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The Integral Path

Author: Varun Vidyarthi

Varun, a thought leader and social innovator from India gets to the heart of what makes meaningful social change happen - change in us.

With the increasing challenges of climate change, terrorist threats, growing inequality and resulting unrest in societies, as well as continued abysmal poverty among a third of the global population, it is imperative to examine and challenge our ways of functioning as an individual and society.

We can no longer remain unconcerned about these issues, which not only cause insecurity, stress and uncertainty among most of us, but have become a threat to our very existence. On the positive side, there is enough experience to indicate that meaningful alternatives exist. They rest in our hands: in our thinking, in our ways of living as enlightened citizens.

The integral path suggests that it is insufficient to be just critical of these various problems or of their structural origins or of the injustices perpetuated by powerful interest groups. Instead it is essential to work on evolution of both individual and collective consciousness. The process begins with working with our self, building calm and awareness within, and moving towards collective reflection and action in larger groups to explore alternatives for meaningful and sustainable living. One without the other is usually limited in scope and depth.

Work on ourselves can be initiated with reflection on our assumptions, habits, thought processes and living patterns. It is a process of connecting deeply to our physical, mental and emotional self, enabling an inner calm and a new evolved relationship with people and environment. Action is then continually refined by the reflection process. Most practitioners suggests that this is not an easy task, but if practised diligently it can lead to wonderful outcomes, affecting our lives through a widening of consciousness, a descending peace within.

A parallel effort is needed to promote or encourage deep reflection and action in small and large groups to build collective understanding, wisdom and power to tackle the multiple forces of disharmony, injustice and destruction. Collective reflection and action is also useful to the average citizen for recovering consciousness, for joyful and purposeful living, free from the forces of economic and cultural domination that are usually beyond individual control.

Among the disadvantaged sections of society in India especially women, the process of collective reflection and action has taken the form of self help groups which have affected the lives of millions of families. It has empowered and enabled them to gradually build their future through their own efforts despite the hostile social and economic environment. It has emerged as a process that can be facilitated with consistent outcomes in most distressful situations anywhere.

Varun's work is described in other articles available through the Centre, and many of his themes are reflected in the best practice found in other approaches. You can explore more by looking at some of the materials listed here.

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

The Integral Path © Varun Vidyarthi 2016.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.