Today we discuss the importance of taking a step back so that we can make giant leaps forward. Another way of looking at it is that we must take time to go inside ourselves deeply so that we can show up in the outer world fully.

First, my apologies to Bob Dylan for the title above – a play on words on the title of one of his songs and albums from the 1960s. Those of you who know me personally know that I am a really big fan of Dylan. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

For the past 6 to 9 months, I have noted that the phrase “what’s next” had been coming up a lot in my life. Simply check out the podcast area of the Conscious Bridge website for evidence of this. Both in my personal life and in my collective life with others, I felt as if I had been crossing major thresholds. My first book got published. I turned 60 and my family and I took a cruise to celebrate. We all made it through the end of the Mayan calendar. Etc.  Change certainly has been afoot.

As William Bridges wrote about in his wonderful book Transitions, we humans move through change in three stages. First, there are the endings or completions of things. Second, there is a transition phase or what Bridges calls “the void” or “the neutral zone” where we are not sure exactly where we are going. This is the space where we ask” what’s next?” The third stage is the movement into the newness – new projects, new relationships, new ways of showing up in the world, new internal insights.

As I sat with the question of what’s next, I turned both within and externally for guidance on how to move forward. Both sources – which ultimately are one source – directed me to “retreat” from the world. This guidance placed some caveats upon this retreat. I needed to get away from my usual place and routine – I was advised to place myself by a large body of fresh water. I needed to do this alone – my wife, Mary, lovingly supported me in this. I needed to take adequate time to reflect – a minimum of several days was seen as optimal.

There was a part of me that was challenged in doing something which appeared selfish. Could I not accomplish what was needed more efficiently? However, as Bridges so eloquently wrote, “one of the difficulties of being in transition in the modern world is that we have lost our appreciation for this gap in the continuity of existence. For us, ’emptiness’ represents only the absence of something.” Bridges equates this to crossing the street – we want to get from one side to the other as quickly as possible – to move from the old into the new without lingering in that mystery of the middle.

Yet it’s taking time in this space of the neutral zone where we assimilate the lessons learned from the recent completions, where we relax and renew ourselves without the pressures of “doing-ness”. It’s a time to recharge and repair. It’s hitting the pause button on life. It’s taking time to go within and discover what is most important for us to move towards – what next step is most in alignment with our higher calling. And to patiently wait for that intuitive knowingness that moves us into the newness with confidence that we are going in the right direction.

After giving in and embracing the importance of my being in the void, guidance quickly maneuvered me to Lake Superior (after all logic dictated, isn’t that one of the world’ s largest bodies of fresh water?). On the heels of that decision, I immediately located a cabin on the lake’ s northern shore whose owner offers it for personal retreats! How perfect was that? (Link to their website, if you’re interested.) Travel bookings were made in short order. Everything fell into proper arrangement as if it were “supposed to be.”

For the first time in my life, I went someplace just for me. No agenda, no itinerary, no other’s needs to take into account. I meditated, I journaled, I sat and looked at the water. Fascinating “coincidences” occurred along the way. Life conspired to reaffirm for me that taking this time was perfect. This retreat was really and truly in one regard “the next step.”

Yes, I received intuitive guidance for steps beyond the retreat. I have greater clarity in my awareness on “what’s next” in my life. Some of to feed my logical mind is in specifics, most is open-ended and very general –or as we say in Science of Mind, “open at the top” – meaning that there is always room to incorporate new learnings, new ideas, new wisdom.

In the upcoming weeks and months, I will write here on some of these specifics. But even what I “know” in this moment is open to “organic growth” as life continues to expand and offer me new coincidences, new connections, new understandings.

As I planned my retreat to the northern shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota, I noted that I would be just a few hours away from Hibbing, Minnesota, the boyhood home of Bob Dylan. I considered making a side trip but decided not to. Yet one day on my retreat as I drove into a local town for dinner, I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized that the one major road I had been driving each day was labeled “Highway 61”. Spirit certainly has a sense of humor!

Mark Gilbert

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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!