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Give Unity a Chance

by Matthew Gilbert

Transformation. It’s a powerful word, a game-changing process. When we listen to the stories of how the tragedy of September 11, 2001, transformed people’s lives, we are moved by the recurring theme of unity. How people opened their arms to comfort others. How they opened their hands to help others. How they opened their hearts to forgive or to look for meaning.

When we commemorate events so profound, in which lives have been derailed and histories rewritten, we take transformation to another level, where we open our minds to new worldviews, connect with others as a form of practice, and invite others to learn from our experience.

In its extensive research on transformation as a mysterious and complex life process, IONS discovered commonalities across different spiritual traditions and among people from all walks of life who experienced dramatic shifts in their reality. That research led to a working model of consciousness transformation which is now used to support people in their life journey to make significant, positive, and long-lasting change.

As described by IONS Director of Research Cassie Vieten, this model illustrates “change with a capital ‘C’—a fundamental transformation in consciousness.” But it’s not just about you or me. According to Vieten, “A common challenge is that even when practice becomes integrated into everyday life, the process can remain a personal quest. But for growth and development to continue, true transformation appears to require that the process move from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ In other words, as my practice infuses my life, I cannot help but wish for and actively work toward the transformation of my community. As people share their experiences and their presence of being with others, a collective transformation that is more than the sum of its parts begins to emerge. Individual transformations combine to create collective transformation, which in turn stimulates more individual transformations, and so on in an ever-widening expansion of our human potential.”

This potential is always challenged by the fear and uncertainty that nibble at our edges; by the media's addiction to the darker dramas of humanity; by our deep conditioning to consider everyone and everything around us as "other." But as the great Indian sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj once said, "There are no others." It is truly a practice to stay open to our potential and to the goodness of our fellow travelers.

And so it’s the practice that matters once the door to change has creaked—or been blown—open. In observing our collective reality in a post-9/11 world and acknowledging that people throughout the world are experiencing their own life-altering events—sometimes on a daily basis—we encourage all of us to keep doing the work of opening to the unity that lurks beneath our differences.


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