Have you ever experienced wilderness? Being in the middle of absolutely no where?
I remember such an experience during my army days. I was to take my group of soldiers and walk to an unknown destination. We used topography, (a map that shows the natural and physical features of the nearby area) to get us acclimated and direct us to our final destination.
And I was the leader of the group. Using nothing but the stars, the sun and the hills, we kept on walking until we reached our destination.
I was reminded of this day as I studied to chant from the Torah (the first portion of the bible) for this week’s synagogue services. Jews all over the world have started reading from the fourth book of the bible, the book of Numbers, which in Hebrew is called “In the desert, or the wilderness” B’midbar.
Without going into the reasons why the name of the fourth book of the bible is not the same in both languages (which is, in and by itself, a very interesting conversation), I want to talk about being in the wilderness. Physical wilderness and perhaps spiritual or emotional wilderness.
To provide context, In the biblical narration, the Hebrews are leaving Egypt where they were slaves. A place they knew their routine and what was expected of them and ventured out into the unknown, to a place where the terrain is unfamiliar. An environment where conditions are harsh and unexpected. Why did they do it?
To experience Freedom!
The tradition indicates that some did not want to leave. They felt they would rather stay and be “safe” in the world that they knew.
As I was reading the first few verses, I tried to imagine myself in this scenario, and within a few seconds it came to me!
I already been in such a scenario! Perhaps not physically…but…
What if we looked at the contemporary “wilderness” as the place of unknown? A place of “emptiness.” How many of us have been there??! I bet many of us!
It happens every time we choose to start something new, something we have never done before. We choose to enter the space of wilderness, of unknown….and (drumrolls..), maybe this wilderness can even exist in our brains…
I purposely selected the word choose, because it is crucial for this conversation.
Take me as an example. I chose to enter the unknown world of speaking/coaching, (a.k.a wilderness) when I left my position as an education director. This transition was completely an unknown for me. Yet, I harnessed courage to step into this realm of unknown.
In Positive Intelligence we have daily activity called PQ to purposely get our brains into a place of “wilderness.” Into a place of emptiness, of nothingness. Because precisely from that void of thoughts and feelings, growth takes place.
Some people may call it mindfulness. When I lead my group coaching, I encourage the participants to “empty their minds.” To not think of the past, or the future, but to concentrate on the physical sensation in the moment. When we do that, our brains accept the wilderness (the emptiness of our brain) as a fertile ground to create a thought. Our brains become “free” to come up with new thoughts.
The book of Numbers, or “In the Wilderness,” reminds us that precisely in that space of emptiness, freedom was experienced for the first time. Those who chose to leave, and were not motivated by their fear, ultimately gained.
So what lessons or tips can we derive from this in our own lives today?
- Reflect: what does “wilderness” mean to you in the figurative sense?
- Can you create an opportunity of wilderness for your own freedom to emerge? Is it sitting by yourself for 15min a day? Is it going for a walk with out your phone? Is it going for a hike to a new place you have never been?
- While you are in the “wilderness experience” of your mind, gently contemplate- why are you at this world at this time? What can you gift others by your presence?
- What are you to learn from the place of wilderness to take with you as you join others?
I believe that the more we are in the place of “wilderness”, the more opportunities we have for our minds to come up with solutions and ideas. All we need to do is allow 15 min a day the “nothingness of thought” a space in our brains.
Be Yourself, Be Positive, Be the Champion you want to see!