A parent dies. A baby is born. Your job is eliminated. A new job begins. You move across the world. A marriage ends. A marriage begins. Cancer. Remission.
Sometimes, unfortunately, that’s life. But such events have one thing in common: They carry you, sometimes quite forcibly and shockingly, into the unknown. You cross a threshold, from the comfortable and well-worn life of before to the awkward and uncomfortable world of the after. It’s the space between who you knew yourself to be and who you eventually will become. It’s the liminal space, and it happens to us all.
It’s all pea-soup fog and muffled voices in this new place. You see only enough to take one step at a time, and often it’s a leap of faith to plant your foot when you’re not sure there’s solid ground on which to land. Perhaps you extend a hand into the murkiness and find support from a stranger or an acquaintance you’re surprised to see show up. Maybe you learn to rely on yourself or, if you’re the stoic type, learn to ask for help, both valuable lessons.
There’s no telling how this space will feel or how long it will last. There’s only working through it one day, one hour, one breath at a time. The only certainty is that you will be a different person when you reach the end of your journey. The mysterious forces that operate in the liminal space will mold you, hopefully for the better. Instead of becoming bitter, aim to alchemize the pain into empathy and compassion and transform those hard-earned painful lessons into wisdom instead of rage.
On a much less grand scale, I like to think there’s a liminal space every time you enter a yoga class. Who are you at the beginning versus who you are at the end? You might be surprised how much information you can download during a child’s pose or savasana. I even look at a long hike as a liminal space. I am never the same at the end of a hike as I was at the beginning. I’ve interacted with nature and animals along the way, perhaps communed with a person or two who shared an interesting tidbit that made me think, or perched on a rock for some quiet reflection about the state of my affairs.
As with many things, liminality is all about your reaction to it. Once we understand we can’t really control many aspects of life, we realize we can only control our reaction to it. If you can approach the liminal space with curiosity and an open mind and heart, instead of anger and victimhood, it can become a more auspicious experience.
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