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Have you ever heard of the term ?Liminal Space?? If you haven?t, that?s okay, because you are experiencing one right now.
Mystic Christian theologian, Father Richard Rohr used his daily newsletter last week to dive into the liminal space. Here is how he defines it:
?Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed ? perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel ?graced? in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. This in-between place is free of illusions and false payoffs. It invites us to discover and live from broader perspectives and with much deeper seeing.
Liminal comes from the Latin root limen meaning threshold. We are all standing at a threshold in this strange moment. We can not go back, but we don?t know how to move forward. Many things that have been asleep within in us, hushed to slumber by our busy lives and temporary medications, are waking now. It?s as if our eyes are permanently affixed open, and all we want to do is go back to sleep. But as Richard Rohr points out, liminal space has one opportunity that no other space has. The opportunity for transformation, which of course is at the heart of every religion our civilization has ever practiced.
It is also at the heart of the natural environment that we live in everyday. This is why being in nature feels so good. We get to immerse ourselves in the constant cycle of transformation and growth, which includes struggle and death, without all the distractions we?ve manufactured to shelter us from it.
Liminal space mostly requires one thing above all else and that is to just be. When in liminal space, you are suspended in the twilight of a dying existence and an emerging one. I?ve often thought over the last few weeks that this is what it would have felt like to be born with fully conscious mind or if I had had any memory of being born. I was moving from a dark, protected, completely dependent womb, to a bright, cold, independent world. Traveling through a tunnel, completely at the mercy of someone else to get me to the other side. I guess it was lucky that I didn?t have the capability to chose or analyze the process and mess it up. I was only required to just be and be born.
Take a minute to think over the last few weeks. How many times have you had nothing, or shall I say nothing familiar, to externally to do. How many times have you had to confront deep fear, boredom, restlessness or vulnerability? Conversely, how often have you felt deep rest, profound generosity, creativity or uncontrolled imagination? When is the last time you got to experience being fully human like this? This is the power of liminal space. It?s not easy, but it is essential and none of us get to escape it. At some point, or many points, in our lives we pass into these experiences and they change us forever.
If you choose move into a more esoteric life you will find profound moments more frequently and possibly constantly. As you surrender to liminal space you realize that transformation is constant and you get accustom, even crave, living unmoored to the world.
Most of us have also experienced the funky sense of time that exists in liminal space. Days run together, we live by the light of the sun as opposed to the tick of a clock. We are called to determine the purpose for this time, not be given the purpose by someone else.
We may start to see things in our environment that have gone previously unnoticed. Something as benign as a bird call or an empty baseball field start to hold significance and may even open us up to a deep part of our psyche. These transits are usually accompanied by something traumatic, but what happens in the liminal space is that you are brought into communion with that which will transform you. Some of us require the intensity of external trauma to be opened. Some of us choose to use external trauma as the tunnel of birth that it is.
I have stopped marking time by weeks, days or even hours. I am recalling the time that is passing by recalling the experiences of this time. As such, the beginning of the experience wasn?t a date on the calendar, it was the first awareness I had that I had stepped into a liminal space. It was when I realized that everyone on the planet was engaged in a common experience. I was part of a greater whole. I was not alone.
This maybe the most powerful aspect of liminal time and space, it?s commonality. It?s humanness. Experiencing liminal space in a pandemic is unique in that it brings this commonality to the forefront and reminds us of the connection inherent in transformation.
I?ll be honest. I had lost that opening revelation, but happily someone at the Iowa Department of Transportation put it on all the digital traffic signs throughout the city. ?We?re all in this together.?
Note: For more of Richard Rohr visit the Center for Action and Contemplation. This is not an affiliate link, I just think he?s the bomb!