The 18th sustainable development goal
ALAIN DESVIGNE asks why we have been so unsuccessful in implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that officially came into force in 2016, and proposes an 18th SDG that will allow us to fulfill all the others. This paper was first presented at the conference for “The Elevation of Consciousness Through Meditation for Global Harmony” in August 2019, at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India.
The concept of sustainability was popularized in the Brundtland Report, published in 1987. This document, which was also referred to as Our Common Future, was elaborated for the United Nations in order to warn the world about the negative environmental consequences of economic development and globalization, with the aim of offering solutions to the problems arising from industrialization and population growth.
The concept of sustainability aims at achieving global well-being for present and future generations. In the report, the means to achieve that goal were provided and detailed around three essential pillars:
1. Environmental protection
2. Social development
3. Economic growth
It was on 1 January 2016, that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit – officially came into force: a call to action to protect the planet and guarantee the global well-being of people.
Although the concept of sustainability was acknowledged by the world community back in the 1980s, and despite the fact that global awareness of sustainable development has been growing over the years, actual tangible results still fall short of any of the set goals.
Why is it so? One possible explanation is our lack of a sense of urgency.
As a species, do we realize that the crisis we face is unprecedented and represents potentially the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced? Do we realize that the impact on each one of us, i.e. individuals, families, communities and ultimately nations, is absolutely key to shaping our collective destiny?
I doubt we do. And why is that so? It seems that our current level of collective consciousness does not allow for this sense of urgency to emerge. Now what if we are actually missing one core SDG – the fundamental goal that will allow the 17 current goals to manifest?
What if we add “The Evolution of Consciousness” as our very first SDG? My proposal is very simple: it is to add this goal as the 18th SDG to the existing list of 17 SDGs.
Let us imagine for a moment that we reach a level of collective consciousness that is a tipping point in uniting us all in one conscious and sustainable force. The 17 SDGs would automatically become an absolute priority for individuals, organizations and governments. This would secure the stability of our future, environmentally, economically, and socially.
Therefore, identifying and implementing the means to accelerate the evolution of our collective consciousness should be the main task and absolute priority of our current generation.
How can we do this? The main challenge lies with the fact that the expansion of collective consciousness depends on the evolution of each and everyone’s individual consciousness. And in order to undertake the journey of individual consciousness, we need to understand its prerequisites: What drives or inhibits the expansion of individual consciousness?
The evolution of consciousness depends on the evolution of our mind – thinking, intellect and ego. Indeed, our thinking has far more effect on our environment than we could ever imagine. We are actually constantly polluting the environment with our unregulated thoughts, without actually being conscious of it, and this level of pollution is the major obstacle in the individual and therefore collective evolution of consciousness.
Identifying and implementing the
means to accelerate the evolution
of our collective consciousness
should be the main task and
absolute priority of our current
It is easier to grasp intuitively the impact of our thoughts on our inner environment to begin with. Take the simple instance of a moment when we are at rest and let our minds roam. After a while, that will take us to the shores of a memory, perhaps to a joyful moment when we were reunited with a loved one. That simple thought will change our internal environment and raise a new inner state within us, a state of joy. Conversely, that same wandering mind may take us to the shores of a very different memory, the terrible loss of a loved one, leaving us in a state of great sadness. Our inner state will then be a state of sorrow, pain and distress.
Our thoughts are creating, nurturing or destroying our inner environment.
There is an increasing number of scientific publications pointing to the average number of thoughts per day: it seems a human being has on average 10,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day with more than 95% of them being exactly the same as the day before and with more than 80% of them being negative!
These facts are staggering: they illustrate that our inner environment is polluted most of the time by negative and repetitive thoughts. So how can consciousness evolve in such an inner climate?
In contrast, what happens when the mind is still? Take the example of the way we feel when we are plunged into wilderness, into pristine nature unspoiled by human activities: a mountain forest just after it has snowed; deep-sea diving, free diving or scuba diving; the desert around a campfire under a night sky. Are our feelings any different? A deep feeling of completeness emerges within our heart.
When we are engrossed in such external environments, we live a moment of profound completeness. Everyone can share this experience. External nature has the capacity to act upon our inner environment. At such times, our inner natural environment is perfectly in tune with the external nature. It is Union Time, a moment when we are one with nature.
The evolution of consciousness
depends on the evolution of our mind –
thinking, intellect and ego.
Indeed, our thinking has far
more effect on our environment
than we could ever imagine.
External nature has real powers, including the power to silence our thoughts. Thoughts are suspended for a while. We are in a state of wonder, paying attention to what is happening in the moment. We are present.
Meditation, when focused on the heart, and especially when supported by yogic Transmission, has the same power. It uses one simple thought – that the source of light is present within our hearts – and silences all the other thoughts that disturb our natural internal environment. That single thought we sow then creates a state similar to the “pristine,” “preserved,” external nature, a nature we could also label as “perfect.”
And when the mind is perfectly still, we arrive at the state the yogic literature refers to as Samadhi. But this is not the end, because various states and dimensions of Samadhi start unfolding. There are indeed deeper and deeper levels of Samadhi on this journey to the Center of ourselves. While making the journey beyond the stillness of the mind, into the depth of our heart space, our inner environment, expansion of consciousness really takes off. When we reach this inner escape velocity, our consciousness is no longer pulled by the gravity of thoughts – it is not bound by any thoughts or patterns. It is set free. This is what I personally call the real moksha, which is often referred to in the yogic literature.
When we master the technique of meditation, we then learn to master our thoughts during our daily activities. We pursue our daily activities while remaining in a meditative state with open eyes. This is also called Sahaj Samadhi or the Turiyatit state: we are fully absorbed within and fully aware at the same time, so that our consciousness continuously expands. This is the ultimate goal of the yogi. When we succeed in remaining in a constant meditative state, what happens next?
We master our thinking activities, and the stillness of our inner environment starts affecting our external environment as well. When our thoughts are not under control, if we are angry for instance, even if the anger is not expressed the entire external environment suffers. In contrast, when joy is prevailing in our hearts, or when we are profoundly calm, serene, bathing in a state of profound completeness, our external environment will draw the biggest benefits from it. We experience these effects every day at work and when we come back home in the evening: if we carry an inner environment of joy, our family members and our colleagues reciprocate.
With the world’s population projected to reach 10 billion people in the next decades, there will be on average more than 100 trillion thoughts affecting the global environment every single day! Given that 80% of these thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive, the level of pollution we live in is really alarming! And with such a level of environmental pollution, how can our individual and collective consciousness evolve without a practice to silence the mind?
Imagine for a moment the impact of one person in a state of Sahaj Samadhi on the external environment. When other individuals benefit from the joy carried in the depth of the person’s heart, imagine the ripple effect of a being in that community who is constantly expanding their consciousness. Now imagine the ripple effect of a nation on the world when all the citizens of that particular country are in Sahaj Samadhi.
Imagine for a moment the impact of
one person in a state of Sahaj Samadhi
on the external environment.
When other individuals benefit from the joy
carried in the depth of the person’s heart,
imagine the ripple effect of a being
in that community who is constantly
expanding their consciousness.
Now imagine the ripple effect of a nation
on the world when all the citizens of
that particular country are in Sahaj Samadhi.
Austrian Professor Peter Drucker says: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” It is relatively easy to assess the ecological footprint and carbon footprint of an individual, an organization or a nation. The indicators used measure the impact of our activities on nature. When these indicators are measured and mapped, we can then identify means and formulate strategies to reduce the footprint thanks to technological developments, energy efficiency improvements, better processes, product management etc.
In the industry in which I operate, it is necessary to specify the carbon footprint of a solar energy infrastructure project presented in a public tender in France. It is a way to ensure the products and design of the proposed solar power plant will have a minimum ecological impact. And the score of the bid significantly depends on the carbon footprint of a proposed solution.
In the context of thinking activity, however, it is a real challenge! There is unfortunately no indicator that captures and maps what I call the “Thought Footprint.” Such an indicator would reveal the impact of human thinking activities on a specific location, a community, and much more. If we could find a way to implement this indicator, we could aim at setting up the ultimate goal of “Zero Thought Footprint” at the individual and community level, as the landmark to reaching the proposed 18th Sustainable Development Goal within our current lifetime.
This is thus an invitation to the whole scientific community to take up the challenge of measuring our thoughts footprint analysis, so that we can pave the way to a sustainable world!
But here comes the good news: we don’t need to wait for science to find ways to measure and track this indicator, because we can work towards achieving the proposed 18th SDG here and now, very easily, thanks to the practice of meditation with the support of yogic Transmission. Accessible to all, such a simple practice can help us dive into the depths of our hearts, beyond the stillness of our minds, and take on the journey of perpetual expansion of consciousness, so that one day, undoubtedly very soon, we shall together achieve the other 17 SDGs and thus achieve global well-being for the present and future generations.
Reprinted with permission from Consciousness in Management, 2019.
Edited by E. Denley and T. Kaur, Heartfulness Education Trust, India.
Article by ALAIN DESVIGNE
Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL
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