Michael Meade, a world renown mythologist who applies ancient 'tales' to modern times, has been talking lately about the liminal period of time we are in. Liminal means whatever is above sub-liminal, or the place where we can obviously see that the rhythms of chaos and creation meet. It is the threshold in-between where we are and where we want to be. As individuals within a greater bubble of consciousness, intention, and action, how can we exist in the in-between that all of us are in without feeling torn apart by uncertainty and longing? I believe that while it is the hardest place to exist from...
...in that middle ground is our opportunity to practice becoming stronger versions of ourselves. Belonging and becoming are in between the loops of these extreme emotional states and stories we tell ourselves about each other and ourselves. There is no end point without the beginning of the other side, like between the north and south pole, we have the most stable life on our planet. Another way to think about finding this spot is remembering what it feels like on a merry-go-round. The more people on it, and the faster it is spinning, the center is the hardest place to get to and easiest place to be.
The in-between gives us perspective and a chance to change directions. When we practice presence from that center place, it has been described as the source of the bliss we are all seeking, and a purpose to exist from there can grow. However, the agony I find repeatedly is that the moment I'm there, I also instantly sense myself losing it once again. It reminds me of meditating on nothing. This is very hard to do. If you haven't ever tried it, close your eyes right now and try and think about nothing. The mind wanders pretty quick, right?
It is hard to think of nothing just like it is impossible for quarks (picture above) to exist without the motion of their counterparts (e.g., electrons). Yet, all that thinking and story telling that is constantly happening inside of us can rip us apart of make us feel trapped in extreme states of emotion and reaction. When I teach the D(eepen) O(rient) T(ransform) Model, I find myself in a simultaneous expression of death and life in my body, mind, and heart. I am undone and renewed at the same time.
Have you ever experienced simultaneous life and death within you?
One way to notice the liminal space is when you are in transit. Have you ever had deep thoughts pop up out of what feels like nowhere when you are both in motion and still at the same time. Maybe your on a walk and just feeling your feet land on the ground in every step, with plenty of time to wander on your way to somewhere, and your thoughts have quieted. Or, maybe you have found this riding in a vehicle (ideally one on the ground) and being the passenger both passive in your body and yet accomplishing motion by just existing at the same time. To contrast, remember that sense of not being present in your body when you are going through a tunnel. The light ahead can feel like it's pulling one out of the moment into a different place. Some people even feel terror when they go through tunnels, like there is immanent doom ahead or that when the light vanishes so quickly where they are, they sense that their selfhood or identity has vanished too. It seems fitting that people talk about death as a process of going towards a light through a tunnel. The liminal space is the threshold between everything else.
Another way to recognize it is by walking a labyrinth, which is a spiral on the ground that is also considered a mediative or spiritual walk. Some people feel like when they get to the center that they have arrived, and then realize that they are only at the half-way point; the center is just the beginning of the opposite spiral going outward. The only time I have walked through a labyrinth was as a young adult. I expected to feel something powerful, and instead felt awkward and uncomfortable along the way. When I found myself in the center of the labyrinth, I felt disappointed, like I had found nothing, and so abandoned my journey. Instead of recognizing that these feelings were the liminal space, I became impatient walked straight out of the entire spiral, disrespecting the curved boundaries guiding my feet to mindfully trace my own steps. Over the years since, I have realized how much this pattern plays out through many areas of my life. Finishing things gracefully are one of my biggest challenges.
Every second, every minute, every day, I can practice transforming into a newer version of myself because I know that I will never reach a point where I can go no further (until I take my last breath, but that’s another story). In that place between longing and becoming, I can choose to be present on purpose with breath, trust, curiosity, and acceptance.
How do you practice presence and purpose in your life?
About the Author
Ruth Diaz, LPC, Psy.D. is a counselor, consultant, and coach on returning to compassionate connection in relationship with ourselves and each other at every level. She works as an organizational consultant and therapist in Portland, Oregon.