The past few years have left many of us waiting around for the ‘Next Big Thing’ – or some grand televised miracle to happen. The world has recently been filled to overflowing with doomsayers and images of breakdown, violence, and corruption. Many of us have been distracted, or sidelined, into indifference. We were told we lacked the power to make any lasting change. The early years of the 21st century were largely media-centered on insecurity; and this insecurity and fear was used by opportunistic governments to strengthen incumbent structures of authority.

Yet it is my view that 2014 will be a significant year in marking a shift in human relationships and thinking patterns. I feel we are going to see an increasing emergence of what I refer to as ‘disruptive innovators’; that is, individuals acting as unexpected change agents. It will be individuals, not governments, who will show a greater potential to catalyze transformation and change in the world. This is because real change occurs when the ‘anomalies’ (i.e., the change agents) become too numerous to be absorbed into the present system. That is why individuals and groups ‘doing their own thing’ are so important right now.

All great ideas and innovations began life as ‘disruptive’ from the periphery; from those people just ‘going it alone’ and following their instinct and motivation. That is why it is my view that 2014 will be an important year on the individual level rather than needing to look to global movements or grand action for change. A new model that is set to empower the coming changes is what I have referred to as the ‘new monastic’ model of action whereby individuals/groups get on and create new ways of doing things, without fanfare or large billboard announcements. Such ‘monastic work’, so to speak, often operates below the radar and is authentic through its activity rather than seeking visibility and attention. The ‘monastic worker’, in seeking change, chooses a way of life that has meaning and that can bring lasting change for those involved. Often the monastic worker strives for assisting change within their own communities. They are like ink dots on the blotting paper, slowly spreading their impact by diligent yet creative work. What makes this model not only more appealing today, but also much more effective, is the rise of global communications and distributed networks. Now, the hard-working monastics can connect, share, and collaborate.

Therefore, doing things our own way, participating through our ‘small-scale’ contributions, can have greater impact than would normally. It is an ideal time now to look towards our own lives, our future, and start to create the change for ourselves that we wish to see. A time to examine our lifestyles – the food we eat, our securities, our dependencies, our networks, our finances, etc – and to be truly honest with ourselves.

The new monastic acts as a synthesis between a vibrant perception of the world and a practical way of action. That is, people who are motivated by both an inner spirit as well as practical vision. Such change catalysts can create meaning and significance in everything they do – even the small seemingly mundane things. By working with a strong inner vision we are also able to transform the world external to us. Our modern modes of connectivity and communication can bring the new monastics into a networked gathering of ‘heart-mind-spirit’ in order to work with both practicality and vision.

The challenges we face may appear to be out of our hands, yet each of us has the power to choose how we respond to them. A considerate and compassionate response can be nurtured by shifting our behavior patterns away from materialistic self-centeredness toward a more community-centered set of values. Doris Lessing, in her book Shikasta, tells of how the ‘broken Earth’ needs to regain the energies of SOWF (‘Substance Of We Feeling’). The keys to our collective development may very well have been planted within each of us, in our social sense of responsibility – in our innate urge to come together. The human species is, after all, a social species (as anthropologists keenly like to remind us!). It is easy to behave ‘spiritually’ when one is confined to the hermit’s cave – then our only struggles are with our own ceaseless thoughts. However, sincere activity also requires that each individual understands and accepts the role of their social participation; of their presence and responsibility with friends, family, and within the community.

As a global community of individuals we are being urged toward supporting and developing a shared, empathic consciousness. Through a combination of physical changes on the social, cultural, and political levels people all over the world are beginning to awaken to the audacity of our situation. From this there may be further ‘awakenings’ as the ironic, incredulous, and often absurd factors of many of our lifestyles are brazenly shown in the shocking light of current times. In these upcoming years the new monastics will continue to emerge throughout the world, becoming agents of change within communities. They will spread their influence through social networks – both physical and virtual. In order to ‘change the world’ we must first become change agents within ourselves. We should also recognize that human consciousness is inherently integrated into every aspect of our lives. Humanity is naturally integrative, and does not consciously seek to separate. Integral consciousness is an aspect of the new monastics, whom are conscious and aware of bringing the inner world into constructive play within everyday life. Each person can be a part of this groundswell, with strong and confident voices and deeds, and yet devoid of ego and grand announcements.

The year ahead, more than ever before, is going to be about the people on the ground.  It will be about how ordinary people can make a great difference; and the changes each of us makes in our lives to be more aligned with moving forward. It will be about how resilient we are; and how we nurture a focused and positive state of mind and being. It will also be about integrating our spiritual selves with practical applications in the world. Transitional periods are not normal times – they are periods where individual action can have a much larger impact on historical developments. Now is the time for individual ‘monastic’ endeavor to take up the challenge – and the responsibility.

We are here to work to make a change – it is time to come together. I feel 2014 will show that the ‘next big thing’ is actually US. Or, as Doris Lessing would say, it is time for our Substance Of We Feeling (SOWF) – which is needed like wine grapes need a good soil