Category Archives: spirituality

Liminality

I have been thinking a lot lately about where I have been, and where I am going next. It feels a little unsettling, this sensation of knowing I am done with a certain phase of my work life but not yet identifying a clear direction for the next phase.

It reminds me of a concept that was introduced to me nearly half my life ago (22 years, as I am nearly 44) during my college graduation, the notion of liminal space, the place where all transformation takes place. Author and Theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as:

where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.

I am very much there now.

Some people arrive at this threshold state due to a change in their external world, and I suppose there are circumstantial factors that pushed me here. But my own transformation feels very internally driven, these nudges from my soul making themselves known in a fuller way.

As an anthropological phenomenon, liminality is typically marked in some way with ritual because there is a certain rite of passage the individual must traverse. Teenagers are “liminal beings” for example, as neither children nor adults.

I also find it fascinating that liminality can apply to spatial or temporal dimensions, can be applied to a variety of subjects: individuals, larger groups (cohorts or villages), whole societies, and possibly even entire civilizations. Wikipedia cites examples of groups of people who live betwixt and between, such as immigrant groups, or racial or sexual minorities, often living at the periphery of dominant culture.

As a multi-ethnic person myself, I experience the world in a sort of liminal way. I often see certain intersections in a way that possibly would not occur to someone living within the dominant culture. I now see this capacity as a gift, rather than another way I do not “fit in” to most groups.

The ambiguity of such liminal periods in our lives is best met with creativity and openness. Being in community with others facing big transitions seems to help. I believe getting in tune with what our souls are calling forth is how we must ground ourselves during this time. Maybe these liminal periods are what clear away the “junk” of domesticated normalcy and wake us to the potential we had not seen before.

In some ways, I see the culture around me undergoing a transition as well. Absurd things are happening in our world. We cannot see these in the same way we always have, and yet, we struggle to know what this new thing will become. But rather than fear this ambiguity, I believe we must embrace it. We must find ways to exist with our contradictions, and realize this is a part of a transformation of consciousness that requires us to evolve as humans.

The sooner we understand that we are all in this together, that separation is the illusion, the better we can move forward and embrace new ways of being. In the meantime, we are in a process of becoming conscious, neither asleep nor fully awake. We are on the threshold of change, and it is time to mindfully awaken to a new reality.

 

 

Advertisements

Saturday Share

This Saturday Share will be a little different, as I feel compelled to share a poem this time rather than a blog. This poem has haunted me since I heard it read by Liz Gilbert last weekend during our workshop on creative living, when it sent chills down my spine.

It is entitled Breaking Surface, and I linked to it and copied the text below with attribution and tremendous respect for Mark Nepo. The bold type is mine.

Breaking Surface

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won’t let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can’t be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

***

 

Two hundred!

This is my 200th post on this blog!

I have been posting daily since last October after launching in September. It seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone while in Scottsdale Arizona to see two of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck at a Celebrate Your Life weekend event.

martha beck2

Martha Beck – photo credit link

Friday evening a group of maybe 700-800 women attended a conversation with both of them in which they talked about the kind of magic that springs forth when we trust our true nature rather than culture. Martha spoke about the fact that we are participating in a shift in human consciousness. But it is a transformation that will involve joy and rest, not continuous striving.

To me, there were profoundly moving stories, and so much wisdom and lightness in the way they engaged the audience and engaged each other in a playful dialogue. They spoke about topics that were collected from cards submitted by their audience. I am recording a few take-away ideas from my notes.

Transformation: this happens throughout our lives, not just once or twice.

Trust: you must trust in the face of fear, and as you do this you become stronger and more resilient.

Gratitude: There is no happiness without gratitude. But feel for this gratitude in your body, rather than “force-feeding it” to yourself.

Soul-mates: you can have many soulmates throughout your life that are not necessarily lovers.

Love: it is the relationship between yourself and the universal love around and within you that is most important.

Motivation: Martha said to ask yourself “not just want to you want, but what do you yearn for?” Then make a pledge to keep working for what we year for, without letting the cultural models blind us to these yearnings.

Purpose: this one struck me profoundly. Liz Gilbert said that the purpose of our lives is to know that we are loved. That’s all. Just to know we are loved, exactly the way we are. It is so profound, and it hit me as truth, in my body. Wow.

Diversity: the final question was on this and Liz wanted to pass the mike because realizing the privilege of being part of a pair of white women made her want to give voice to another. The African American woman who came forward was Felicia and she said “diversity is being willing to open your heart with everyone, no matter their color, station in life or area of difference.” Beautiful.

On Saturday we are supposed to bring notebooks, sit next to people we do not know (easy, since I did not travel here in a group) and leave our phones behind. I’m really looking forward to the day! Morning workshop with Liz; afternoon workshop with Martha.

What a great privilege to hear from two wonderful authors that I “know” and love from reading so many of their books! Tremendous gratitude for this experience. Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.

 

Dissident daughters

Yesterday I read a line from a book by Sue Monk Kidd’s “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” that gave me a chill. It describes something about the transition state where I am in life right now and it summed up my feeling so perfectly.

When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward and you can’t stay where you are without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself, you are on the edge of creation (page 100).

I took a deep breath when I read those words. Yes! Yes! She is describing how I feel right now. This was the end of her chapter on “Awakening” where she describes her journey out of a patriarchal understanding of her world and her religion into something deeper and mysterious.

There are times in our life when we may recognize there is something deep and mysterious calling to us. We sense that we are less of a “fit” with our old lives, and the systems in which we play a role. We know we will make a change of radical proportions, but we seek to understand the implications in our lives.

We begin to understand that wisdom is not something “out there” that we must find, or receive from someone else. Wisdom is here, inside of us, calling to us as though from an ancient source. When we begin to access that source, it has powerful consequences.

For so long, with images of God portrayed as a masculine figure in the sky, and religions that ordain men and not women, we as women begin to shrink from our own wisdom. We forget to question how patriarchy and dominant religion are entwined. In many indigenous spiritual traditions there are divine feminine and divine masculine figures. They coexist together, yin and yang energy.

To me, that is a more natural sense of divine presence. When I feel disconnected from source, I realize I have cut off my feminine wisdom that exists within my heart and my soul. Perfectly understandable, I suppose. The culture might radically change if we honored both masculine and feminine qualities, in a divine dance, rather than always viewing one as “in charge.”

Even that very model, as a hierarchy rather than a partnership, as top-down rather than in a network form, seems artificial and constructed to me. As a scientist, always questioning what nature might reveal to us if we were to pay attention to her, I realize my spirituality is undergoing profound change. Paying attention to this inner wisdom rather than subscribing to a “Father knows best” world means taking responsibility for my life.

Nobody else can tell me where my soul needs to go. But I know at a fundamental level, paying attention to her is what I must to do honor what is deep and vital in myself. In time, she will reveal what is next. There is no hurry, but I am ready to listen.