a personal reflection…
It’s been over seven weeks since I left my previous job. Life’s been active. I’ve finished reading William Brooks, Transitions, for a second time. The first time was in 2010. That year I left a church that I’d been a part of for almost 30 years and I gave up the ambition to be a Pastor vocationally. It’s funny that 10 years later a lot of similar feelings arise for me. Unfinished business perhaps?
The Neutral Zone
Bridges talks about transitions having three parts: endings, neutral zone and beginnings. The parts can be messy. Not necessarily linear. The start of your transition is to deal with your endings. Then comes the neutral zone.
The task of the one entering the neutral zone is what he calls “attentive inactivity”. It is a place of emptiness, where the aim is surrender and self-renewal. It is as necessary as fallow time for the soil or pauses between musical notes.
It’s not meant to be comfortable or pleasant, but essential if you desire progress. Even though a beginning has commenced for me with this blog, I still feel like I’m in a neutral zone. Emotions are the biggest indicator of this. But the trick with emotions is that they tend to be so difficult to pin down, especially for someone like me. I can still hear my father’s voice telling me not to be too sentimental… I need to control my feelings. So it’s difficult to read myself sometimes, even after all these years.
The neutral zone has also been a place of introspection. You start to break things down. “What do I believe?” “Why am I feeling this way?” That’s when you can put it into words.
I do a lot of walking and enjoy silences. I’m reading and listening to podcasts less. It seems like I want to hear my own voice. Perhaps this is because I’m fundamentally a reader and listener rather than a talker. Over the years I’ve taken in so much and now it seems like I need to know what is genuinely me.
Of course my faith is integral to who I am. My spiritual exercises continue. I’ve finished reading through the Psalms, the Bible’s prayers and have started the Gospel of Matthew. My meditations meander and I can only manage short prayers. I think of them as short memos to the Creator. I’m sure he understands.
Recently I’ve been thinking about the motif of “the desert” that comes up regularly in the Bible’s stories. It seems to be everywhere: The Israelite nation 40 years in the desert, the prophet Elijah chased into the desert, Jesus fasting 40 days in the desert, are just a few.
It’s interesting that Jesus went into the desert before he launched his public life. Alone, deprived of food and water, facing the great tempter in a desolate place. Perhaps this was his neutral zone? He left behind the life of a carpenter and emerged as something far greater. Is there a paradigm here for transitions?
So, now for the next seven weeks.
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