As 2021 approaches, we have yet another moment of looking through a portal – a point between A and B that feels, sometimes, like no man’s land. For some, the entire year of 2020 may have felt this way — a floating iceberg that wasn’t headed in any particular direction.
Dr Seuss described the feeling of waiting beautifully in Oh! The Places You’ll Go! He refers to it as ‘the waiting space’.
Whilst it may not feel like it in the moment, this place of uncertainty and moving between can be a dynamic space of potential. Like that moment just before the kettle boils, it is a threshold between states where ideas are allowed to percolate, conceptual boundaries can be tested, where one ‘thing’ is in the process of subtly leaning in a direction and pulling away from the other. It is a place of transition and a spark for transformation. It is a continuous place, and in some respects, it is embedded into our lives and even into moments. Bayo Okomolafe has another take on this state, and that is one of continual ‘becoming’.
Liminality comes from the latin work līmin, meaning threshold, and can represent the ‘rite of ‘passage’. It is a period of transition that is, in effect, like a disruptive shake-up or echo chamber that, acts as a bridge to be crossed from one way of being, to another. It is that uncomfortable moment where we are not here or there. It can be disorienting to be neither here nor there, and that ‘in limbo’ feeling paves the way for a magical shift in perspective, inviting us to a place we never anticipated as a result. Liminality can occur in our lives, in organisations, societies…anywhere our mind may take us. It is a part of every transformative process, whether we know it or not. The word ‘limit’ also comes from the root līmin, and in that sense the moment where we reach the limit between ‘here’ and ‘there’ is the liminal space.
The yoga practice is full of liminal moments. Asana is provocative in that way, as it challenges us to stay in that place of discomfort, as we learn to transition through it, as we learn to become familiar. If the challenge is accepted, we gain experience traversing the threshold of the unknown each and every time we practice. This ‘getting to know’ the liminal space proves helpful in life off the mat in any situation that finds us ‘waiting’. In fact, one of my teachers has a saying that yogis never ‘wait’…even when waiting we are actively observing, breathing, noticing, listening. When in those spaces and occupied in the noticing, it can be calming as well as interesting. We become the liminal space itself, and embrace it more easily as a part of being human.
As we stand in the doorway between 2020 and 2021, we have choices to make about how we remember the past, and what we look for in the future. It may feel uncomfortable, to question our automatic response to any given situation. What if 2021 is simply a continuation of 2020, without the problems disappearing? How do you prepare to cross an uncertain threshold? What would you keep of yourself, and what would you choose to discard, to begin anew?
In each moment, we are in a state of ‘becoming’ based on the thoughts we have, the company we keep and how we interact with the world around us. If 2020 taught us nothing else, it is that discomfort comes with shaking up what we think we know and provides us each with a different set of circumstances. With the imploding of the things we clung to as ‘our life’, many of us have pared back to basics, and this came with the staunch reminder that life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
Take the plunge, get real. Love yourself as you are, and embrace life, as it is…because there will be many more thresholds to cross in the process of continuual becoming. The good news, it seems, is that as you get to know yourself, those waiting spaces become more and more interesting and integrated into what we know, simply, as life.