Author Stephen Covey wrote, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.”
The conditioning Covey refers to is the deeply engrained familial, societal, political and cultural constraints that surround us. These constraints collectively create a paradigm or worldview.
A paradigm is the usual or established way of thinking – the normal mindset or groupthink. It represents a theoretical foundation of assumptions and beliefs around a topic. The world is flat, humans are incapable of running a mile under 4-minutes, and humans will never set foot on the moon are examples of past paradigms.
Paradigms on any level control us and limit our potential. However, we do have the capability to change these set beliefs.
In 1962, author Thomas Kuhn popularized the concept of a ‘paradigm shift.’ A paradigm shift is a gradual change or metamorphosis from one way of thinking to another. A paradigm remains dominant until some aspect of it can no longer be used to explain phenomena. Anomalies appear resulting in theoretical gaps from which alternative, competing, yet better fitting paradigms emerge.
Today we are beginning to see a paradigm shift in our worldview. In many fields, ranging from physics to the healing arts, as well as demonstrated in the recent global Occupy protests, there is a shift from materialism to consciousness. Homeopathic medicine, the science of noetics (consciousness), and people seeking a deeper understanding about what it means to be human are becoming more prevalent.
Locally, VIU is hopeful it will create a Centre of Consciousness Studies that professor Les Malbon described as “the presence of the emotional, physical and spiritual domains in harmony with cognitive learning.”
People are expanding their identification beyond the local community to a global one. There is a greater call to shift the controlling, destructive and highly patriarchal way towards a more equitable and sustainable existence balanced with matriarchal ideals. This change involves moving from a fragmented and mechanical universe towards a holistic and a living universe.
Change is difficult. The greatest barrier to a paradigm shift is the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking. Kuhn stated, “Awareness is a prerequisite to all acceptable changes of theory.” It begins when the defenses of our frightened egos drop, allowing the ability to be open to new ways of thinking to occur.
Awareness of self, family, institutions and political systems is key. Jung stated, “We have not understood yet that the discovery of the unconscious means an enormous spiritual task, which must be accomplished if we wish to preserve our civilization.”
Einstein noted the “delusion” behind a mindset in which humans believe they are separate from the Universe, nature and others. He recommended – “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Where will you begin to broaden your awareness and shift the delusions?