We have seen the impact of disruptive innovation across the spectrum of business in the last decade. Traditional industry leaders have often been caught flat-footed, failing to respond fast enough to the changing needs of the people they serve. This is especially true for today’s religious and spiritual institutions. They are ripe for transformation, as are the systems by which religious and spiritual people access information and build community. The most forward-looking, awake, and creative participants in this dynamic era must step forward to help others navigate the sea-change on the horizon with truly innovative ideas and technologies.
The means of transmitting sacred wisdom has remained largely unchanged for centuries, even while significant cultural shifts render the old religious models increasingly obsolete. Millennnials are a major driving force of this change as they walk away from organized religion in droves. An ongoing Pew Research Center study reveals that 24 percent of adults in the United States have no religious preference or affiliation—a number that has actually tripled in sized since the 1990s. Sometimes referred to as the “Nones” due to the box they check on religious surveys, this is the fastest-growing group in the U.S. and includes over one-third of adults under 30. This is not surprising when you consider that Millennials represent the largest generation in American history and, like most everything else in their world, they approach religion and spirituality on their own terms.
Although this trend is remarkable, it doesn’t tell the whole story. “Not religiously affiliated” does not necessarily mean “not spiritual.” In fact, when this same group of people is asked if they consider themselves spiritual, they overwhelmingly say yes. The growing number of “spiritual but not religious” people (SBNR) seek something that is authentic, meaningful, and experiential, more often in the form of a practice rather than a creed. This need is evidenced in the growing interest in mindfulness, yoga, and various religious and secular meditation practices. Practices once considered on the fringe have now entered the main stream, while previous norms have become increasingly archaic.
Millennials tend to be data driven, results oriented, and willing to act if the benefits of a given action are clear. And so, they are drawn to Contemplative practices that have the capacity to transform. Scientific and sociological research provides compelling evidence of the benefits of deep and sustained practice. Better yet, first-hand experience supports these findings for people who decide to conduct their own personal experiments. But here’s the problem: when it comes to transformative practice, there’s no one-size-fits-all. With thousands of practices to choose from and experiment with, it’s confusing to know which ones to choose.
The right practice for a person depends on many factors: Are you in crisis or are you in flow? Are you primarily a head, heart, or body person? Are you just beginning to experiment or have you been practicing for decades? These questions, followed by practical and logistical dilemmas associated with finding the support of a solid, trustworthy community and qualified teachers, can leave people stranded, stalled, or completely paralyzed in their quest for transformation.
Having a regular practice is much like having a healthy diet and regular exercise. Most people recognize the value of such a commitment, but few actually take the initiative to develop a daily practice. It’s a process that takes discipline to sustain and deepen over time, and we all need help along the way.
This is why I co-founded a non-profit organization and digital platform called ContemplativeLife.org. C-Life serves as a digital hub that brings a diverse range of transformative practices under one umbrella to help people connect with the practices and communities they’ve been searching for.
Navigating Contemplative Life
The vision for C-Life was greatly influenced by my dear friend and mentor Brother Wayne Teasdale. A deeply contemplative sage and great modern-day mystic, Brother Wayne had a vision of the future that is truly “interspiritual”, a word he coined in his seminal book, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions. Although he died at the young age of 59 in 2004, he left a legacy of wisdom in his many writings and touched the lives of countless people around the world with his love, humor, and vision. Even while battling cancer, he pushed the spiritual/religious paradigm forward to make room for the significant shift we’re currently experiencing. In his now famous words:
“The real religion of humankind can be said to be spirituality itself… We might also say that
interspirituality — the sharing of ultimate experiences across traditions—is the religion of the third millennium.” (The Mystic Heart, 1999, p. 26)
Brother Wayne’s vision is both a harbinger of andan inspiration to the vision unfolding at Contemplative Life and throughout the interspiritual movement.
So, in alignment with Brother Wayne’s focus on the future, the Contemplative Life platform was designed and built by and for millennials. It has a simple and elegant user interface that offers users a safe space to learn about new practices and connect with practice leaders and communities representing all paths and traditions. In addition to the current web platform, we’re launching a Contemplative Life Community, a private social network that enables members to collaborate and build community with others of like mind without the noise, cross talk, and distractions associated with mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Contemplative Life exists to meet the changing needs of those involved in the global spiritual revolution currently under way. We welcome your participation and invite you to become part of this evolving community.
Jeff Genung is co-founder and President of Contemplative Life, a non-profit technology company that helps connect people and communities with transformative practices. He also serves on the board of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a pioneer in bringing contemplative pedagogy to higher education. Jeff has spent decades studying and teaching contemplative practices that apply to many areas human life and experience. He is currently focused on developing technology solutions that can enable people to find and integrate transformative practices into their life and easily connect with others with like mind. Jeff has a BS in Business from Cornell University and lives with his family in Austin, Texas.