“Building community is to the collective as spiritual practice is to the individual.” -Grace Lee Boggs
I saw this quote at the bottom of a recent email and though it is simple, I think it captures something important that is emerging at this time.
It’s not that collective spiritual practice is something new. We have been gathering in churches and temples and synagogues since the dawn of religion. It has long been understood that our spiritual practices are buoyed by the presence of fellow practitioners.
What is interesting about this quote is that it seems to suggest that the object of the collective practice is to raise up the consciousness not of the individual but of the collective. It suggests that there is a collective consciousness that pertains to higher and lower levels of consciousness and possibly even collective awakening.
Part of CTP's work is oriented towards supporting this idea. When groups gather together they are to some extent forming a collective mind that can think just like yours and mine. And the collective mind is often wiser than any of the minds that make it up. This is important to the environmental movement because it suggests that the more we speak and act from the perspective of the the mind of the collective, the more effective our action will be.
Collective consciousness is also important because, at a time when the challenges we face are too complex, urgent and interwoven for one person to bear on their own, it makes possible a form of collective leadership which could take this pressure off of the individual .
The practice of collective leadership made great progress within the movement to Occupy Wall Street. Because Occupy was not interested in following the leadership of any particular individuals, it emphasized democratic group process and developed skills with a series of hand signals for quickly and quietly gathering the input of the group.
Some have claimed that the collective leadership of the Occupy movement was both a strength and a weakness. It is said that the Movement suffered from the pull of divergent visions. But regardless of whether Occupy should ultimately be called 'leaderless' or ‘leaderful,’ we continue confident in the belief that, as our collective spiritual practices develop, environmental and social justice movements will arise with all of the strength, wisdom and unity they need to prevail.