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Our Bodies and Brains Need Belonging

The Crystal Bridges Museum, site of the 2019 Sages and Scientists Conference. Source:
November 20, 2019

Over the weekend, I got a firsthand glimpse of how expert opinion on health is rapidly evolving.

I spoke on a panel at the Sages and Scientists conference, which was held this year in Arkansas. It’s a gathering of academic medical researchers, technologists, philosophers, contemplatives, and business leaders from around the world, all focused on questions of how to boost well-being and health for humanity. While the roster included chairs of venture capital firms, Ivy League deans, teaching physicians, and other high priests of mainstream expertise, the “credo” of the conference was downright countercultural:

“Consciousness can help us find the solution to any challenge.”

Leading experts from the medical and scientific and economic establishments are now speaking openly and enthusiastically about the role of deep subjective experience — both individual and shared — as a basis of physiological and psychological outcomes. This kind of conversation would have been hard to imagine 15 years ago.

To me, the shift in thinking is simple: we’ve seen that the old paradigms aren’t suited to address the challenges we face in the 21st Century. We need to open up to possibilities of systems change. We need to honor the bio-mechanical elements of human life, while still leaving room to respect the mysteries inherent in each and every human being.

When I think of the role in “consciousness” in health and wellbeing, I think of the words of one of my heroes, the poet, farmer, and philosopher Wendell Berry, who once offered a powerful perspective on this topic:

“Connection is health.”

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