Thresholds – Crossroads – Liminal Spaces – Transition – Unknown Terrain. How to navigate these awkward uneasy places?

The word “liminal” comes from the Latin liminus which means threshold. It is the space between the old room and the new room, what was and what is yet to come into being.

Life is full of these In-Between places where the old sense of certainty and security is beginning to fade. Something new seems to be on the horizon, but has not yet fully revealed itself. What was is passing away; what is yet to become has not been fully born.

There are people for whom liminal space feels challenging and exciting. Facing the unknown brings a sense of anticipation and energy. They are tired of the old patterns and long for the challenge and stimulation of something new. These are the adventurers, the pioneers. They are eager to move on to the next thing and the next thing after that. They become restless when things feel too predictable. The new is always stimulating and exciting. The old and familiar feel constricting and dull.

Adventurers may be driven by their restlessness to move too quickly into the future. They fear the boredom of staying put. The discomfort of holding the uncertainty of the present moment may push them forward before the time is right seeking resolution through quick decisions and moving on to the next new thing.

Adventurers may be tempted to rush into the new room forsaking the old which has lost is excitement and novelty. They long for the energy of the new but need the steady discipline of standing still for a while longer, developing some degree of patience. Adventurers are decisive and proactive. But they need to avoid the temptation of collapsing the tension of being In-Between by rushing on to the next great enterprise before the present moment has reached its fullness.

For those of us who are more inclined to be settlers, it is tempting in these In-Between times to cling to the familiar, trying to reassert the old patterns. What was feels safer than whatever may be about to come into being. Ahead lies only the unknown.The unknown feels threatening and uncertain. The predictability of the known present feels more in control than the unknown future that lies ahead. The familiar patterns of the old room feel comfortable and safe.

It is easy to become complacent in this old room, to become stuck, clinging to the safety of the familiar comfortable patterns of the past. We cherish routine. We thrive in the familiar. To us the known does not seem stale; there is always enough adventure right here right now to prevent any possible danger of boredom. We may need to be shaken up, challenged to move on from the familiar into new places and unexpected adventures.

Settlers try to rush back into the old room. We hunker down and cling to the safety of what we know, what feels familiar and comfortable. We are comforted by the belief that we are practising the Benedictine discipline of stability. But, we risk retreating into complacency and reactionary patterns that resist anything new.

Perhaps for both adventurers and settlers the challenge is the same. We both need to stop, be still and listen more deeply. We need to hit the pause button, to step aside from our accustomed ways of operating. We need to let go of the demand to understand or to see the way ahead before it has been revealed. Finding my way in the fog requires subtle skills. I will sense my way forward better when I take a deep breath, relax, find that calm place within and pay careful attention to what is going on.

There is an energy force towards life that none of us can control. It is only discerned by the discipline of subtle careful attention.

Change is an unavoidable dimension of being alive. We are never not in liminal space. Life is a constant process of unfolding. We are always on a journey, always moving through some degree of flux. The question is never will change come, but how will I respond to the inevitability of changes as they occur. Will I react simply to the surface circumstances, or will I allow the uncertainty of the present to cause me to reach more deeply within, listen more carefully, and open more fully?

Waiting is the fundamental discipline of liminal space. It means accepting the uncomfortable task of sitting still in the midst of uncertainty, doubt, and confusion. It means embrace the reality of my limitations. I am not in control of this process. To wait is to hold this present moment lightly and see what emerges.

I wait better when I feel my feet on the ground and experience the weight of my body. All I need is here in this moment. Change will come. Life does unfold. Trust is possible. The right course of action will emerge for the one who does not cling to the past or rush to the future.

Not all the pieces of the puzzle have found their perfect place. There are parts of the present that remain unclear and ambiguous. I need to live with the pieces that do not seem to fit easily into the tidy order for which I long. I need to resist the temptation to force each piece into place before the way ahead has become clear. I need to let go of either the comfort of rushing to resolution, or seeking to resolve the tension by retreating into the known and familiar.

Whether I am an adventurer or a settler, the challenge is the same. I need to rest in that deeper place of trust. There is a way forward. Guidance does come. Life unfolds. Truth and wisdom are available. Pause, listen, hold the tensions. Follow where the deeper knowing leads.