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Catching the Buzz from Global Leaders, Thinkers, Teachers, and Mystics

by Carter Phipps

Remember this name: the World Future Council. It is being used as the initial moniker for a new global initiative with an ambitious goal—the establishment of a worldwide group of a hundred respected “elders, pioneers, and youth leaders” who can bring a moral and ethical voice to global affairs. The idea, brainchild of Jakob von Uexkull, founder of the Right Livelihood Awards and former member of the European Parliament, is that with the right people and the right organization, such a council could become a sort of special interest group for the whole planet, providing a voice of conscience in global leadership. “I wonder what the World Future Council would have to say about that?” would start to become a common question in the affairs of the world, and the media would then look to the group for perspective on important issues. Imagine a hundred people who each have the moral clout of the Dalai Lama weighing in on the matters of the day. While much depends on exactly who the hundred are who end up being chosen, the World Future Council may truly be that rare idea whose time has indeed come . . .

“Mediated” is a word that cultural critics like Thomas de Zengotita like to use to describe the way in which the mass media permeates all aspects of contemporary life. Well, you can put Eastern spirituality on the list of those things that have been officially “mediated.” How do we know? Just check out superstar yoga teacher Rodney Yee. He's no longer just a popular teacher of yoga but a celebrity spokesperson for all kinds of products. In the new yoga magazine Breathe, Yee is like the Michael Jordan of yoga, posing impressively in ad after ad endorsing Vitasoy drinks and Nasoya tofu. Got soymilk? And if that's not convincing enough, check out the advertising in a recent edition of the British Airways in-flight magazine. One page features a striking picture of the South Indian village of Tiruvanamali, inviting the air traveler to come and “experience yourself” at the spot where the great twentieth-century sage Ramana Maharshi meditated, essentially selling spiritual enlightenment as the new tourism. India's president Dr. Abdul Kalam even appeared last year at a news conference with the Dalai Lama promoting the country as an untapped destination for the spiritually hungry. So what's next in the mediated world of East-meets-West spirituality? Well, if we can't beat them, maybe we should join them. How about a new television series—reality TV goes on a meditation retreat? Imagine the pitch: Six people, hidden away in a Buddhist monastery with nothing but rice, tofu, and a cushion. Who will crack? Who will run away? Who will fall for maya's charms? Who will achieve nirvana? Tune in next week to Survivor: The Razor's Edge . . .

It was only a few years ago that Ken Wilber launched the Integral Institute, inviting all kinds of progressive thinkers to weekends at his mountain home in Boulder, Colorado, to discuss the state of education, politics, business, medicine, art, and many other fields, all under the umbrella of his integral philosophy. For over a year, hundreds made the pilgrimage to enjoy the crisp Rocky Mountain air and banter integral ideas with some of today's brightest minds. Eventually, those initial gatherings were curtailed, and I-I was revamped with a more specific mission—a mission that has recently led to the creation of all kinds of new integral initiatives, including gatherings, conferences, seminars, websites, raves, and the new online Integral University. But amid all this activity, the one subject that always seemed MIA was perhaps the most fundamental of all: integral spirituality. Well, the wait is over. The first-ever Integral Spiritual Center will be launching next year, and this center won't be just virtual. The I-I team is on the prowl for a real, live, physical center to be located in the Denver/Boulder area. Want to hear a lecture on contemplative prayer, practice a little Zen, or catch up on your Integral Transformative Practice? ISC may be just the place, and we hear that a number of spiritual luminaries will be teaching there—Father Thomas Keating, Genpo Roshi, and Rabbi Marc Gafni help make up an early multifaith list of prominent figures offering their support. And judging by Mr. Wilber's ever-expanding list of high-profile readers, who knows which beautiful people might stop by for a quick meditative tune-up? Tony Robbins, Al Gore, Keanu Reeves, Michael Crichton? Heck, maybe they should open one in Aspen as well . . .

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