Editor’s note: This article was first published in January 2013 but its relevance continues…
Doesn’t it feel like some major change is occurring on planet Earth? It does to me. I get the sense that it does to a lot of other people as well.
In the final days of this past December leading up to New Year’s Day, my wife and I attended a conference hosted by a number of integral groups. The theme of the conference was “what’s next?” Next month, in February, the organization I work for – the Centers for Spiritual Living – is hosting their annual convention in Vancouver. I’ll be making a presentation there. The conference’s theme is “what’s next?” I had no role in the conference title – I’m just an observer in this interesting little coincidence. But as we often say,” there are no coincidences”.
I believe the two organizations independently coming up with the same theme for their conferences is simply pointing to the fact that somewhere in our collective consciousness is a realization that we are in a state of transition. We are letting go of the old and are moving into the new. This concept was central to many who saw the end of the Mayan calendar not as being an indication the world was ending but rather as representative of a shift in human consciousness.
Think about it – we all use the phrase “what’s next?” Where are we when we say that? Typically, it’s when we concluded something and were looking around for the next thing to do. The phrase is uttered when we are in that transition space between the old and the new. It frequently represents a sense of being antsy to move on. We like knowing where we are and where we are going. We’re generally a bit uncomfortable when like a GPS we have to “recalculate” our direction.
William Bridges wrote a wonderful book many years ago that gets to the heart of this intermediate space between the old and the new. It’s called Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. I have recommended the book to many people and even created a workshop around it years ago.
Bridges points out that we are always going through the cycle of endings followed by what he calls “the neutral zone” before we get to the new beginning. The beginning of this new thing will at some point probably come to some kind of ending, and the cycle goes on. Like the seasons of the year, everything in our life is going through that sequence over and over. We may be a different phases in different areas of our life. For example, we could be releasing a major personal relationship just as we are moving into a new job.
This cycle of change described by Bridges can be experienced from four different perspectives by borrowing a key component of philosopher Ken Wilber’s integral way of looking at life. Wilber noted that all of our experience can be realized from what he calls four “quadrants”. Imagine a square subdivided into four internal squares. Two of the smaller upper squares relate to our individual experience while the two lower squares relate to how we experience things in a collective manner. The left-hand quadrants both map our inner experience of life while the right-hand quadrants represent our outer experiences.
Hence, we each experience the world from an individual interior perspective (our consciousness), an individual exterior perspective (our physical life), a collective interior perspective (our culture) and a collective exterior perspective (our social systems). Bridges noted that “change is situational. Transition, on the other hand is psychological.” In other words, when we experience the outer world of form, both from an individual and collective perspective, we see things in a state of continuous “change”. Our inner reaction to this outer flow – how we “process it” – is the experience of “transition”.
There’s an old adage that the only thing that’s constant is change. We live in a world that is constantly in flux. Trying to hold onto the old is like grasping at water – it slips through your fingers and moves on. Psychologically, we grab for something else. There’s comfort in certainty. The wisdom of Bridges’ book is the acknowledgment that we don’t like hanging out in the neutral zone. Yet, he advises us that this part of the sequence is essential to our development.
It’s this uncomfortable void where we internally process the lessons we learned from the just completed ending. It’s this neutral zone where we physically rest and internally prepare ourselves for the next cycle of newness. It’s this in between space where we sit and wait for our intuition to tell us “what’s next”.
So – what’s next? Personally, I don’t know. What I do know is this – humanity is in transition. Old ways of being have been released. We are in that space waiting for the newness to emerge. The many challenges we see playing out externally on the planet point to us collectively moving through this state of flux. Internally we are processing the external changes. We are each dealing in our own way with this massive external upheaval. This is our personal transition that we must each go through.
Each of us look out at life out there on the planet and internally process what’s going on. We are each moving psychologically through events such as global warming, the rise of corporate influence in our government, mass shootings like at Sandy Hook Elementary, our political polarization, the conflicts in the Middle East, etc. Our internal processing of this stuff is creating a shift inside each of us. These individual shifts combine at some higher level into a cultural shift.
Something inside us wants the newness to come sooner rather than later. We want to “solve these problems now!” That’s a natural part of being in this neutral zone.
I want to move on, too. Yet, I am also optimistic that our collective psychological interiors are uniting and birthing that much called for newness. I know that a collective intuition is calling us to the next stage of human growth. And, I know that at its core is the power of love calling us to create a world that honors all humans—each and everyone, no exceptions.
Do you feel the transition you are going through?
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!