We have all felt the collective power of a group inspired and motivated by compassion, love and understanding. I feel this every time I participate in a healing retreat. In practice centers I am surrounded by individuals who are diligently practicing to maintain their own well-being so that they can then pass it forward to end the suffering of others. This energy grows in the collective and strengthens the depth of one’s own practice. Thich Nhat Hanh explains the importance of collective consciousness saying that “when we come together to practice mindfulness, concentration,compassion, we generate these wholesome energies collectively, and it’s very nourishing and healing.” (nhat hanh, 2010) Coming together with people who share the same aspiration to heal our planet and one another helps us to feel supported in our practice and encourages us to continue growing the collective consciousness.
Humans tend to take on the beliefs, mindsets, and behaviors of those surrounding them. If we surround ourselves with individuals who are angry, hateful and divisive then we will absorb those attitudes and begin to behave the same. Conversely by exemplification, our social milieu can also encourage us to behave altruistically, volunteering, donating, and caring for others. (Bandura, 2001) For this reason we must be mindful of who we are surrounding ourselves with trying to frequent social circles that encourage positive behavior and mindsets. The more effective our well-intentioned groups become the higher their aspirations, the greater their motivation, and the more resilient to adversity they become resulting in higher performance of their mission. (Bandura, 2001) Keep feeding the positive energies!
Broadening our social milieus and increasing contact with difference is also important for our personal and collective growth. We are more likely to be open to learning new ideas and practices from brief contact with acquaintances than from intensive contact in the same circle of close contacts. (Granovetter, 1983) Being in touch with a wide range of social milieus increases our understanding and acceptance of others and increases our own access to helpful ideas and practices. We know that people who have many social ties are more likely to adopt innovations than those who have limited ties to others. (Rogers & Kincaid, 1981) By reaching out to new social groups and expanding our social network we are opening ourselves to new resources and perspectives that can help us to have a deeper understanding of our own at the same time as adopting what’s useful from others. As we reach out and connect with new social groups, we must be discerning of which ones align with our true intentions. Stay mindful of how the ideas and practices of those you are connecting with are changing who you are.
The following suggestions can help you to stay mindful of your collective consciousness.
- Choose social groups wisely. Be observant of the motivation and intention of the group. If they don’t align with your true intentions then consider a different group.
- As you prepare for social interaction set intentions for how you would like to show up for others. What do you want to offer the group?
- When you are interacting in a group take a moment to become the observer. Notice the mood and intentions of each person. Notice the reactions created in others by their words and actions. Notice the mindset being encouraged in you.
- Observe how you are showing up in the group. Are you able to stay true to your intentions? Are you sharing ideas and practices that encourage understanding, growth, and peace?
- If you are unable to receive or give in a way that feels true to you then you may want to consider finding alternate social connections.
Bandura, A. (2001) Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication, Media Psychology, Department of Psychology Standfor University, 3, 265–299.
Granovetter, M. (1983). The strength of weak ties—A network theory revisited. In R. Collins (Ed.), Sociological theory 1983 (pp. 201–233). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.
Rogers, E. M., & Kincaid, D. L. (1981). Communication networks: Toward a new paradigm for research. New York: Free Press.
Thich Nhat Hanh (2010). Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child. Berkley CA, Parallax Press.