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Moses and the Promised Land

A metaphor for the process of developing new neural circuitry is the Old Testament story of Moses and his people, after leaving the bondage of slavery in Egypt, wandering through the desert for forty years before they got to the Promised Land. Geographically, it’s a relatively short distance to the Promised Land from Egypt, where Moses and the people he led started their journey. Some modern scholars believe that the reason it took forty years was because Moses and his people had a mindset—what I would call a set of Organizing Principles—that came from their slave mentality. Slaves could not develop a new mindset immediately, as shown by the story of creating a golden calf when the people Moses was leading lost faith, fearing that Moses would not come down from Mt. Sinai and believing that their only option was to create a golden idol to pray to in order to save themselves.

This is really the story of the process that would allow the Jews leaving Egypt to run their lives freely in the world of free men. They wandered for four decades—two generations—until the slave mental­ity died out. It’s a story about remodeling the brain at the level of group culture over time, and, on an individual level, a story we can apply to understand dealing with a frog-in-hot-water situation in which, as you’ve seen, people become enslaved by their default programming.

The story of Moses reminds me to be patient with the process, to maintain my resolve to continue being as mindful as I can, and to recognize that it takes everyone, not just me, time to remodel the brain. This helps me remember to be patient and kind by being a good parent to myself, to not beat myself up, to not shame or blame myself for being human, and to treat others the same way.

By being mindful, I focus my mind on the present and con­tinue to engage in the process of being mindful along my personal journey toward the Promised Land of engagement with the present, emotional balance, and attunement with myself and others. In other words, the sense of well-being that comes with healthier behavior.


An excerpt from my recent book, Your Mind Is What Your Brain Does for a Living, now available at Amazon.

  • 4 May, 2015
  • Posted by Steve Fogel
  • 19 Tags

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