Making the Shift

by Edmund Bourne, PhD -

A remarkable change is taking place that will profoundly influence the way we see ourselves and our world. The dominant materialistic, separatist worldview-a perspective that leads individuals to value their own needs over the good of the whole-is giving way to a humanitarian-spiritual orientation. 

This shift will revolutionize both the way humanity interacts on a global scale and how we live on a day-to-day basis. 

What are some of the fundamental shifts in values likely to accompany the global consciousness shift? An abbreviated, partial list follows:

  • Increased reverence and respect for the earth and all forms of life upon it: The earth is understood as a sacred matrix in which we are deeply embedded, rather than something to be exploited for material gain.
  • Increased compassion rather than prejudice toward peoples whose race, nationality, religion, ethnic group, or economic status differ from our own: This means acceptance and respect for all human beings as part of the same planetary community, deserving of equal rights to health, livelihood, safety, and prosperity.
  • Greater priority given to personal and spiritual growth than to materialistic values of acquisition and consumption: We focus increasingly on finding peace and presence within ourselves rather than striving for outer success. This means recognizing the importance of aligning our personal life with the rhythm and flow of the earth, and indeed the larger Cosmos.
  • Embracing nonlinear, intuitive ways of knowing the world: Such ways of knowing are understood to offer deeper insight into the symbolic or interior face of the Cosmos, than sensory ways of knowing that provide information about the outer, objective face. While reason and logic have their place, intuition offers additional, often uncanny guidance for problem solving.
  • Honoring unconditional love and forgiveness as the highest values in all of our relations with others: If we are all one, then to harm another person is to harm oneself. Thus, we come to recognize that the operative question in any interpersonal situation is truly: “What is the most loving thing to do?”
Yoga -  Healing oneself A shift toward such values is already evident in many places. Concern about the state of the global environment is much more widespread than it was even five years ago. 

Humanity has also moved a long way from the racial and ethnic prejudices of the past (such as Nazi Germany), though in certain parts of the world there is still a long way to go. 

In the West, interest in personal healing and spiritual growth dates back to the focus on Eastern mysticism in the 1970's, and has increased in the past twenty years through widespread interest in holistic health, yoga, and meditation. 

Intuitive ways of knowing are gaining credibility through humanistic and transpersonal psychology, a popular interest in “channeling” and listening to inner guidance, and the focus on insight in creative problem-solving. 

While religions have always emphasized the primacy of unconditional love, compassion, and forgiveness, these values now also enjoy widespread recognition in popular movements such as the twelve-step programs, Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication, and New Thought churches such as Unity and Science of Mind.


What kinds of circumstances can motivate us to make a shift in consciousness compatible with the emerging worldview? 

The following are some of the more common motivators. Consider which ones, if any, have been instrumental in your own life:

Life Crisis

After a personal crisis or other life challenges, you may become more focused on inner development rather than material concerns and goals. 

For example, as a result of a life-threatening illness, you make some major modifications in your diet, simplify your lifestyle, and take up the regular practice of yoga and meditation. Or, after being laid off from an unrewarding corporate job, you decide to live with less income and get involved with a nonprofit organization striving to help the environment.

Burnout with Material Values

At different ages, many people reach a point where they feel exhausted by a lifestyle focused on consumption, status, and material goals. Concerns about how you look, the house you own, and where you live lose their former importance. 

After realizing that pursuit of material goals does not bring you peace of mind, you may start to search within. Carl Jung described a need to shift values during the “second half of life,” from outward achievement in the world to a more inner-directed focus on personal and spiritual development. 

It’s possible that such a trend has accelerated in our time, so that people are now making this transition at an earlier age.

Peak Experiences 

You may experience a heightened state of awareness or epiphany in which you come to appreciate the importance of the whole of humanity over your individual concerns. 

For example, after witnessing the birth of a child you suddenly see the preciousness of all life. In such an experience, you might also catch a glimpse of the entire earth or universe as a conscious being, of which you are but a small, interdependent part. 

Such experiences may enhance your perception that you are a fundamentally spiritual being having a physical experience on earth—or that your life has a larger purpose beyond personal ego needs. Following such an experience, you may decide to focus more on spiritual growth or get involved with organizations seeking to help the environment or correct social injustices.

Peer Influence

Friends or loved ones may adopt values associated with simplicity, sustainability, concern for the earth, or compassion for human suffering, influencing you to make similar shifts.


We are surrounded these days by books, magazines, and media presentations that provide information about the global crisis, environmentally friendly practices and lifestyles, and alternative approaches to health and personal growth. 

As you learn more about pathways to healing yourself as well as the earth, you may naturally feel moved to shift your values in that direction.


While changes in basic perceptions and values are essential to the shift our planet needs, they cannot go far without corresponding actions. Thus a critical question arises: 

What can each of us actually do in our daily lives to embody the global shift? 

How can each of us personally help bring about a new world in which the beliefs and values listed above are honored? How can we put into practice the perceptual and value shifts needed to help our planet survive the major crises it is currently facing?

One way is to start with ourselves. The global shift ultimately begins with each of us, one person at a time. Each of us is a “cell” in the collective consciousness of humanity. 

By working on personal healing and inner peace, each of us contributes in a small but unique way to promoting the healing of the planet. In being more at peace with ourselves, we affect many others, both through our example and through our actions. 

So the very first step each of us can take to promote a global shift is to engage in practices that lead to greater personal peace, healing, and spiritual growth

It is from a foundation of such inner peace and healing that each of us can develop the compassion and sense of social responsibility to move beyond ourselves—to do what we can to help the planet.

Some of the many ways you might cultivate inner peace and healing include:

  • Simplify your life by, for example, living close to where you work or combining errands so that you make only one trip to the mall per week.

  • Learn basic communication skills that promote compassion and understanding in your relationships with family, friends, work associates, and others.

  • Transition your diet away from processed foods toward organic, whole foods.

  • Take time out from cumulative stress to relax every day.

  • Have a daily exercise routine that helps to discharge tension.

  • Visualize and deeply affirm a goal, such as finding your “right” employment or relationship, or optimum health.

  • Reframe your attitude toward a negative experience by reflecting on what it may have taught you.

  • Another way to take action is simply to do things that help the earth. This includes both personal lifestyle choices that directly help the planet as well as contributing time and/or money to organizations that deal with environmental and social problems.
  • Examples of personal lifestyle choices that can help the earth include:

  • Improving the energy efficiency of your home (for example, through proper insulation, reducing use of heat and air conditioning, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and purchasing energy-efficient appliances)

  • Driving energy-efficient vehicles, such as hybrids or compact cars, as well as driving less

  • Shifting your diet away from meat toward vegetarianism (meat production industries are very energy and water intensive)

  • Recycling paper, glass, metal, and plastic

  • Engaging in socially responsible investing

  • Reducing consumption of unnecessary luxury items

  • Beyond changing our lifestyles and habits, we help when we:

    • Contribute time locally to help impoverished, hungry, or homeless people.
    • Contribute financially to nonprofit organizations striving to ameliorate global problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, inhumane treatment of animals, overpopulation, and third-world poverty and disease.
    • Sign petitions and vote for political candidates who are concerned about the environment and the serious problems that the planet is confronting now.

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