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Learning to See in Wholly Holy Way: Awakened World Conference, Italy Oct 2012   1 comment

Learning to See in Wholly Holy Way: Awakened World Conference, Italy Oct 2012

Awakened World 2012: Learning to See in a “Wholly holy Way.”

Barbara Nussbaum

Awakened World 2012,was  recently convened and hosted in Italy by three American organizations. I learned about the conference through the Association of Global New Thought, one of the sponsoring organizations. 240 participants came from more than 15 countries – from almost every continent. There were social activists from Sri Lanka and Mexico, Buddhist teachers from Korea, Tibet and China; University Professors from Iran, Iowa, Arizona and Georgia; Rabbis from Israel and Belgium, Muslims from Malaysia, and Pakistan;  Hindus; New Thought Practitioners; authors, therapists, ministers, film makers, peacemakers, youth workers,  leadership experts,  educators, ecologists, entrepreneurs from the UK,  Europe, USA, South Africa, Ghana and India.  The theme was “Engaged Spirituality for the 21st Century” and the intention was to enroll delegates from all over the world in dialogues to define and refine what it means to foreground spirituality as a catalytic force for global transformation.

The conference was unique in design, bold in vision and amplified by the consciousness, soulfulness and diversity of people who came. I have seldom  experienced the degree of “mutual irradiation” in such authentic, gentle and generative encounters between people of so many different faiths.  In a short pamphlet, Douglas Steere, a Quaker described the meaning of “mutual irradiation” in the context of interfaith dialogue.   This mutuality happens when “each  (religion) is willing to expose itself with great openness to the inward message of the other, as well as to  share its own experience and to trust that whatever is the truth in each experience will irradiate and deepen the experience of the other.”

Rarely have I been in gatherings where the mutual irradiation happened so effortlessly. Delegates were invited to focus on how we saw signs of change, how we noticed systemic shifts, how applied evolutionary change in practical engagement and how we were embodying the spiritual and cultural evolutionary shifts our lived experience. Intellectual, spiritual and emotional integration and transformation took place within my own being, through song, story and connection and conversation.

In the background materials prepared for the conference, AGNT Executive Director, Dr Barbara Fields and Jim Kenney, program coordinator of the Peace Council, outlined the important relationship between spiritual evolution and cultural evolution. They spoke of  this moment in time, when prevailing cultural values, global awareness and spiritual understanding are emerging in new and distinct ways. The careful preparation for Awakened World 2012, showed how spiritual evolution unfolds as a key dimension of the process of a broader cultural evolution. This involves the slow, steady (and occasionally dramatically accelerated) shift of prevailing cultural values, assumptions, memes, and behavior patterns toward “a closer fit with our best understanding of reality”. The circle below was the innovative design template used to frame our dialogues across four themes: Reconciling with the Other; Rediscovering the Sacred; Transforming Society and Embracing the Earth Family. (This link will illustrate the design graphically)

A Personal Note

Unexpected was the palpable personal shift that emerged in the evolution of my way of seeing, my way of being. There was a profound yet comfortable healing of the internal divides and rearrangement of my lived reality. The formal dialogues and informal interactions with delegates sparked with inspiration so that it became easy to embody the spiritually motivated shifts we sought to name.

Like many, my own journey covers a search for integration of the analytic and the artistic, the masculine and the feminine, the rational and mystical; the harmonizing of inner experience and outer expression.

Like many, I have noticed the spread of a shifting paradigm and the deepening cracks of all that is not working in our world.  Since 2003, I have written about the systemic shifts which are clearing the ground for the rooting of the philosophy of Ubuntu globally. Ubuntu, in its simplest definition is about communally expressed humanity, about finding the I in the “WE”.

Living with the faith and sometimes the loneliness of a visionary, I count among many blessings, the affirmation and validation from people such as Rinaldo Brutoco, Founder and President of the World Business Academy who had invited me to the conference.

Years before the global financial crisis of 2008, Rinaldo recognized that the ethical appeal and shared responsibility called forth by Ubuntu was also a useful way to name the desired direction of our interconnectedness and the changes we need to embrace as a planet.  The Awakened World conference in Italy, further demonstrated how Ubuntu, alongside other religions, could help to rediscover the sacredness of the other and translate these into practical, spiritually motivated initiatives for transforming business and society. Ubuntu was lived out, every day in Rome and in Florence – this evolutionary force melded and melted before my eyes into the oneness of other philosophies from other cultures and religions.


Fresh eyes and full heart

Though always informed by heartfelt passion, I have found it easier to write about Ubuntu than to consistently embody the spiritual call it demands on a daily basis. I became conscious of a slight internal disconnect between my fiery but reasoned writing, and residues of unconsciousness sometimes lacing patterns of engagement and embodiment.

In March this year, I began to heal this disconnect, starting to incorporate resonance building process using music in my team building facilitation. I translated Ubuntu principles to reframe a way for people to listen to the music of the other. This involved a request for several shift in awareness:  suspending judgment, finding reverence and respect; and dignifying others by listening to their chosen tracks of music with an open heart and a loving soul.

The energy and alchemy of the conference poured a new brew of glue to fill gaps in the global jigsaw of my belonging and fire up synapses necessary for my own evolution.

Dancing like Candles

At Awakened World 2012 my soul danced like a candle with other candles, moving gracefully and smoothly in an easy choreography on a changing sea. The shore ahead felt closer, more visible because of the collective light.

Instead of a pressure to hold tightly onto “my” candle, a vision of Ubuntu, I have relaxed into the deep knowing that many of us at Awakened World, share a vision of oneness and are living it daily, feeling “it”.

What the “it” is became clearer.

Andrew Cohen’s interview with Rickie Byars Beckwith provides a helpful vocabulary.

Rickie says:  “I mean “One Love” in the way Bob Marley meant it. It’s that love. It’s beyond self-preservation. It’s something that cares. In that love, there’s no other. We are it. It’s us, and so we share it. I believe that a soulful person is someone who is swimming in this, who’s dedicated to it, who’s here for this.”

The universal quality of oneness was expressed in countless forms by many people. Rickie Byars Beckwith, Faith Riveira and others in the conference music group A.W.E (Awakened World Ensemble), sang the oneness of Ubuntu in Rome and in Florence. Every day we were treated to prayers and meditations and songs from many religious traditions.  And in our dialogues, so many of the delegates from Japan to Ghana embodied the oneness of Ubuntu in their very being. Rinaldo Brutoco and James Quilligan spoke it in their vision of

ethical business a new economy and a just society. Barbara Fields role modeled beautifully what collaboration looks like in its most generous form.

I can relax in the knowing that the system shift is so deeply shared by an increasing number of soul- ful people, that spiritual evolution feels tangible and cultural evolution genuinely with us.

We become instruments of collective transcendence

In the same interview with Andrew Cohen, Rev Michael Beckwith had this so say: “There’s a rhythm; there’s a harmony, a vibration…. soulful people have the ability, consciously or unconsciously, to allow that vibration to move through them. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re doing it. Have you ever listened to Sam Cooke or Ray Charles? In the music of certain people, you hear them touching that ineffable place. They become instruments to translate and transmit it to the audience. And when it hits the audience, you can feel  it.”

At our most transformative moments in South Africa, people asked one another other, can you “feel it?” “It” was described as “gees”, an Afrikaans world for spiritual aliveness that has marked some of our transformative moments in South Africa. Our miracle moments in that country are those of collective transcendence, where people connected into a greater oneness. In those moments, what is ineffable becomes palpable. What is intangible becomes lived and profoundly felt by many. These moments of shared transcendence happened often in Italy at Awakened World 2012.

Michael Beckwith described “it” this way. When singers make a big hit, it is because the song is carried so deeply in their being, and they are resonating so deeply with the lyrics, that in the singing, the lyrics are magnified. The singers increase the power of the words and carry them forward.

I felt sung to so gorgeously, by so many delegates and I sang with them. We all amplified our shared awakening, carrying the song of our evolution forward.

The intention of the Dialogues at Awakened World was to “model the harmony of the world’s great religious and spiritual communities – their common ground and the differences that give them unique identities – demonstrating that a shared vision can transcend differences and reveal wisdom. This value of this undertaking will lie in the contribution it can make to global evolutionary awareness and transformative action.”

There were many moments of modeling harmony.  Many pearls of wisdom shared. They emerged in music, in conversation, in story in thought, in envisioning new projects and extending existing projects within the Awakened World Community.  The rooted collective wisdom gave voice to the nascent buds of a new tree of life.

On the final day in Rome, we sang “we are the world, we are the children”.  I found a fresh voice resonant with others. We found our voices in harmony in that song for a moment in Italy. We’re singing evolution forward. We’re learning to love and to serve in a “wholly holy way”.[1]


Barbara Nussbaum is an author, coach, and a creative consultant living in South Africa.

[1] With thanks to Rickie Byars Beckwith for the Inspiration of these lyrics. The last U tube link gives you a chance to see Rickie singing her song!