Rabbi Chava Bahle has recently given me a whole new way to look at the story of the Israelites flight from Egypt. Metaphorically, this story becomes the Birth of Expanded Consciousness.
She said that in Hebrew, the word “Egypt” comes from the root word meaning “narrow places.” The Israelites have been trapped for hundreds of years in this place of narrowness, narrow thinking, lack of freedom, negativity, “not enough”, and even judgmentalism. For them to finally get free from this place they must pass through the water of the Sea of Reeds, metaphorically the birthing waters that will bring them out of their old place and into the new place, but it isn’t quite as easy as that because people don’t change easily. It will take years and years of searching, wandering, and learning, before they finally arrive in the Promised Land, a place where their minds and consciousness have expanded to be able to receive Torah or wisdom.
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Applying this to our lives today, Egypt represents a place of constricted consciousness. It is the place of ego, narrow-mindedness, status quo, fear, scarcity and exclusivism. Many people never leave this place because they are afraid to change, they refuse to question and refuse to think. Sometimes it is very tempting to stay with what we know (even if it isn’t working for us anymore) instead of traveling to the unknown. But for those of us truly on the spiritual journey we will constantly find ourselves questioning our beliefs, pushing the boundaries of our understanding and throwing out what doesn’t work any more. Staying in a place of constricted consciousness becomes too uncomfortable and we eventually know we need to set forth, to birth our new selves – just like the baby who gets too big to remain in the safety of the womb, it must enter the birth canal to arrive at a place of expansiveness. And so we enter the “birth waters of the Reed Sea”, trusting a higher awareness, letting go of the safety of our old ways, and facing our fears of the unknown for the promise of freedom, the hope of a place to grow into ourselves.
The caveat here is that leaving the place of narrow thinking and surviving the birthing process may not automatically mean that we have come to a place of expanded consciousness. Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (aka “a really long time”) where their relationship with the Divine grew and developed, so, too, we may need time to wander and explore this new terrain. It will take time to gather information, have new experiences, talk to people with different ideas, read, meditate, learn. Through this process our vision of the Divine, life and ourselves expands exponentially until we realize that the Divine is within us, we are within the Divine, and all things exist within the Divine. There becomes no energetic distinction. We have arrived at our “Promised Land”, the place of Expanded Consciousness – what Buddhists call Big Sky Mind. It is here that we are aware of the Divine Flow continuously flowing into the world. It is here where the boundaries we thought were each of us dissolve.