We’ve all had this experience.
Things are moving along in a natural progression. Life is good. Then something happens that turns your whole world upside down. You may feel overwhelmed, confused, or you may feel euphoric. Perhaps you’re not sure how you feel. You’re in a state of liminality.
Navigating Liminality can be challenging and requires great courage.
It can also be a time of deep inner reflection.
Rites of Passage
The word liminality, originally coined by anthropologists, referred to various rites of life passage. The root is the Latin word, “limen,” meaning “threshold.” It’s the crossing over from one state to another, as in the space between wakefulness and sleep.
A change of place, social position or age can precipitate this condition. Liminality has three stages: 1) Leaving where you’ve been or experiencing a loss 2) Passing through an ambiguous stage 3) Emerging into a new realm with renewed resolve.
Life passages are often celebrated through formal rites or rituals.
In an indigenous culture, an adolescent moving into adulthood performs a vision quest to find himself and his intended spiritual and life direction.
In modern culture, ceremonies are performed for graduations, engagements and weddings. One’s entire life is recognized and honored at a funeral or memorial service.
Often these events are led by elders, shamans or clergy. They help guide us through these transitions, offering wise counsel and encouragement to pass through the liminal threshold for what lies ahead. Wise guides are not always present for our passages, though.
Alice meets caterpiller
“Who are YOU?” asked the Caterpillar. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present –at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Some life changes come about through an unexpected circumstance or catastrophe. There is little, if any, time to prepare. Whether experiencing a natural disaster or a personal loss, we can never know how we are going to feel or react. This can be the most challenging liminal state of all.
Losing a loved one, even when it is inevitable,
creates a void and can leave you feeling empty.
When my mother died, I felt like an orphan. As I dwelled in the liminal cave of healing, I began to rethink who I was and what was my purpose in the world. With the help of a strong support system, I emerged at the other end inspired and with a huge amount of creative inspiration and lust for life.
Loss of a relationship can be a blow to your self-esteem. Thoughts like, “what did I do wrong,” “I’m not loveable”, “I’ll never find another”, appear and cloud your mind.
When this happened to me a few years ago, I made the decision not to take it personally, trust that it was for the best. Beating myself up or holding anger served no healthful purpose. I’d been through other losses and always bounced back. I needed to forge a new path. A surprising healing takes place over time for most of us, especially those with a strong support system.
With job loss, however, the longer one is without a job, the more likely one’s liminal period can include anger, depression and loss of self-esteem. A plummeting sense of self-worth can paralyze.
Yet, this can be a real opportunity to reevaluate your life. Examine your gifts and talents and uncover your true passions. Discover how you want to live the next chapter of your life. I have led many people in transition through this process.
A liminal period can be life-transforming – for better or worse. It may be short or long-lived, even permanent.
Sometimes people drop out of society. Some vow never to be in relationship again, living with anger, guilt and resentment. Some accept jobs at less pay or status. Others heal, seek new relationships, start businesses, and re-enter the social whirl in a new form.
This can be an opportunity to step back, to review your creative foundation and life purpose. A time to test your potential.
I move into liminality every time I begin to write these articles. I may think I know what I want to say. Then, through research, introspection and extemporaneous writing, new ideas emerge and flow onto the page.
Liminality can be the rich soil to grow creative ideas,
a new road to travel or even a new identity.
Our lives are constantly in flux. We’re absorbing new information, reflecting on the past, aspiring towards the future. Discomfort with transition can cloud our perspective. Anxiety and fear may try to divert us. Know it is just your fragile, threatened ego trying to block change.
Liminality can be taken into meditation where you can step back and reflect. Watch your mind, your thoughts and feelings. See problems as objects floating inside your head based on your perceptions, not who you really are.
Invite the ego to sit in your guesthouse of awareness, while you explore with openness the vast potentiality available to you. Explore the liminal space between thoughts, between breaths. This clears the pathway to commune with your Source where truth, peace and love reside, bringing you to a place of wholeness and enabling you to reenter the world anew.
“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told where I must go and who I must be…….but this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here.” – Adventures of Alice in Wonderland
Welcome liminality to help you decide where that will be. ~ Namaste