1. Conscious Community Initiative

Holistic Change: Alef Trust round table at Beyond the Brain conference 2023

Alef Trust are delighted to be presenting a Round Table at the upcoming Beyond the Brain conference, which takes place online from Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th November. In this session we will hear from a number of practitioners and researchers active in the Alef Trust community, who are working with holistic, consciousness-centred approaches to peace-building, mental health in climate activism, and change facilitation.

Sunday 5th November, from 9:30 – 11:10 GMT.

Chair: Dr Jessica Bockler
Presenters: Cheyenne Loana Lückemeier, Valerie Reichmann Popowski & Terence Sexton

Explorations of whether and how consciousness may extend beyond the individual brain and body invite us to consider new perspectives on human nature, our cultural evolution, and what are our roles and responsibilities for one another and for nature and earth. Researchers and practitioners working in the climate and sustainability sciences have begun to assert that purely external, technical solutions are insufficient in addressing the multifaceted ecological and social problems of our time, because they are bypassing the inner dimensions of the crises we have been experiencing. There is a growing recognition that our global challenges are rooted in dysfunctional mental states and social dynamics, and that we need to engage in inner work to evolve our capacities and skills in addressing world-wide insecurities and volatilities.

Postmaterialist and integrative perspectives on consciousness have ethical implications. This session invites us to reflect on what these new perspectives mean for us in our daily lives and our professional practices. The session is structured as a round table which will be initiated by three ‘seed’ presentations covering the following topics:

Mental health in climate activism and eco-grief: With the growing awareness and distress over worldwide ecological degradation, there has been a surge in environmental activism on a global scale. While research increasingly acknowledges the emotional impact of the climate and ecological crises under the umbrella term ‘eco-anxiety’, literature on supporting and sustaining activists’ wellbeing is scarce. Informed by her own engagement in the climate justice movement, Cheyenne Loana Lückemeier will explore the impact of the climate and ecological emergency on activists’ mental health, arguing that activists are at a disproportionately higher risk to experience mental health challenges. Focusing on the under-researched experience of eco-grief, Cheyenne’s research explored how therapeutic practitioners can better support environmental activists in their lived experience of eco-grief, and nurture individual and collective wellbeing. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with psychotherapists and mindfulness practitioners, Cheyenne’s research findings invite us to explore more embodied and creative ways of responding to the complexities of our time, to cultivate a more holistic approach to activism and our relationship with Nature.

Transpersonal approaches to peace-building: Valerie Reichmann Popowski will present her research into transpersonal approaches to Palestinian-and-Israeli peacebuilding. In 2021 and 2022 she explored the lived experience of Israelis and Palestinians who participated in or facilitated peace-building initiatives rooted in spiritual, holistic, and integrative methods. Valerie also undertook field work, joining and observing several peace initiatives, gathering data through direct participation. In her research she explored if and how transpersonal approaches to peace-building foster understanding and empathy among conflicting parties, and she examined if such approaches may transcend the divisive narratives and entrenched beliefs that perpetuate conflict.

Conscious leadership: It is increasingly being recognised that our inner dimensions are deep leverage points for change, as we tackle the root causes of climate change and other sustainability challenges. While it has no agreed definition, consciousness can be considered to encompass all our inner dimensions. However, there currently appears to be a focus on developing our inner dimensions through expanding consciousness awareness. Informed by his ongoing research using co-operative inquiry to explore how changemakers experience their consciousness in relation to their leadership, Terence Sexton will propose that consciousness also needs to be developed in other ways. These include developing the contents of consciousness (such as values, beliefs, and worldviews) that are associated with pro-environmental behaviours and gaining greater cognitive, emotional and behavioural agility by developing to the higher (post-conventional) stages of consciousness.

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