Posted on March 10, 2014
Liminal Space and Me
I recently learned about a concept called Liminal Space. I’d never heard the term before so off to Google I went.
Liminality is a transition period where normal limits to thought, self-understanding and behavior are relaxed – a situation that can lead to new perspectives.
Psychologists call liminal space, a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we are to be.
There’s an Irish saying I think fits liminal space: Reality is that place between the sea and the foam. The sea is deep and dark and scary. The foam is shifty and uncertain, disappearing before our eyes. We linger in the in-between.
Interestingly, the word liminality comes from the Latin limen, meaning a threshold.
Remember adolescence? That’s the liminal space between childhood and adulthood.
So why is liminal space important?
Liminal space is where we can grow and change. The space between the closed door and the open window.
After a time of processing this concept, I see I’m in a liminal space on my writer’s journey.
Or maybe it’s simply that a writer’s journey is a constant state of liminality.
Everyone’s journey is filled with them.
The hiccup is that you can’t experience transformation unless you let go.
Richard Rohr says, “Few of us know how to inhabit liminal space. If we are security-needy by temperament, we will always run back to the old room that we have already constructed. If we are risk-taking by temperament, we will quickly run to a new room of our own making and liking. Hardly anyone wants to stay on the threshold without knowing the answers…”
I have to agree.
Straddling a threshold isn’t a comfortable place. Fear of the unknown has us holding tight to the familiar.
We must let go of the comfortable and familiar and move into the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar— seize the possibilities.
Not so easy to do. Scary even.
Unless we embrace change. Unless we stop trying to make our old journey fit the new destination.
“I’m going to show the courage not to retreat back to what was and I’m going to be patient not to jump into what I think ought to be, but I’m going to stand in liminal space. I am going to trust that as I stand on the threshold it is pregnant with the possibilities of God.” – David Jensen.
Richard Rohr says, “Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential. It is the ultimate teachable space…maybe the only one. … it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion.”
What about you? Are you at a threshold in your life? Are you ready to let go and learn something essential—to claim the possibilities behind the open door?