On the 15th of Nissan, 1313 BCE, the Jewish nation left Egypt. This included 600,000 men over 20 years of age, their wives, progeny and herds. After 210 years of slavery, this group of weary travelers crossed the border and became a free nation. The end.

Not so fast.

True. The process of freedom beganFreedom takes on different forms on that date. But freedom takes on different forms. We may have left Egypt proper and still be there. In fact, during this unprecedented time, as the coronavirus has wreaked havoc in all or lives, we can identify with the confinement and confusion of those enslaved. More than ever.

The Hebrew word meitzarim (“limitations”) is similar to the word Mitzrayim, or Egypt. We transitioned from the geographical Egypt, and had always soldiered on, battling our own constrictions. Often, that involved freeing ourselves of our own internal Egypts—the egos and the self-centeredness; the fears; the self-imposed limitations and false expectations. But the ramifications of corona have ramped everything up. So instead of soldering on, as we have, we must enlist a full battalion, or even a military industrial complex to contend with the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical compression this pandemic has placed upon us.

Leaving our own Egypt has never been in a day’s work. Leaving Egypt is an ongoing process. Our ancestors found the strength to leave, during a turning point in civilization. Can we?

Perhaps by applying a model of change. Perhaps in stages. Maybe this can help us “leave Egypt” more easily.

Contemplation. Preparation. Action. Maintenance.

“Leaving Egypt” begins with one decision and act. But in order to change, leaving Egypt often involves a circuitous progression involving several steps. There is contemplation. Then possibly hesitation. We step forward, preparing for active change. Then, sometimes, we stumble back, and possibly have to begin the process again.

Once we are free, we need maintenance in order to sustain the new change. The novel behaviors, ideas and dynamics must be ingrained in our heart and soul. This can be ongoing.1

How does leaving Egypt play out in our lives?

Contemplation

We know we are fearful. We know we are addicted. We know we have a poor body image. We know we are in a dead-end relationship. And we know we are dying inside.

But limiting beliefs hold us back. Lack of support holds us back. The grand scale of change holds us back.

Once we realize the consequences of not leaving Egypt, this phase shifts. Here, we connect with our core motivations and start getting excited about the possibility of freedom and movement towards a different reality.

Preparation

After this, we begin preparation for that new reality by taking small steps towards freedom.

We do research. What is the best way to sober up? How has my body image become so distorted? Why do I continue to pretend everything is OK in this relationship? Why does my life feel so meaningless?

We tell friends and family we want to change. We make it public.

Action

Next, we activate our new change. We address obstacles that come up. We celebrate small successes. I skipped the cocktail. I skipped the mirror. I skipped the contempt. I spent a moment in quiet meditation and prayer.

We treat setbacks as opportunities for awareness. We develop our game plan. We continue until small successes become larger seismic shifts.

Maintenance

We finally come to maintenance. We have changed. We have left Egypt.

But we have to avoid situations that could trigger a relapse. We have to cultivate stress-management skills. We have to hone in on refinement, awareness and mastery of our new reality.

True, it’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it.

And now comes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the work. Why? Because most of us are being forced to stay home. We have nowhere to go but inside, both literally and figuratively. We can do the probing, the groundwork, the steps. Our internal life has taken precedence over our external life.

There is no doubt about it. This generation can also live in “Egypt.” But we don’t have to remain there. One way in which to make the journey to freedom is to do it in stages, stressing these four steps in a process: contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance.

Leaving enslavement is ongoing; it is a work in progress. But it’s far better than staying in place.

Like those who came before us, our group of weary travelers can cross the border and become free. Especially during these extraordinary times.