I recently attended a very stimulating conference, participating digitally while it was going on simultaneously in-person in Stockholm, Sweden. It was called Connecting the Dots – From inner growth to outer change.
The conference was put on by a collective which promotes the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). The IDGs initiative was started in 2020 by a group of thinkers who came together with the desire to strengthen the inner capacity of individuals and the collective to respond to the mounting challenges we are facing individually and collectively.
Their very simple premise is that personal development is necessary for societal change. Very simple yet also very powerful. We need to indeed “be the change” to realize our visions, dreams, goals.
The vision of developing ourselves internally – to grow our capacity – is ambitious and far-reaching and posits that we need to undergo inner change on a broad scale to also be able to realize the biggest of global visions: 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Five inner qualities were identified as foundational for our growth personally and as a species as we go forward through our poly-crisis. These five qualities were developed through crowd sourcing with thousands of experts, practitioners and scientists internationally, in an open-sourced format.
The five areas for development are:
- Being Skills– how we relate to ourselves
- Thinking Skills– directing our cognitive skills for collective imagining
- Relating – feeling a deep caring for others and the world
- Collaborating – sharpening our social skills to navigate differences creatively
- Acting – enabling change
The conference I attended was organized around these five qualities and I am captivated by them now!
Various speakers echoed the need to change our inner selves to be able to realize a more positive imagined future.
One presentation that caught my imagination was under the “Being” stream. Being is where it all starts and it’s the focus of my deepening work around “holding on to” ourselves.
The presentation was made by a group who puts on mindfulness meditation training for politicians. That idea is exciting in and of itself!
The mission of mindfulnessinitiative.org is to apply mindfulness to change the culture in politics and to apply mindfulness in addressing the climate crisis.
The connection they’ve made between Being and Acting is lofty and inspiring!
They created a mindfulness all-party parliamentary group training and then a follow-up report based on interviews with some of the politicians trained, who spoke about the impact for them.
The mindfulness initiative also went back and interviewed some of the politicians to determine what impact, if any, the mindfulness training had. This is an important step, as it’s easy to train, not so easy to determine if the training had an impact. And, especially in the world of politics, which is power-over and distrusting, knowing if mindfulness helped at all, is crucial.
So, some of the benefits of the mindfulness training the politicians themselves identified included them noticing that they were:
- listening to each more
- navigating disagreement better
- developing more perspective-taking skills, seeing the other’s point of view
- cultivating more empathy and humility
- being able to take a step back and self-regulate more.
It was also noticed in others, that when somebody had the mindfulness training, “the level of respect in debate increases.”
These capacities are also central to engaging conflict well and competently as leaders.
In increasing polarization globally, in our local communities and in our own lives, mindfulness is becoming even more important. Practicing mindfulness creates a gap between who we think we are, our identity, and what we think we believe. Those tend to be tightly bound together, so introducing more mindfulness creates the space for new possibilities to enter. Magic!
Mindfulness creates the opportunity to see that “I am not identical to my thoughts” and “My thoughts are not facts.” When we do that, the beliefs that have been acting as a filter on our world, drops away. We see a wider life.
This skill is called meta cognitive awareness or meta cognition and it is central in the practice of mindfulness. It’s important for us as individuals and for our political leaders.
The Mindfulness Initiative also launched a global political network to teach mindfulness to politicians around the world. As Jon Kabat-Zinn is quoted as saying at that gathering:
“Cultivating intimacy with the present moment is not some kind of luxury, it’s an absolute necessity to living life fully.”
Imagine what a difference it would make if all of us, and especially our political leaders, could stay calm in the face of conflict. Let’s imagine that together and perhaps we may co-create a new standard for what we expect conflict, community life and politics itself to look like.