
The West has developed highly egoic societies, and spread these out to the world. And so this rite of passage is taking place not only in the West right now — though perhaps mostly strongly there, because the contrast is starkest — but globally. We are all in this together, and now with the pandemic, even more so. This makes for an imperative of transition of the highest order. The stakes could not be higher.
It is in that inner connection, the connection with the true Source inside us, that our greatest power lies. By tapping into that deepest Source of our being, and of all creation, we tap into what is best and highest within us, and bring it into the world. There is no separation. We breach the imagined boundaries between inner and outer, break free and bring that breakthrough into the world — true freedom to be both the whole of creation and an active force within it, serving its highest evolution and expression.
Love As the Interconnection That Translates Essence Into Action
Essence is our true nature, yet its unity is expressed in this world through the heart. It is through the heartful level that we bring our love and caring, our sense of interconnectedness, into the world, uprooting the patterns and systems that have been built by the ego, individually and collectively. The heartful level translates the hidden unity of our true nature, the invincible core of our being, into expressions of love, interconnectedness, cooperation and reverence for the sacredness of all creation into the living world. It transmits the invisible truths that underlie our being into the visible, tangible, evolving, moving world we live in. Through living, personified expressions of loving, care, community, it accelerates evolution’s revelation of our ultimate communion.
The heartful level is the level of love and interconnection that translates between the level of essence and the level of action. We need to engage this level today not only to find our personal purpose, meaning in life, but collective action in response to our global crises…The “new story” of the world emerging today engages and bridges these three dimensions — our essential true nature and its personal and collective evolutionary expressions. In the end all these levels meld in a seamless, undivided flow, an endlessly unfolding expression of the eternal.
We exist at all these levels — egoic, heartful and transcendent — at one and the same time, and also move between them, depending on where our attention goes, and what our awareness is open to. We dance between these three levels, individually and collectively. And, individually and collectively, in our own individual development and collective evolution, we heal the outer levels by opening the sluice-gates to the inner, re-connecting our expression and action in the world with their original inner, essential creative source, the Source of all Creation.
This can start with a free-fall into our Source (a dark night of the soul, a limbo of unknowing) and then, cracking it open, a free flow, even outpouring, from our very Source into the world of Creation. We ignite a kind of Cambrian explosion from the source of creation within us, a leap of evolution into wholly new, unprecedented creative forms, never before known. This is what our crises are calling from us today — a Cambrian explosion from the soul, personally and collectively, a profusion of inspiration. A rebirth from the inside, that turns our looming end-times on the Earth, the death and destruction, around.
Individually and collectively, we are now in this liminal time, falling through the darkness of the unknown into the light that lives in the heart of the darkness, igniting its free flow — the light that flows from our own heart, and the heart of the Whole of Creation.
Life is a secret dance, an overflowing of hidden movements, currents, cycles and rhythms, mystery turning into form, and returning to mystery. We can oppose it or flow with it, but we are always dancing this sacred dance, whether or not we know it. Once we know it, however, our life on Earth can unfold in a wholly new way, as the sacred miracle it has always secretly been, hidden in the deepest core of existence. When we open to it in this way, the mystery can truly unfold the love that lies at its heart.
We come back, full-circle, from unity to separation, back to unity. But we have never left this infinite circle, whose centre is the heart of existence, and whose radiance has no limit.
Classically, in a rite of passage, there is a deep descent into the darkness, the heart of the unknown, and a return home, bearing its light and its gifts, healing and transformation. Today we are being called to make this passage, each in our own way, personally and collectively. To enter into the heart of our being is to find our way back to our true Wholeness, and then to bring that Wholeness home to the whole sacred family of life with whom we share this precious, irreplaceable planet.
Yes, we need to come together, but the power we are gathering must be sourced from within (perhaps the reason this crisis has forced us first to self-isolate.) And here is a crucial point. It is easier to accelerate this process in our own self than it is in the collective, because of the weight of collective gravity and inertia, so the impetus must initially come from inside us. Yet, in an amazing grace, when we do so, we accelerate that process in the collective. This is because, as we have seen, they are never in fact separate — everything we do has a ripple effect through the Whole, the quantum field in which we are connected.
And — an even more amazing grace — that effect is exponential. It starts with us, and it ripples out and touches others, our human and natural systems, growing exponentially greater. This is an unexpected law of grace we usually do not recognize, because the ripple effects are often hidden, at least in the initial stages, but if we can keep the faith through dark days, they will one day surface and triumph.
This journey, outwards, inwards and out again — outwards (to materialism, separation), inwards (to heart and essence), and out again to its expressions in the world — now experienced as inseparable from our own being — are our evolutionary journey. Yet this cycle is also happening in every moment, because these levels are not in fact sequential but simultaneous, co-existent, a seamless continuum that is in truth always one.
The shorthand for this is conscious co-creation.[ii] When we access the universal consciousness at our core, we can begin to co-create with the very Source of the universe that created us. When we access the fulcrum of our being, we ignite a multi-dimensional revolution — the awakening of our own consciousness, and, at the same time, the co-creative power to help transform our world, sourced from the inside out.
We lived in nested dimensions of our being, multiple, enfolded spheres, from innermost to outermost and vice versa. At the outermost rim we have the manifestations of the ego, individual and collective, including our social systems (cultural, economic, political); going deeper we have our ecological relationships, our bodies and our energies, and deeper still, pure consciousness — which is universal, one and the same, at the core of all creation. This is both the Source of Creation and the wellspring of inspiration we need to tap into in order to turn our current breakdowns into breakthrough.
We have allowed our outer systems, and the worst in us that they represent at this historical juncture — the peak of individualism and greed — to manipulate us and control us. We have to turn this around, and change them from the inside, from our direct connection with the Source of Creation within us, and its love, its justice, its beauty. That is where our true power lies, in our unity with the Whole of Creation, with each other and all of nature. It is in this way that we will wake up, will turn around and heal the systems that are now destroying us, from the inside outwards, from the depths of our hearts out into the world. It is crying out now for that love and connection — it is up to us to hear it, and to answer its call.
What is happening now is mythic — if we can’t see the beauty, the supreme intelligence, the justice and rightness in it, the blessing in disguise — we need to open our eyes. We need to turn around the way we understand things, and look much, much deeper. There are treasures to be mined, not from hacking and fracking our precious Mother Earth, but deep within our own essential wisdom. These are the treasures we need to cherish, the wisdom that can save us, that can turn our descent into darkness around, and light our way to a new life on this Earth.
We are running out of energy and of time. Counter-intuitive as it may sound, both are to be found in the dimension of the timeless. It is there that we can transmute these end-times on Earth into a new beginning, a birth, an endlessness of potential.
Matter, energy and consciousness are one. We are in a meltdown now, returning to our Source — pure consciousness at our core. From there a whole new way on Earth can spring into being. Our crises themselves are bringing us home to our true eternal nature, who we really are. It is up to us to humble ourselves to this tremendous power, and bridge the gap we have created between Heaven and Earth.
I would like to offer a model, the Spheres of Co-Creation, that brings together the dimensions, inner and outer, of our being, and those who would like to co-create from them, coming together in an active movement of inner and outer awakening. It is intended to serve as both an ontological illustration of the different spheres of our being, and an online platform bringing together those who are working for transformation at all these levels: spiritual, energetic, psychological, ecological, economic, socio-political and planetary. (If you would like to know more, see the link below.[iii] )
We live in an infinite, multi-dimensional, ever-flowing context, that cuts across time and space and beyond, in ways we cannot comprehend. But we can give ourselves over to it, open up to that infinite power — when we allow ourselves to be moved by it, we can move the world.
A new story is emerging, but we need to hear and align with it to accelerate that movement. That movement is in the air, the Zeitgeist (some would call it the noosphere); we need to lean into it, listen deeply, give ourselves to it and ride its movement, bring it forward into the light of day. We need to do this individually, each at our own edge, and we need to do this collectively, together; diving deep within to discover, and to bring forth, our gifts.
Despite post-modern memes to the contrary, which would dim our vision and power, we can think big — in fact we must, if we are to survive — but that big-picture vision must come from the Source of Creation itself, the greatest big-picture visionary of all — the Source of the Whole, our own widest identity, and to serve that Whole, the implicate order from which this whole creation arose. And yes, we can have plans, intentions, designs, but they too must flow from the Source of Creation, and align with its directions and laws. Power can be benevolent, healing, and profoundly transformative, not self-serving and rapacious, if it is sourced from the right place; it all depends on where it is coming from, and what powers it is aligned with — what source and what story is driving it.
When we reclaim our true power from within, the power relations at the outer levels, all the way up the line, also re-align. When the psychological, cultural, ecological, economic and socio-political dimensions are informed and guided from the deepest Source of Creation, our upside-down values and power relations at all those levels naturally reverse themselves, begin to be set right. There is a true inversion, conversion from the heart of Creation, through our own hearts, reversing the extreme imbalances and harm we have done, restoring them to a new harmony. From there new potentials for our evolution, a whole new story, can flow.
This is the sacred opening that can help us go forward, to which our crises themselves are calling us today. If we enter into the sacred heart of creation, we will find the power to redeem, resurrect, our precious life on this planet, to rise again from the ashes — the evolution, and revolution, from the deepest core of our being, that can turn our crises around.
[i] The idea of these three levels to our being — ego, heart and essence — has been developed and expounded at great length by John Prendergast, Adyashanti, and other contemporary non-dual spiritual teachers. (Adyashanti often refers to the heartful level as the “soulful level”, using the terms interchangeably, while Prendergast often calls Essence “Deep Heart”, but basically these three levels are the same.)
[ii] The term “conscious co-creation”, and whole wider vision of evolutionary spirituality behind it, come from the great evolutionary visionaries Barbara Marx Hubbard, Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin. Some teachers in non-dual circles today have incorporated these perspectives, in a new, emerging field that could be called non-dual evolutionary spirituality. This in turn can be expanded into direct, multi-dimensional action — a new sacred activist approach to meet today’s global crises.