A new trend is gaining ground in Sydney – people are gathering in groups of 30 to over 300 to 'consciously commune.'

Groups like The Conscious Club, Wake Up Sydney and Soul Sessions offer events and experiences that distinguish themselves from the 'unconscious' behavior of going out to clubs and getting hammered. Their sold-out events tackle topics like enlightenment, eliminating self-destructive habits, entrepreneurship and living a happier and more meaningful life.

Tim Brown, one of the founders of The Conscious Club, believes that the popularity of such events owes to the fact that "people are just sick of the groundhog experience, which is, to go and commune with people, I've got to go down to the pub and downgrade my consciousness [by getting drunk] in order to have a kind of unified experience." With his events, which he describes as being "like 'Ted Talks', 'MTV unplugged', 'Tropfest' and a 'Meditation Ashram' all rolled into one," he feels that people are offered a "high-grade and elevating experience."

Eloise King, the journalist who founded Soul Sessions, believes that people are flocking to these events out of a need for community and self-nurturing. "People are starting to realise [something] is not working," she explains, as many are finding their lifestyles increasingly stressful and unsustainable. Jono Fisher, the businessman-turned-nanny who started Wake Up Sydney, feels that attendees are looking to fill a spiritual void, where conventional religion has failed them. He also states that "We don't subscribe to any particular dogma or belief system, but the experience of what it means to be human."

While it is thrilling to consider that the popularity of 'conscious communing' is a result of humanity truly awakening and people creating new ways of interacting with each other, some difficult questions also come to mind. Does this new development truly represent a shift in consciousness in terms of how people interact with each other? Are potentially revolutionary concepts – such as the idea that we are all interconnected – presented in a manner that mounts a real challenge to the status quo, or does this all simply support the current hierarchical and exploitative system by offering only new opportunities for producing and consuming?

In any case, the increased openness to non-traditional ideas and spirituality on a larger social scale is an encouraging trend, perhaps confirming a very real potential for widespread change.

Image by festivalculturadigitalbr on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.