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With record prices at the pumps, both Freddy and Fannie looking really quite punch drunk, much of California covered in smoke, and an economic forecast gloomier by the day, many people today find that their response to our world has gradually shifted from patient optimism to concern to, well, freakin’ out.

As a writer, public speaker and “awakening coach,” I travel a great deal throughout the US, working with all kinds of people, from CEOs to hairdressers, and from mystics to merchants. When things get this uncertain, we discover that there is not nearly as much difference between us all as we might have imagined. In our ambitions, our dogmas and our prejudices we find a splintered world, when our status quo is threatened we find our common humanity. During the second world war in London, people discovered the same thing. Families who had not talked to each other for decades, because of some half remembered feud, became friends again while taking refuge in the London underground from the German bombing. The external threat provoked a sobering up from small preoccupations.

I have worked with tens of thousands of people over the last decades, both individually and in groups, facilitating a simple shift in consciousness, which we can call “awakening.” Generally our attention and energy is wrapped up in trying to improve our situation: make more money, find the perfect relationship, get the right raise. Perhaps we get a little more savvy, and shift that attention from the external to our internal state: we work on ourselves to become more loving, more positive or even more “spiritual.” Awakening is in a whole different ball park. Awakening happens when you run out of options, when, at least to some degree, you surrender the struggle. Then all the effort that was wrapped up in trying to make things better is freed up, and we relax simply back into ourselves, into a peace and presence that was overlooked in our obsessive activity. And millions of people are discovering, and least in snapshots, that everything goes better as a result. (more…)

Presence in treesI met David in Brighton last November, he attended a weekend seminar I was teaching there. The South of England in November is always a rather depressing experience: I think it rained every single day of my six-day visit. People look down at the ground, hurrying on their way to the closest warm refuge. But David’s story was a particularly sad one.

At the beginning of the seminar I asked everyone to grab a partner and to tell their partner why they were there for the weekend: to set intentions. When they were all done I asked a few people to take the microphone and to share what they discovered with the rest of the room. Dave was one of those who volunteered.

“I’m new to all this,” he said, “Never been to no seminar in me life,” he went on in his London accent. His strong shoulders, simple innocent manner and rough hands told us that he was a working man.

“I came ‘ere coz me mate said it might ‘elp. I work in building, see, wiv’ concrete. Jus finishin’ a job right now on the new electric company plant, and then I ‘aint got no more work. Building work’s almost at a standstill in England… I dunno what to do,” Dave’s chin began to tremble with emotion. “Got me a fine wife at home. Luv ‘er her to bits, I do, and three great kids. But work’s been slow for several months now, and I’m desperate. Don’t even see ‘ow I can get me kids Christmas presents this year.” Now Dave was not just feeling emotional, he was actually crying. Somebody nearby passed him a tissue. He was clearly extremely embarrassed to have broken down in front of a group of strangers. (more…)

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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. (more…)