We are at an unprecedented time in our human history; a time when our collective actions today will have profound impact on unborn generations; a time where the arguments over climate change are fading and the realisation of its far-reaching effects are dawning; of escalating fuel prices matched with dwindling resources and the destruction of nature all over the world. We are not short of worrying information.

Critical mass of consciousness is dawning

Yet despite the news, there is a subtle but persistent shift in our world-view. I believe that as we cast more light on humanity's difficulties and challenges, we can experience incremental shifts in consciousness. Psychologists compare human consciousness to icebergs. We have at most 10% of our group consciousness rising above the surface of the water. The rest is hidden. They also believe that it only takes 17% of a group to influence the opinion of the remaining 83%. In other words, the critical mass of a group is far lower than the majority. Critical mass is beginning to dawn about our environment and climate. There is also a growing understanding that the elements of a more spiritual society - simplicity, harmlessness, peace, benevolence - are also the qualities of an ecological society. We have an unprecedented opportunity therefore to strengthen our personal spiritual practice and ground it in more ecologically aware lives.
I'd like to invite you to take a journey into the future. This is a future beyond war; a time when humanity has finally woken up to the responsibility of cause and effect, and has embraced the values of harmlessness, peace, simplicity, working with nature; a time of living within limits and using intelligent design to create abundant, self-sustaining landscapes; a time of honouring ancestors and respecting the rights of future beings. This is a vision of an ecological civilization whose foundations are based on spiritual values that integrate all creeds and races.

Energy follows thought
Just before you leave on your journey, let me mention a key concept in esoteric teaching: 'Energy Follows Thought'. Every time we think, we add to the mental web of our thoughts; we literally weave the pattern of our thoughts and they determine our actions. What we think is vital to how we manifest our lives. If we think thoughts that are destructive, aggressive and spiteful, we invite those qualities into our present lives. Equally, the practice of loving kindness weaves the web of loving kindness into our lives. This is why the process of watching thoughts crossing the surface of the mind in meditation is so useful. We become more aware of what we are truly thinking and thus how we are manifesting our lives. We also learn to control that process.

A welcome dream
It follows then that before we can predict the future, we must invent it on a mental level. Literally, we must think the future into existence. I invite you to do just this now and perhaps every day as a part of your practice. I also invite you to think it like a welcome dream and in terms of applied intelligence, peace, ecological solutions and abundance. not of war and scarcity and injustice. There is plenty enough of that in the present.

So to help you set course for this journey into the future, you can ask: What is our collective future? What does it look like? Does it have a sound? How does the air feel? What do the buildings look like? Can you see how food is grown, energy is harnessed, people meet and communicate, and children are educated? Please take time to explore these ideas.

I have imagined 'my' future in meditation and with others and it is becoming qualitatively real. I can feel it within me, almost reach out and touch it. This is a grounded 'earthy' future that sustains people, animals and habitats and holds them in balance. It is one in which most city trees are edible species; where the majority of rural and urban land is given to growing food and fuel; where areas of wilderness are honoured and protected; where human and animal waste is converted into fertile soil; where small-scale horticulture and agriculture is no longer the work of a marginalised peasantry but part of a movement for intelligent self-reliance; where every town and village has a portfolio of individual and community renewable energy systems and a local economy; where every settlement is retrofitted for energy conservation; where every new build meets stringent ecological standards; where every community resource is designed in relation to meeting the needs of its people; where every resource possible is renewed before it is considered for recycling.

A sustainable, peaceful future
This future is not a wintry world of scarcity and energy poverty, it is a world of diversity, self-reliance, real wealth and satisfying creativity. It is also a slower, simpler and peaceful world and the most wonderful thing about this future is that it isn't 'mine'. All over the globe (and in Britain with the Transition movement), there are people who share this vision who are also building these thought-forms and creating the elements that will eventually piece together the vision. As you read, research, dream, meditate and weave together the thought-forms of this vision, you too will contribute to the creation of this sustainable, peaceful future.

C 2008 Maddy Harland. Maddy is the editor of Permaculture Magazine - solutions for sustainable living - now read in 77 countries.