In 1987 Dr. William Bridges wrote a landmark piece on organizational transition, entitled Getting Them Through the Wilderness: A Leader’s Guide to Transition. Bridges makes the distinction between change in a person’s life and transition. He says that change is situational. It is what happens on the outside. Transition is psychological. It is what’s happening on the inside. A change could be a new job, a new relationship, a new place to live, but transition is the movement in consciousness in the midst of those situations.
Andrea Isaacs and I recently offered an Imaginative Journaling workshop at Sunrise Ranch that focused on transition. Each participant explored their own movement in consciousness. It was different for each of us, as it always is.
I journaled about my own transition, naming what I was moving from and what I was moving to:
From figuring it out, to offering it up.
From scarcity to a flow of abundance.
From managing to creating.
From striving to flourishing.
In the workshop, we proposed to people that we are all in the midst of some kind of transition all the time. It is the nature of life. And humanity as a whole is in the middle of a big transition.
Dr. Bill Bahan was a chiropractor, a spiritual leader and teacher, and when the occasion called for it, a standup comic. He used his comedy to teach about humanity’s process of transition, and one of my favorite stories was of a senior couple who were driving down the street. The husband was driving, and the wife turned to him and said, “Remember, honey, back in the old days, when we used to drive around and we would just sit right close to each other, and we’d be embracing as we drove down the street? What happened after all these years?” The husband looked over to his wife and said, “I didn’t move.”
That was Bill’s way of talking about how people have, unwittingly, become separate from the very current and source of life that is at their core. We can wonder what happened, we can wonder what life did to us, not realizing that, as human beings, life didn’t go anyplace, but we may have. And if we have gone someplace, it is time to return in consciousness to that source within us.
This is the transition that is taking place for humanity as a whole. It is a transition that is bringing us home to our core reality. In his 1987 essay, Bridges wrote about transition as movement to the Promised Land, and he wrote about Moses as a leader of transition.
The Promised Land was a land filled with milk and honey. That is a very simple way to describe a flourishing land, because if milk and honey are present, it implies the presence of many other things—flowers, fields and water, to name a few. In any journey through the wilderness, there has to be, in the minds and hearts of those making the journey, a blazing vision of a land filled with milk and honey. As the story of Moses shows us, there is a wilderness to be traversed. There are distractions, challenges and temptations along the way. There is the inclination to turn back to the past. If we are to traverse the wilderness, we must have a blazing vision of the Promised Land.
The story of Exodus is the story of a people returning to their place of origin. This symbolizes what Daphne Bramlett wrote about recently in Ancient Destiny.She says that “the destiny of mankind itself feels intrinsically linked to something both ancient and something that is yet to appear.” Within our psyches, there is an awareness of the Promised Land, and a desire to fulfill the destiny of living there. For humanity, the world becomes the Promised Land when we are at home in ourselves in the midst of it.
A true spiritual practice takes a person through the wilderness. It keeps them on course while there is distraction, challenge and disillusionment all around. It assists a person to drink in a vision of the Promised Land every day.
Part of spiritual practice is a way to represent in our awareness the Promised Land and the reality of the Divine, by whatever name. If you stole from a people their name for sacred things, their way of keeping their vision of the Promised Land, you would have gone a long way to enslaving them. In the wilderness, symbols for the Promised Land are vital and life-giving. They are a compass to the Promised Land. We can never mistake them for the reality itself. We can never think that, because we could say the word God or Christ or Lord or Divine Mother, those words themselves are the reality that we seek, or that the images they may paint in our mind are that reality. But those words and those images can connect us to that reality as if they were a compass. They can set our hearts and minds ablaze with that desire and passion, which is part of the compass that takes us home. Symbols of the Promised Land can communicate that desire and that passion to other people, so that as we are expressing that for ourselves, as we are giving voice to it for ourselves, we are at the same time speaking to the resonance of that same reality that is in all people and all of Being. In humility, we can acknowledge that we have these finite mental capacities, these finite intellects, which of themselves are never going to figure life out, of themselves are never going to find God, but can think thoughts and entertain emotions that assist us to connect in spirit with the Divine and help take us through transition to the Promised Land.
Going home is ultimately not a mental process. It is a spiritual process. But the mind has a part to play as it opens to the flow of the Divine through thought. In opening mentally, we find that there is something that opens up in us spiritually, which connects through and evokes a feeling memory of home, of the power and beauty and glory that is within us, that is the most real thing about us.
On this journey that we are on as humanity, we need a spiritual practice to take us through the fear that stands in the way of the Promised Land. And there have to be those who, like Joshua and Caleb, bring a vision of where we are going. Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve spies sent to bring back a report on the Promised Land. Ten of them came back and said, “It’s a scary place! There are giants in the land. This is going to be hard.” They let fear overcome them. Joshua and Caleb’s attitude was, “Let’s go. It’s a beautiful land, flowing with milk and honey, and there is no reason why we should not go into this land.”
I do believe we need our Joshuas and Calebs today, people who have had a glimpse of the Promised Land, a glimpse of the true Home, and some experience of what it means to live in that place oneself, wherever they may be. We need people who can live in that reality and express from there; people who become a living compass for the Promised Land, which is our destiny.
Do you think you might be such a person? Do you think you might be a person who could be a living compass to the Promised Land? It just may be your destiny to make a vision of it real to people who are distracted and confused and disillusioned and can’t find their way; to be a guide through the wilderness, without whom others may lose their way. It may be your destiny to be a Joshua or a Caleb, to see the Promised Land, and assist others to see it too.