The 13 Paths of Conscious Enterprise

As with anything else, there is more than one pathway for the expression of purpose and Wisdom in the world, or of expression in general whether it’s wise or not.

The concept of “conscious enterprise” holds within it the intention to work more wisely, with a greater consciousness of the source, the intentions, the ways, and the effects of what we do, why we do it, and how we go about it. It flips on its head the old Machiavellian standard of “the ends justifying the means,” which is too often used to justify ill means for selfish ends.

In the case of conscious enterprise, we intend “the ends” to be uplifting, life-nurturing, creative, and all-sustaining — rather than oppressive, life-exploiting, destructive, and unsustainable — so the means employed must be envisioned and skillfully employed to bring about such ends. Whereas the fading paradigm focuses on mindless consumers chasing “quantity in life”, conscious enterprise spotlights and fosters passionate citizens creating “quality of life”.

To give birth to these ideals, conscious enterprisers must have intentions and practices that connect us — to Spirit, Earth, and other life. From that foundation, “enterprise” becomes something quite different — fulfilling its potential to be quite extraordinary. As with any vision, we must also articulate some pathway to explore and experiment our way to it.

The 13 Paths of Conscious Enterprise are inspired by, among other things, Meister Eckhardt’s “four paths” and the Buddhist “eight-fold path”, which so beautifully articulate how life and work can unfold from a more conscious source of Wisdom and inspiration.

  • the path of communication;
  • the path of environmental sustainability;
  • the path of growth;
  • the path of Spirit;
  • the path of interconnection;
  • the path of full-prosperity;
  • the path of healing;
  • the path of service;
  • the path of vision;
  • the path of mastery;
  • the path of creativity;
  • the path of activism;
  • the path of courage.

All of these can be woven into one tapestry for inspiration and practice for “conscious enterprisers”, though it’s likely that for many people, one will be the primary “way” with two or three others being “next priorities” and the balance at a third tier (but not neglected) for full mastery and maximum contribution.

For each path of conscious enterprise, the “conscious enterpriser” may integrate the path into his or her way of working (or throughout his or her group or enterprise), or the path may be the focus of the organization itself.

The Paths of Conscious Enterprise

1.  The path of conscious communication.

Conscious communication is both skillful and wise, addressing the what, when, how and to whom of the communication. The spheres of conscious communication are within (intrapersonal), between individuals (interpersonal), between groups (organizational), and between us and Other (cosmopersonal). It stems from knowing that thoughts and words hold great power, and thus communication is one of the primary pathways for mindful interaction, collaboration, expression, and positive transformation.

Conscious communication has as its goal a positive ripple effect; it does not employ skillfulness for ego-centric, selfish purposes, or in order to produce ill effects that harm some (or many) for the benefit of a few. Conscious communication stems from an intention to uplift and increase awareness, emphasizing skillfulness because it allows for a positive effect. It is delivered at a time and in a way that is appropriate to producing positive ends that benefit all. It is compassionate in that even if it delivers “hard truth”, it does so in a way that is respectful, kind and clear — or compassionately unflinching.

Individuals practicing the way of conscious communication may aim to become more adept interpersonally, by becoming very skillful with deep listening, engaged inquiry, and speaking in a way that is centered, respectful, kind and clear.

Organizations that practice the path of conscious communication may have it at the heart of their mission to help others become more skillful interpersonally, intrapersonally, organizationally or cosmopersonally — always in a way that is aligned with the values of conscious enterprise, intending a positive ripple effect and healed rather than harmful results.

2.  The path of environmental wellness and sustainability.

Whether as an individual pathway or an organizational focus, the path of environmental wellness aims at becoming more aware of and then minimizing the “ecological footprint”. It is centered in an awareness of our dependence on and connection to the greater environment — the Earth, the air, the water, other species, creatures, systems, and peoples. A walker of this path knows that what we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

In addition to decreasing one’s contribution to environmental harm or destruction, one walking the path of environmental wellness may also actively pursue, model and advocate for ways of being and doing that have a positive or healing effect on the environment.

Individuals or organizations on the path of environmental wellness may emphasize environmental cleanup, may advocate for or produce environmentally sustainable and healthy products and services, may write or speak to raise awareness, may be architects of sacred or “well spaces and buildings,” may volunteer or otherwise support others active on this path, and/or may create bridges between people and organizations that don’t as of yet see or understand their commonality.

3.  The path of conscious growth.

The path of conscious growth is based in a more whole definition of growth – one that I initially explored in my book, Big Vision, Small Business. Those who walk the path of conscious growth understand that the definition of growth that has dominated the “industrial age” has created an imbalance, where greed and gluttony ravage and exploit “resources” in order to feed an unconscious yet insatiable hunger.

The path of conscious growth has an awareness of balance and effect — in a self-contained system, what is exploited for the gain of one results in loss for others, and is not sustainable when exploitation is a mainstay of the paradigm. Instead, those on the path of conscious growth seek out, experiment with and model modes of growth that are primarily qualitative. Where the growth is quantitative, it is mindful, taking into account questions of ecological footprint, impact on others, and ‘what is enough’.

Individuals walking the path of conscious growth may emphasize inner and spiritual growth, or they may investigate “conscious consumption” and simplicity to identify “what is enough” for them to live their purpose or vision. They may advocate, write, speak on such topics — whether from the provocative perspective, challenging the profit-gluttonous paradigm; or from a visionary perspective, offering a look at the possibilities and potential models available for others who wish to walk this path.

Conscious enterprises by their nature elect a path of conscious growth, challenging established assumptions about quantitative growth so that such decisions and ultimate actions can be more conscious and positive in ripple effect. Such enterprises may be the big-vision, small-business models; the human-scale, locally accountable models; or a larger corporation that unflinchingly commits to minimizing harm, maximizing mutual-benefit and sustainability, and effectively persuading investors that the “whole ROI” of this approach is more worthwhile than the profit-gluttonous models of old.

4.  The path of connection to Spirit.

The path of connection to Spirit puts connection to the Divine as its highest priority, not in the sense of religious dogma or “talking the loudest”, but from an overwhelming yearning to understand, to experience Oneness, to see the Divine in all things, and “be in the world” accordingly.

An individual walking this path may choose the life of a “mystical activist” (see below), or may simply seek a deeper, more genuine and wise connection to Spirit in and through the faith tradition of his or her choosing. On this path, every activity becomes a prayer: work, relationship, communication, household, and community. Honoring “other” becomes a way of honoring God, however one defines it.

As a livelihood or organizational focus, walkers of this path may offer products or services that facilitate others’ ability to understand and connect to Spirit. They may be conscious churches, or faith-tradition leaders or wise persons. They may share “law of attraction” principles in a way that is heart and spirit centered (see full-prosperity pathway, below).

5.  The path of interconnection and mutual benefit.

Walkers of the path of connectivity and mutual benefit seek a greater consciousness of the connection between all things, including people, organizations, cultures, other species, the environment. A focus of this path is a true understanding of and commitment to the philosophy of “what we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

This can include environmental effects, but can also consider or focus on energetic or unseen connections, matters of human or animal dignity and suffering/non-suffering, connectivity with the cosmos and its cycles or laws, etc.

Those who choose the path of connectivity and mutual benefit operate from a “win-win” rather than a “zero-sum” mindset and intention. Thus, they enter into all activities, projects, discussions, or other engagements with a primary goal of ensuring mutual benefit — a positive impact on all involved, and minimizing or eliminating harmful, unbalanced, and/or “win-lose” effects.

Expressions of this path may include holistic lawyers, conflict resolution, skillful communication aimed at fostering increased understanding and unveiling opportunities for mutual benefit, visioning and strategizing opportunities for mutual benefit, products and services that help to foster positive connectivity, etc.

6.  The path of full-prosperity.

In a materialistic culture, we often see even the loftiest of values or wisdom-traditions being employed for solely materialistic ends. Law of Attraction principles born out of quantum-physics and faith traditions are turned into big- business profit-centers that direct followers – or consumers – how to become millionaires or get that high-status car.

The short-coming lies not in the wisdom or attraction principles themselves, but in the shallowness of the intention and understanding of them. While they often speak of abundance and prosperity, this angle of usage is rooted in lack and scarcity, as well as a disconnection with an individual’s true purpose and path. Thus they are put to ultimately very small-vision purposes of achieving or acquiring a limited set of material “status symbols” to prove “success” according to the prevailing definition.

As more than one study shows now, the shallow path produces shallow meaning. That’s why I use the term “full prosperity” to point to a richer, more whole reality.

Conscious enterprisers walking the path of full-prosperity know that while financial and material well-being are desirable outcomes, they are only a small part — rather than the full scope — of what constitutes full-prosperity. Conscious enterprisers heed the call to “seek first the deeper Wisdom”, or in some traditions “seek first the kingdom of Heaven,” and what is yours to have will come to you.

With full-prosperity, rather than the partial-prosperity of a solely material focus, there is a fuller understanding that what constitutes full and appropriate prosperity for one person may be different from another, but in each case full-prosperity stems from a feeling of fullness, a knowledge of “what’s enough”, and an awareness of one’s deeper purpose and path. From this ground, wisdom such as Law of Attraction is used from a foundation of true confidence and plenty.

7.  The path of healing.

It doesn’t take a long look to see that many and much in our world is ailing, even as there is much that flourishes. The ethics scandals and violence of recent history, and the proliferation of pharmaceuticals, are but a few of the symptoms that an unwellness lurks beneath the surface of many organizations, institutions, and individuals. Despite the look of it, healing and wellness are possible.

Conscious enterprisers walking the path of healing may express various interpretations of the concept of healing or healers. They may be physicians or healthcare practitioners who have embraced the wisdom of integrated medicine that draws the best from East and West traditions. They may be alternative-health and wellness practitioners who provide balance to the Western medicine path, or who seek to usher in a remembrance of these long-established traditions.

And the path of healing may also take shape as an intention to raise awareness of mind-body-spirit connection, to reconnect people to Spirit and thus to others.

It may take shape through those who endeavor through inspired, visionary leadership and skillful communication to transform the way we do business and politics from a disconnected and disrespectful norm to a more holistic, respectful and skillful norm. The walkers of the healing path may look to heal conflicts and build bridges between people, groups and cultures. Or, as one shaman said in Hillary Webb’s book, Traveling Between the Worlds, the healer may use “the magic” of his or her words to effect healing.

As with all conscious enterprisers, those walking the path of healing know that, in order to effectively be a force of healing for others, they must ensure that they, too, are healed.

8.  The path of service.

The very word “service” has become maligned and misinterpreted, coming to mean something that hasn’t been earned, or something one reluctantly or rotely provides to dissatisfied customers or products that have fallen into disrepair.

As in all things, conscious enterprisers look to the Wise who have gone before us (and who in some cases are among us) for guidance on true service, which comes unhindered and genuinely from a healed heart and healed organizations. In its highest sense, “service” can take many forms, both overt and more subtle.

Those who walk the path of service may be, like Dorothy Day, doing “the little work” of every day in a way that is like a prayerful meditation. Or, like Day, they are applying that spirit of service to compassionately meet the needs of those who have become disenfranchised in our culture. Like Day, they likely draw from a wisdom or religious tradition as their motivation to honor and tend to the dignity in all beings.

The path of service can also take a more subtle shape, in those who bring a “heart of service” into the business or institutional world. Seeing every interaction as an opportunity to express the heart of service, they strive to make others feel seen and heard. Skillful listening becomes a goal, because it is required for conscious service. Present-moment consciousness becomes a goal, because it’s difficult to be of service when you’re not paying attention.

These and other expressions become part-and-parcel of the path of service. They may practice these skills themselves, and help others to master them as well. In modeling true service, the walkers of the path of service help others understand what it’s like to receive true service, and thus they serve as igniters of service.

9.  The path of conscious vision.

In the book of Proverbs – one of the wisdom books – there is the saying, “Without vision, the people perish.” In each culture, in various times of history, there are the true visionaries who light the beacons of hope and possibility for others.

The path of vision goes far beyond small-visions of “maximizing shareholder returns” or “becoming a world-class organization.” No, the vision we speak of here is much larger, much more audacious in its challenging of what’s “normal” and what’s possible.

Conscious enterprisers walking the path of vision may have as their higher-purpose or calling to be “vision-seeders” to broader society. Or they may have as their calling the yearning to connect with a higher vision within themselves and the cosmos that then expresses outwardly for a greater positive ripple effect. They’re the prophets, visionaries, and shamans, though they may operate with various other “job titles” in society as well.

Oscar Wilde said that “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” This can often feel like the case for those who walk the path of vision, accessing the deep Wisdom of the Unseen — the moonlight path, in Wilde’s quote — so that they can bring that Wisdom back into the light of day in service to others.

Knowing that the people perish into smallness, pushed by pain in the absence of the magnetic pull of vision, vision-path walkers have as their priority connecting with Wisdom, receiving vision, and seeding it into the world by a variety of means, always in the spirit of Highest Good and service to others.

10.  The path of conscious mastery.

A master-craftsman is one who does his or her work at a level of intention, attention, elegance, and quality that far surpasses the status quo. In a culture where many people have been trained to value speed, ease, and cheapness over quality, master craftsmanship found its way to the fringes.

The walkers of the path of conscious mastery look to preserve the ideals and practices of master craftsmanship, and endeavor to usher in the era where everyone strives in some way to be a master of their craft — rather than one who half-heartedly clocks the time on their way to somewhere else.

Conscious mastery is applied to knowing one’s self, to mastering one’s inner-landscape of thought and spirit, of expressing outwardly in the world in a way that is highly skillful, and translating that craftsmanship into the masterful and visionary products or services of their workday.

11.  The path of creativity.

Creativity is an expression of higher potential and spirit, but too many people see it as a “child’s toy” that must be put away when one enters adulthood and the seriousness of work. Dissociation from creativity and our need for creative expression — and the mistaken assumption that “only artists can be creative” — has no doubt contributed to the high levels of stress, anxiety, and unwellness in our culture.

Nor is creative expression an aspect of “the affluent leisure culture”; cave paintings and stone carvings, tattoos and jewelry found by archaeologists shows that artistic expression has long been valued. Indeed, more advanced cultures put a high premium on creativity and the fruits of it, ensuring that it’s always a high priority.

Conscious enterprisers who walk the path of creativity may indeed be artists and writers and filmmakers and craftspeople. Or they may be on a path of helping others to liberate and allow the time for creative expression. They may inspire creativity as well as display the results of their own creative endeavors. They may approach work that seems mundane with an attitude of playfulness and creativity, thus inviting innovation and a new level of creativity and problem-solving within our organizations.

The path of creativity requires a dedication to staying connected to the creative wellspring — the chaotic place of “not doing” and “not knowing” from which all creativity emerges.

12.  The path of conscious activism.

Alfred Adler said, “It’s easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” The path of conscious activism seeks to live up to and model the very principles one is envisioning and endeavoring to bring about. Inspired leaders find their true company here, amidst the conscious activists, since the highest expression of leadership is a form of activism.

While the conscious activist knows what he or she is fighting against, her primary focus, the power of her imagination and effort and intention, is on the transformed circumstance. The vision of what can be, not the vision of what is lacking or wrong. This is a truly delicate balance, but a crucial one.

The author, teacher and modern-day mystic, Andrew Harvey, speaks of “mystical activists” — those are connected to the deep yearning for the Divine, the predominance of a life of Spirit, but who are called to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” Mystical activists root their activism in Wisdom and inspiration. Let it be known that this is different from “religious crusaders,” whose master is the dogma or rules of a man-made institution. The mystical activist is a “liberation idealist”, and is called to help make those ideals manifest.

Conscious enterprisers walking the path of activism bring along their deep respect for all people and beings, for the Earth and Cosmos, for the mystery. By living the principles they are striving to foster, they become an inspiration, and their ripple effect gives power to a vision of a transformed world.

13.  The path of conscious courage.

In our culture, when we think of courage we’re often thinking of “courage under fire” — as in the courage of soldiers in war. And surely the warriors placed into harm’s way, into the most literal form of battle, must find a way to set aside their fears and call up courage.

The path of conscious courage moves beyond this, into a realm of the spiritual warrior, where we are “compassionately unflinching” in our look at what is, what could be, and what we must do to bridge the gap and usher in a world (or individual situations) that are respectful of and work for all.

The path of conscious courage puts the tools of mental and emotional mastery to work, but draws less from the ground of the intellect than the stronghold of the heart and Spirit. Being solid in his or her convictions — which are calibrated by heart and spirit, and are thus truly Wise and for the highest good of all — he finds the courage of the person who is drawn by the magnetism of compelling vision, a higher vision of what is possible.

Conscious courage may be manifested by one who overcomes a natural shyness in order to speak out on behalf of others; or by one who champions equality, compassion, justice and the liberation of others knowing that “the powers that be” may act violently in order to repress those very ideals. There are many expressions of conscious courage between these, as well, since ushering in “new ways” often requires some measure of courage.

End Notes

There are no doubt additional paths of conscious enterprise, and the 13 shared here can easily be explored in more depth or with different language. For example, I reviewed conscious-enterprise principles in Big Vision, Small Business, using slightly different terms in a chapter section called “the 12 priorities of big-vision, small business.”

Ultimately, conscious enterprisers weave several or even all of these into their own visions and their endeavors to make the visions blossom in the tangible world. Like any other path that seeks to “become Wisdom made manifest”, conscious enterprisers can feel as if they walk a hard and lonely path, so must intend and seek out kindreds for sharing and inspiration.

Conscious enterprise can take many forms, both mundane and seemingly visionary or “new paradigm.” That it takes some form becomes more and more crucial, as the impact of “the old paradigm” — one centered in scarcity, that exploits resources voraciously and sees people as simply another resource to use up — becomes more and more destructive.

Again, as conscious enterprisers we must be aware of what is, of what hurdles and barriers exist, of how the current way of living and working is not optimal. And yet we must turn the power of our focus, intention and energy on the vision of what is possible, and on the path of transformation into that new era where there truly is freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Which path do you walk? To explore the paths and their possibilities for you and your group, contact us at Ivy Sea.

This article was originally featured at Ivy Sea Online and is reprinted with permission.

© 2005 – 2014, Jamie Walters. All rights reserved.

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