If you’ve watched the television news in the last few months, or listened to the radio, or been on the internet, or looked at a magazine… or even just talked to well… anybody, you must be aware that the general consensus is that this is a time of unprecedented challenge and transition. Economically, that often gets focused onto the United States, but actually in the wider implications, the transition that we are passing through is global.

I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out what that means. Whether we focus on sinking into a global recession–or even depression–or global warming, or peak oil, or the many unresolved political conflicts around the world: whatever parameter you choose to focus on, many people feel today fear that we are sitting on a bus heading over the edge of a cliff. Depressing, isn’t it?

Suppose for a moment that your house develops severe dry rot in the basement. The contractor comes, takes a look and says, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do. It’s too far gone. Better to tear the place down.” This would be inconvenient, but not the end of the world. Now suppose that it was your neighborhood gone to seed, taken over by… what? Lawyers? Communists? White supremacists? Doesn’t matter. If you don’t like the area where you’re living you can always move to another part of town. Now what about if it was your city, or your state, or even the country? There’s always an alternative. You could move to Phoenix, or Alaska, or even Mexico or Europe. Bali is very nice, too.

But what about if it’s our planet in jeopardy? That is a whole different situation, because as far as most of us know, we don’t have any alternative. Some people claim to have had communication with the Pleiadees or life on Mars, but for the average Joe like you and me, this is it. This is home. Every memory we have is of life on earth, and every aspiration, too. When the balance of life on this planet is jeopardized, it’s quite natural to feel a little queasy.

On the surface it seems that every problem we face: environmental, political, economic is separate and disconnected from every other. The only thing they all have in common is that we don’t really know what to do. But look a little deeper. Every predicament we face; personally, in our family or community, and even globally, does have one thing in common. Us.

A few decades ago Albert Einstein said a wonderful thing. He said,

“You cannot solve any problem in the same state of consciousness in which it was created.”

You know this already, don’t you? Have you ever experienced that you go to bed one night having a fight with your partner, or a friend, and you absolutely know that you’re right and the other is wrong, and it seems like a war without end? And then you have a good night’s sleep, and perhaps you wake up and do a little yoga or take a walk, and the problem never gets solved. It is dissolved. You feel different in yourself. You see the other with fresh eyes and the love that binds you becomes stronger than the disagreement that separated you. You’ve just experienced a shift of consciousness. When we shift our state of consciousness, the problems that seemed real in one state disappear in another state. They don’t get solved, they get dissolved.

Just as from one perspective it seems like we’re faced with insurmountable global problems, so something else is also happening today, just under the radar, which is affecting millions of people. I gave you a hint of what that is all about two weeks ago in the article I shared with you about Dave [February 16, 2009]. Dave didn’t solve his problems. He shifted his consciousness and saw things in a totally different way, and his life reorganized itself around his new state of consciousness. Many people today feel this is happening to us collectively. And I’m not talking only about new age spiritual woo-woo people wearing Birkenstocks, eating granola and wanting to hug. I mean that well recognized think-tanks advising governments and big business are recognizing that there is a significant shift in collective consciousness. Roger Nelson, until recently a professor at Princeton, has even attempted to find ways to measure collective consciousness scientifically. This shift happening just under the radar is often referred to as “awakening.” It starts when an individual expands beyond preoccupation with “me” and recognizes themselves to be something much greater, deeper, more mysterious. When many people shift in this way, in a community or a company or a church, or even in the country, we can begin to also speak of “collective awakening.” My 2005 book “The Translucent Revolution” documents how this kind of shift is impacting both individuals as well as organizations and communities.

All of this is happening somewhat out of our control. There’s not much that you and I can do about the fact that old structures are crumbling apart–giving some people the feeling that the sky is falling. And there’s not much that you and I can do about collective awakening. It’s happening now on a vast scale. What is important for you and me is how we ’re going to relate to all this. Many people today sense that next few years will be a time of unprecedented change for humanity. Looked at from one perspective, it may seem like Armageddon, and from another it may feel like our wildest dreams are coming true. The difference is in your state of consciousness.

In order to understand what is happening for all of us, it’s useful to recognize a phenomenon that occurs in recovery from addiction called “bottoming out.” Perhaps you know someone who has been an addict and then entered into recovery. Maybe you’ve even experienced that process yourself. When someone is fully immersed in an addiction, they generally don’t even know they have a problem, and if someone tries to point it out they tend to argue. It’s called denial. I had some friends a few years ago who went through this process as a family. Jim used to stop at the bar for a drink or two after work and then come home. Susan thought nothing of it. But over a few months he came home later and later, smelling of alcohol. His temper became more volatile. If anyone questioned him about the drinking he became defensive. The kids, four and six at the time, started to become afraid of their father. When he came home one night and woke everyone up, Sue tried to reason with him, and he hit her. That was the final straw. She moved out the next week with the kids back to Michigan, and from there you know the rest of the story. Things spiraled down. He got into arguments at work and then he lost his job. He maxed out his credit cards. When he got too behind on the mortgage payments he lost his house, too. And he went on drinking. Finally, he ended up in hospital with a liver disease.

From Jim’s perspective things couldn’t get any worse. But from the perspective of anyone familiar with addiction, for the first time Jim was really ready to face himself. He got out of the hospital, joined a twelve step program, stopped drinking, and within months he turned his life around. Now Jim and Sue are back together, and he has become a support to hundreds of other people to recover from addiction. The way that Jim tells it is that he didn’t have to descend all the way down into the darkness and then climb all the way up the other side. He slipped down into the lowest point and then passed through a quantum shift. He flipped out of one reality and into another.

You could say that the process that we are in together today is very much like that: a collective bottoming out. If you’re very attached to business as usual, this could seem like the end of everything. Many well-respected commentators like Lynn Twist, Barbara Marx-Hubbard and Peter Russell recognize that over the last few years humanity, particularly the US, has been on a binge. Like Jim, we’ve been spending more than we earn, and of course most of us have been in massive denial. If you feel attached to the way that things have been, this next phase may be difficult. If, on the other hand, you’re open to a whole new paradigm, this can be marvelous. Wonderful. Liberating. The pivotal difference is in how we manage consciousness.

I am an awakening coach. That’s what I do. I support people to pass through the shift in consciousness from being contracted down into the story of a “me,” to the expansiveness of knowing yourself to be vast, silent, at peace, and not separate at all. I train other people to become awakening coaches, and to facilitate this shift. Here is some great news: these days waking up can be incredibly easy. You don’t have to change your beliefs or your diet or your lifestyle. You simply need to be willing to ask yourself some simple and fundamental questions and to be deeply honest with yourself.

Here are five simple keys for what you need to be able to pass through the collective shift with comfort and ease:

* Discover ways to be fully present: to shift your attention fully to what you’re experiencing in this moment.
* Learn to distrust your mind. Find ways to recognize the messages that your mind is giving you and then not to change negative messages into positive ones, but to free yourself from the limits of thinking all together.
* Transform your relationship from other people and the environment from one of getting to one of giving. Focus more on how much you love than how much you are loved.
* Find the right practices that work for you on a day-to-day basis to neutralize the habits that create feeling separate. Practices need to be tailor-made. It’s not one size fits all.
* Simplify your life. Find a way to discover what is really meaningful and fulfilling to you and what is just distraction. Let your life become a work of art.