Between the Stone and the Star

Reflections on Moving and Being In The Liminal Space | May 2022

Change is the new,

improved

word for god,

lovely enough

to raise a song

or implicate

a sea of wrongs,

mighty enough,

like other gods,

to shelter,

bring together,

and estrange us.

Please, god,

we seem to say,

change us.

— “Change” by Wendy Videlock

Everything is moving: seasons through the trees, time on our skin, water in the earth, and air. No one can escape it. Tax season and the grand finale pass over us all without consent, and everything, everywhere, all at once, goes.

What is moving now? It is May — winter, spring, and summer play chicken, holding hands, teasing each other as to who will balk first. It is 2022 — windows unshutter trepidatiously, shy and excited as the age of 13. We are mortals on a finite planet, hurling through space and time — nothing, nothing stays still. Grass, babies, and spider webs grow. What is moving now?

On purpose or by accident, we change. Many of us have softened. Many of us have cried. We have decluttered, we have thrown lots out. We have misplaced and lost loved things. Over and over, we bend, break, and build, either with focus, force, and fire or with no other choice.

There is inherent grief in transition. To move from one state of being to another is to lose whatever was before. Even when we progress into beauty, fullness, health, happiness, and abundance, other things, some of which we may have clasped tightly, fall behind. Still, the flowers fade to gray and spring back in purple. The belly swells and the child is born. The spiders toil and toil again, tossed and caught by the same gust of wind, starting over from somewhere new.

This month, dear reader, you are invited into undulation. Explore our lives, days, and minutes through the lens of shifting. Consider what is challenged between projects, professions, and spiritual spaces, and wonder, on the journey from one to another, what we might choose to keep or leave behind.

This is Just a Taste. Read the full story at BitterSweetMonthly.com

Liminal Space

“Everything seems to be harder and withdraws more energy than it used to.”

My wife and I were reflecting the other day on the daily grit and grind of post-pandemic life. I’ve heard hundreds of people describe something similar — my line of work has been to listen to deeper currents in the lives of others. I’ve found a phrase that has been helpful. I call it being in “liminal space”.

The word liminal comes from the latin “limen” which means threshold. It can feel like being on the precipice of something new but not quite there yet; a suspension between the world of what was and is next. It’s standing in the doorway of waiting and not knowing.

Liminality is an inner posture and sometimes outer circumstance where a “grace” lifts and we are invited to think and act in new ways. The ego resists the need to change. The will avoids the need to surrender. It is the ultimate tug-of-war.

We usually enter this space when our former way of being is challenged or changed — losing a job or shifting vocations, illness or birth of a child or major geographic relocation. The added layer for us is the pandemic created a rare cultural phenomenon where nearly everyone entered this world without a choice. My wife recently described it as a spool wound really tight and at once, the tension was released and the entire thread unspooled into a knotty mess. Most of us have been attempting to disentangle the emotional, mental and spiritual knots ever since — seeking to make sense of things once again.

This season has been a treasure trove of insight but rarely feels treasured in the moment.

A year ago I began to sense a quiet invitation to transition out of a vocation I’ve come to know for the past 13 years — it was time to end a chapter in life and begin a new one. “How did you know a chapter was concluding” I’ve been asked. The only description I’ve come up with is the grace lifts and all the ways the work was energizing no longer does — not just physically — but emotionally and spiritually as well.

As I’ve entered this new world of liminality — between the ending of before and the beginning of what is new — I’ve sought to cultivate a slow, patient waiting and listening. This occupied territory is the home of conflicting absolutes; I’m blue sky possibility one day, lying in bed paralyzed by fear in the middle of the night the next. Because in this world, we’re no longer clinging to certainties. Between the world of ending and beginning is not for the faint of heart; it’s inspiring and uncomfortable. All of this can feel alarmingly disorienting (I’m getting dis’d a lot these days) and liberating at the same time.

I’ve found the vulnerability and openness allows room for something new to happen. This is where we’re most teachable and often most humbled.

It shouldn’t shock you that most spend their lives avoiding such spaces. But much of the work of authentic spirituality and real transformation is to get people INTO liminal space and then the hard work of staying long enough to discover something essential and new. Many of the humble saints like Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, and Thomas Merton sought to live their entire lives in sustained liminality, on the edge of the dominant culture, in that continual place of openness to change. This place helps us to reveal what truly is with much deeper seeing.

My wife and I were in Iceland a few years ago and weary of every tourist hot spot overwhelming every hot spring, we detoured the well-worn paths and headed into the wilderness, not knowing where we were going.

The entire trip included constant freezing rain — except for this moment as the sun was setting. We pulled over and saw a barren, untamed landscape with the sun finally revealing the glorious light. Kate began walking towards the horizon line and captured her in the distance.

I sat and caught my breath as I had seemingly lost it in the beauty.

This is how liminality can feel. Whatever threshold that may be — you’ve entered that more fragile, beautiful, healing, energizing, terrifying glorious light that is calling forth something new to emerge. Be patient. The new discovery can take time. Sometimes a very long time. There’s nothing wrong with you — that’s how this space works.

And who knows where it may lead you next.

This is Just a Taste. Read the full story at BitterSweetMonthly.com

Our Story Team

Sarah O’Malley -Writer

Kate Schmidgall -Writer

Dave Schmidgall -Writer

Obiekwe “Obi” Okolo -Photographer

Britnie Dates -Writer

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