We’ve been hearing for some time that the world’s on the edge of a spiritual awakening, a sort of cultural paradigm shift. We need more harmony and less competition; more compassion and less objectification of others. This feeling of being on the brink of something new is a feeling that many of us have likely experienced, but to stimulate real cultural change, we need to learn to make use of the mystical tools that will help lead us towards our humanistic goals. It appears as if Mutual Awakening, a meditative practice led by Patricia Albere and Jeff Carreira of the Evolutionary Collective, may be one of these tools.

When speaking with Patricia and Jeff, it becomes clear that they’re passionate about their work, and both have been involved in the field of spiritual development for quite some time. Patricia started her career in the ’70s by working with Werner Erhard, the founder of Erhard Seminars Training (EST), an association that offered courses related to life transformation. Jeff began his spiritual work more than a decade ago after studying with spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, whose teachings focused on the possibility of collective awakening embodied within the Hindu tradition. As Cohen’s student, Jeff was part of a group that was able to achieve collective awakening, which ended up drastically changing his life.

“You become aware that there’s a consciousness that’s animating all of the individuals that both transcends and includes who you are,” Jeff says. “Nothing would be the same afterwards, because it’s the breaking through of the illusion of separation in a dramatic way.” Indeed, nothing was the same, and shortly afterwards, after connecting with her at a retreat and through a radio show he was hosting at the time, Jeff began working with Patricia and the Evolutionary Collective. He describes their working relationship as a “completely natural fit.”

Patricia and Jeff now run Mutual Awakening courses and retreats as a duo, both online and offline, with the goal of being able to bring others together and help them awaken. Just as awakening on your own through meditation and related practices isn’t easy, and is certainly never achieved overnight, mutual or collective awakening can be a great challenge for people in any situation. The level of challenge only increases as more and more people are added to a group. However, for the basic exercises, which complete beginners can participate in, these two teachers prefer to keep the participants in pairs. This may come as a surprise to some, but whom you’re paired up with is nearly irrelevant. “The thing that matters is the willingness to be in the truth of whatever’s there, a willingness to be influenced… [your partner] could absolutely be somebody who you don’t have any particular conscious connection with… as long as you’re turned towards each other in the right way, there’s an opening, absolutely, that could happen,” Patricia says.

During the first exercise, the participants turn towards each other, sitting fairly close, with their eyes closed. One partner asks the other, “What are you experiencing?” The other partner ideally will not answer with something superficial like, “I’m touching the floor,” or “My nose is itchy,” but will really try to feel the depth of what they’re present to in that moment of connection, letting go of any boundaries between themselves and the other person, and allowing words about their perceptions of “the space between” them to spontaneously flow. Following that, the partners switch roles.

This entire process takes about 10 minutes, and for the next (and last) 10 minutes, both people must strive to let their consciousness completely inhabit that mystical, intangible space between and speak about what “we” are experiencing as a pair, not as two separate individuals. According to Jeff, “Mutual awakening isn’t just the individual awakening with two people together. It’s actually the awakening of the field of relatedness between us.” Within this practice, the field of relatedness is of the utmost importance, as it is where all possibilities are held. Jeff goes on to explain that “if you’re with a different partner or different group of people… the field of relatedness has different potential, so what wakes up… is different depending on who’s there.” Hence awakening, if achieved, is definitely not the same for everyone.

In order to successfully be awakened, you must be in a certain state of mind to begin with. You can’t be operating from a motive of personal gain. “If our motive is selfish, if it’s personal, if we’re trying to get something for ourselves out of it… we won’t be willing to let go enough to enter into a different possibility because we won’t be willing to give up control,” Jeff states. A lot of people struggle with giving up that last shred of control and allowing themselves to let go, since many of us live in societies that prioritize obtaining and maintaining control. However, Jeff thinks that being able to give up control is actually something that’s natural for humans to do, it’s just not something that’s regularly encouraged. He says that within the practice of Mutual Awakening, “You can create a field between people which inherently has so much trust in it… it’s actually easier than you think to let go because the whole collective movement is supporting everyone in moving to a different possibility.”

Man alone and depressed - Mutual Awakening interview

Jeff and Patricia both feel that a cultural paradigm shift that will diminish excessive self-interest and increase trust and altruism is desired and needed, due to devastating world events that have occurred within recent years. As mentioned, they’re not the only ones who feel this need. They do believe that Mutual Awakening is one of the ideal tools to use to successfully shift the paradigm, as it breaks down barriers between people, and, as Patricia reminds us, “All suffering arises from some kind of separation.” She expresses that when we realize we’re not so separate after all, our need for competition among ourselves decreases and closeness increases. Within the time allotted to the Mutual Awakening retreats, she delightedly recounts that “People are given permission, finally, to be close. Even lovers… were saying it was such a joy… how often do we just look into each other’s eyes and really get this close?” Along the same lines, Patricia’s own awakening occurred with her former boyfriend, Peter, whom she was very close to, with each acting as a catalyst for the other’s breakthrough. “The power of the awakening happened together. It wasn’t that he was awakened and I was awakened and we came together [afterwards],” she says.

Regardless of whether we find ourselves literally or figuratively seated across from our lovers, our family members, our best friends, or even people whom we’ve never had a real conversation with, in a world divided by things such as warring political ideologies, terrorism and devastating environmental issues, perhaps increased closeness—in the form of a literal meeting of the minds within the mutual field of spirit—is exactly what we need to be working towards. Thanks to the fact that modern technology makes it easier to connect with others than it ever has been, it’s highly possible that our vital paradigm shift will happen sooner rather than later.

For more information

Evolutionary Collective: Visit Patricia and Jeff’s official website to learn more about upcoming Mutual Awakening courses taking place online and offline, and to gain access to a free e-learning course and an e-book, Mutual Awakening: Opening Into a New Paradigm of Human Relatedness.

image 1: Happy people and dog via Shutterstock; image 2: depression via Shutterstock