When we are small we are free children; when we grow up, we become frightened children.
Last week, I had the honor of visiting the United Nations in New York, where I participated in a Global Citizen Forum event sponsored by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and theUniversal Peace Federation, titled "Globalization and Sustainable Development: The Role of Government, NGO's and Private Sector."
At first, I was unsure how my message of inner transformation applied to the Sustainable Development Goals that formed such a central part of the discussion. But as I thought about it, it became clear to me just how essential inner transformation is on the road to a sustainable society. The UN's goals of sustainable development seek to fix environmental, social and economic problems. Yet in order to effectively deal with any problem, we must seek out the cause. We all know that the problems sustainable development seeks to rectify have a common cause: humanity. So what is it that we have been doing wrong? Why do so many still live in poverty? Why is there so much conflict in the world? Why do we cause so much damage to the environment? The answer is lack. Because we feel inner lack, we go to extreme lengths in order to accumulate more: more power, more control, more possessions, in a desperate attempt to fill our inner dissatisfaction. But our fear of loss means that nothing is ever enough, and we continue taking as much as we can, no matter the consequences. Because we feel lack, we care about me, not about us. It is precisely this concern that was addressed so eloquently in the 1996 UNESCO report prepared by Jacques Delors, in which he established four pillars of learning which all schools should provide: Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Be and Learning to Live Together. The report lamented that most schools only covered the first two pillars, basically leaving the last two to chance! Unfortunately, for the most part this continues to be the case.
For the last 15 years, I myself have been dedicated to educating for inner transformation, through the international NGO Isha Educating for Peace. We have developed a comprehensive education proposal that introduces values-based meditation into schools allowing them to more adequately cover UNESCO's last two pillars. We teach children how to find inner peace and to love themselves unconditionally, to feel their emotions, be transparent, real and truthful and to value themselves for who they are. When a person values themselves, they come to value everything and everyone around them.
Our educational model teaches people to find inner abundance and responsibility so they can feel complete and happy within themselves and as a consequence transmit this to their families and communities. Transparency, honesty and respect for others and the environment all come from cultivating a deeper awareness of the inner experience of peace and fulfillment that unites us all, but that we often lose sight of, by paying too much attention to our surface differences.
If we want to make the goals of sustainable development a reality, we must build societies full of people who care.
If we could build a society of people experiencing compassion, mutual respect and generosity of spirit, we will have built a society that will make decisions that serve the common good. Regulations and projects, however inspired they may be, depend on the goodwill of governments and cultures if they are to be successfully implemented: we must not underestimate the importance of inner change in building a sustainable future.
When a person feels empowered, they can empower others. In the pilot schools where we are teaching our values-based meditation, this is exactly what we find: children empowering each other to be the best they can be.
Our values-based meditation allows children to cultivate a much deeper connection with themselves, helping them make better decisions, build a more positive self image and find more fulfillment in life. At the same time, values-based meditation instills universal values, such as appreciation, mutual respect and unity, and in this way helps children learn how to be and how to live together. If we want a harmonious society where sustainable development is the norm, we must learn to cultivate peace and harmony within ourselves.
Today, globalization is becoming a reality at an ever increasing pace. Borders of time and distance are melting away. But as physical boundaries fall, the mental barriers of prejudice and discrimination must fall too. If globalization is to be a positive force that unites peoples and cultures, we must learn to focus on the love that unites us all.
When I heal myself, I bring peace to the world. United nations come from united communities, and United communities come from individuals who experience unity within themselves. It's time for an inner revolution, to accompany the outer revolution of our rapidly transforming world.
Isha's latest book, "The Global Citizen," explores her vision for a new education.