Faith communities and indigenous cultures worldwide all have core stories addressing the countless mysteries of existence. Many point to a distant time in the future, often seen as the “promised day,” or a “great age” of universal harmony when their teachings will be fulfilled. All traditions seem to agree that central to the process of getting there is a much-needed thorough transformation on all levels, from the personal to the collective. The essence of all of these traditions is that there is a built-in need for regular change, transformation, and renewal.

Interestingly, when I was in Guatemala in December of 2012 I spoke with a few Mayans, who still make up 40% of the population there, about the much-hyped end of their Long Count calendar. And each said, matter-of-factly, “The end of one cycle is followed by the beginning of another,” confirming a timeless law of nature: progress is always a process of birth, death, and rebirth. Too often, we tend to forget the renewal, or rebirth, part of the process and instead focus only on the death phase.

Yet this is exactly where we stand today—at a critical juncture in our collective evolution. Our time is characterized by rapid change and global crises. And people want answers. Is change random? Is there a direction to evolution? Where is the meaning in all of what we are going through?

All sacred stories about future changes share this universal motif of cyclical transformation within a linear process of progressive evolution. Collective evolution is always a process of expanding consciousness leading to change, growth, and eventually transformation and renewal. This is the story that is repeated over and over again, across the millennia, within all traditions.

But the story we have lived with for so long has lost much of its power, and most alarmingly, its hope for the future. Every timeless story brings forth order from chaos, and purpose from conflict; not only does it have a beginning, middle, and an end, but also a beginning, a muddle, and a resolution. This pattern is found in stories everywhere, from myths to folk tales to our own life stories. When a resolution is achieved, another story begins; and the pattern repeats itself.