July 2-3 people from around the world gathered for the World Culture Festival in Berlin for what seems like a powerful celebration of global diversity.

I was especially intrigued by the video just posted to give a glimpse into the group meditation by 70,000 people, focusing on world peace:

In this January 2011 study led by Sara Lazar of Mass General Hospital, the striking findings were that meditation changes not only your stress response, but also the very underlying structure of your brain–especially areas related to sense of self, stress, and empathy.

I can’t help but wonder what small-scale evolutionary steps we humans are taking when 70,000 of us meditate together.  In the big picture of the human project, what are we about here?

Are we using meditation to program our brains for world peace?

If so, what location should play host to the next gathering of 70,000?

IFTF Ten-Year Forecast Director, Kathi Vian

My colleague, Kathi Vian is the type of person who can engage with the seed of an idea that you have, talk with you about it for an hour, and leave you with enough food-for-thought for a year!

As I continue to narrow in on what my research wants to be (have given up on force-fitting it into what I want it to be), I have zeroed in on this question, at least for today:

What is the changing role of religion in the human project?

In some senses, the sacred has gone underground in the past decades. It has been splintered and siloed to the point where it is not really factored into the basic decision-making processes of business and policy.  I am beginning to form a forecast around the innovations and disruptions that are plausible under these kinds of conditions.

Back of the napkin forecasts?:

  • the health & well-being impacts of spiritual practices will be an all-around game changer in the next decade.
  • techno-spiritual practices will be a zone for innovation
  • extreme religious communities will use technology in highly disruptive ways

At the end of the conversation, Kathi (in her infinite wisdom), suggested a possible title for this inquiry that has really stuck with me:  The Disruptive Sacred.

In Krista Tippett‘s most recent interview for On Being, she unpacks “meditation as a spiritual technology” together with Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, HealthCare and Society at UMass.

(Yes, he is the son of Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States).

Highlights include discussion of:

  • meditation as a spiritual technology that can be a key to sane living in this world without having to abandon our worldly path
  • the distinction between thinking versus true attention and awareness
  • mindful parenting:  “living with children as a powerful spiritual practice” on which Jon & his wife wrote a book
  • Jon’s mindfulness facilitation at Google’s HQ in 2007
  • relationship between time and awareness
  • relationships, immune system, body & brain changes resulting from mindfulness
  • how (presumably non-spiritual) technology can be addictive
  • how stress dampens empathy
  • mindful leadership & Obama

The segment closes with this poem:

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the others’ welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Ever since Christakis & Fowler released Connected:  the Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, social contagion theories and next generation social network analysis seems to be popping up everywhere.  It seems to be catching (dad joke).


The basic thesis here is that we are connected to each other in ways we have never realized (at least by correlation, if not causation) out to the third degree of separation…that is to say, I am connected to my friends’ friends’ friends.

Even though social contagion has gotten a bit buzzwordish,  it is broadly relevant to the inquiry of Allons! so it’s worth saying a few words here at the start.  Here are Christakis & Fowler’s 5 Rules of Life in a Network:

Rule 1:  We shape our network

Rule 2:  Our networks shape us

Rule 3:  Our friends affect us

Rule 4:  Our friends’ friends’ friends affect us

Rule 5:  The network has a life of its own

This framework will be great for shaping the discussion about spirituality, connecting, and beliefs.  Here is Christakis’ TED talk that introduces the basic topics: