The contemplative and mind-body practices spell the beginning of a new age in spirituality. Having said that, in my opinion, they place too much of an emphasis on the mind — on silence, on restraint and on internal peace. Our modern interpretations have tended to take them out of their communal settings and into a very individual context and journey.
And so in addition to Mindfulness and its groundbreaking impact on productivity, anxiety, focus and awareness, I believe that we also need a movement for Heartfulness, placing an emphasis on the heart — on energy, on release and on external celebration. While today there is no consensus or even consistency in the use of this word, we propose that it be treated as an umbrella term, parallel to Mindfulness, referring to a range of practices focused on compassion, community and gratitude. We will be writing more extensively on this topic in the near future.
There is mounting scientific evidence on the benefits of gratitude, altruism and compassion, and social scientific research on community and its contribution to life expectancy among other things (notably the Rosetto Effect, Religion, Social Networks and Life Satisfaction, and Bowling Alone) and I suspect that research labs are going to discover a lot more as our understanding of neuroplasticity, mirror neurons and other fields deepens.
Taking a look around, the Heartfulness movement is already well underway. Communities and leaders that represent both humanistic as well as integral approaches are not only spawning everywhere, but also rapidly gaining popularity. From transformational festivals to pop-up Shabbats, we are rediscovering the sacred and the divine in our connection to each other. Researchers at the Harvard Divinity School have published two excellent white papers that cover some of the communities pioneering spiritual innovation in the US (How we Gather and Something More).
21st Century Spirituality
It is my belief that the defining cultural shift in the coming decades will be the widespread adoption of a more integral spirituality and that the work done by these communities will gain traction and enter the mainstream way sooner than we can imagine. This new and emergent 21st Century Spirituality will be an approach that will combine at least three crucial elements:
The first important shift will be towards the widespread adoption of contemplative techniques and practices, many of which have their roots in traditional pre-modern spirituality, but that have stood the test of the scientific method. These psycho-technologies are focused on “waking-up” and include contemplation, meditation, psychedelic substances, creative expression and other techniques that induce a change in consciousness states. They also include techniques that derive from modern and post-modern psychological research that are focused on “healing” — shadow work, regressions and others that help us become more complete and whole.
The second shift, well underway already, has to do with a deeper understanding and nurturing of our bodies. For the majority of the last century, we have thought and treated our bodies as machines made up of independent parts. Needless to say, this view is being included and transcended by the understanding of the body as an integrated system where the relationships between the parts are just as important as the parts themselves. A lot of progress made in this line of thinking in centuries gone by is being revisited and repurposed to our current context.
The return to communities, gatherings, or Heartfulness has to do with the understanding that whatever we are looking for, call it what you will, is within and between us, not outside of us. The mythic-literal model got into so much trouble with the rationalists because of its recourse to magic and superstition. The integral approach is gaining popularity because of its focus on consciousness and community — spirituality is within us and “We don’t go to Church to find God. We go there to share God (The Color Purple, Alice Walker).“
As our understanding of the world expands and we learn to trust our Selves, our zone of influence and inclusion moves from ourselves and our egos, to our kin and then finally to all people and all beings. In this magnificent embrace, science meets spirit and East meets West, and the entire purpose of the Human Project is redefined as something larger than itself — an awakening to a reality in which we are at the service of all humans, sentient beings and to Life itself. It is my strong belief that we will witness something special in the coming decades — an active, humble and pragmatic pursuit of wisdom and compassion through individual practice and community gatherings.
I find myself compelled to work towards that awakening, combining ancient wisdom and contemporary gatherings in a 21st Century Spiritual Project. So this what I now spend my days doing at Sphere.
Technology, Community, and Spirituality
Sphere is a new kind of meditation app — a social network for meditators. The company’s mission is to unite us all in our search for greater health, happiness and connection. Unlike competitors, Sphere is both gamified (users move to more advanced meditation techniques as they progress through levels) and social.
As social media users begin to seek value in relationships based on deeper human connection, Sphere will become the home of “conscious” content and interaction, a welcome relief from how a lot of us currently relate with social media.
- Developmental content
- Social Network
- Curated set of iconic, yet relatable teachers
- Teacher diversity (male/female and American/British)
- Calendar integration
- Single use sessions
While there are other digital meditation apps on the marketplace, Sphere’s the first and only one that’s focusing on creating a community and has shown an ability to develop a hip and user-friendly brand. The result is a truly fresh approach to mindfulness that is combining ancient wisdom with technology has to offer, and is in-sync with contemporary culture.
Come walk with us.
About the Author:
Dhaval was a Venture Partner at Vox Capital (the leading impact fund in Latin America) and an advisor at Compass (NEA, Steve Blank). He has also served on the board of the Brazilian chapter of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs.
Previously, Dhaval co-founded Pipa, an early-stage accelerator and fund focused on purpose driven companies which was chosen as the Brazilian representative of TechStars’ Global Accelerator Network. At his first company Cria, a strategy consulting firm, his clients included Google, Dell, Whirlpool and Coca Cola.
Dhaval is an avid meditator and a student of developmental psychology. He attended Harvard and Singularity University.