What is liminal space?
It can be defined as a threshold, the place between one time or season and the beginning of another. A liminal space can be the physical or geographic location of a threshold. Or a liminal space can be the emotional, cognitive, psychological experience of a major or minor life change. Often, liminal space can inspire a time of uncertainty.
We have all had liminal spaces without even knowing the definition of what a liminal space is! We’ve had watershed moments where something has happened that seems to change our understanding of ourselves and others. Places where we can be left feeling confused, uncertain, and ungrounded. Places in our lives where deep discernment may be necessary.
Pause for a moment and think about some of your watershed moments and the resulting liminal spaces.
What brought on your liminal space? Are you still feeling like your life is on the threshold while what’s next isn’t yet clear?
These spaces can feel like seasons unto themselves. They may hold an uncertain time frame where you don’t have a good sense of direction, but you know change is happening. Where you don’t have a clear picture, but you move within it, even when you are afraid. Where you may begin by taking a small step forward and waiting to see what happens as a result. A season where more information is needed.
Were you called upon to consider a career move or even a new career path? Did your health change and with it, things you used to do were no longer possible? Or did the direction of your life take a major detour because of a significant loss? These are just a few of the places where we might find ourselves scratching our heads.
My own liminal spaces have taught me that there are some essential tools for traveling across the threshold. Here are a few of the tools I’ve used while traveling the mystery of my own watershed moments.
Here are a few of the tools I’ve used while traveling the mystery of my own watershed moments and liminal spaces.
Patience: A threshold can be a hard place to wait. So much is unknown. Waiting can leave you with feelings of fear, doubt, or frustration. Pressing things like paying the bills can deplete or challenge us during periods of waiting in uncertainty. These concerns sometimes don’t leave much room for discernment. The pressure is too great.
Still, wherever you can, give yourself grace in the waiting. Seek the support and encouragement of others. Look for helpers – those who love, support, and encourage your waiting. Those whom you can count on. And those who, when you seek their wisdom, have something to offer that looks like kindness.
Curiosity: Staying curious is hard. Especially when we feel the pressures of life. Still, despite everything, it is one of the best tools I know. I may have to remind myself several times a day to stay curious, but when I do, I find a tiny bit of fresh air. Curiosity keeps me out of judgement and in a place of seeking, looking and being willing to be open. Curiosity is a creative tool rather than a black and white source of self-criticism. Answers do not arrive on the heels of rushing, rather they are a part of being open, willing and most of all curious.
Go slow: Being in liminal space can feel urgent. Like there is something we need to fix. Right away. However, I have found great value in being willing to sit in the discomfort of liminal space. The sense of uncertainty and disorganization serves the purpose of inviting you to look at your circumstances with softer eyes. What are you missing? What is your experience teaching you? We all have things to learn and our liminal spaces can offer good information about the direction we are headed. Liminal spaces also give us a chance to assess and evaluate – if we aren’t going the right way, what course correction do we need to take? What action or inaction is necessary to get a clearer picture. It takes courage to employ patience and curiosity. It is an act of courageous rebellion when everyone and everything around us screams “hurry up.”
Trust the process: In his book Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms and books written in a very foreign language. Done’ search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live with them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.”
To me, living and loving the questions involves trusting the process. Clients have taught me that living inside the process looks different for all of us. For me, this means staying within my practices of prayer and quiet time every day, seeking encouragement and support in scripture and poetry that offer insight. Getting in nature so that I can remember that God is at work even when I can’t see what is happening. Even when I find myself longing, I am not alone. God is making a way forward when I cannot see or even imagine what that way might look like beyond my current threshold moment.
Trusting the process may be the hardest thing to do on any given day.
And it may be the most rewarding thing to do. When I can lean back and trust the process, I discover that I don’t have to figure out the whole picture at once. I don’t have to or even get to know more than what the very next right step is. And when I can consider just what the next right step might be, I can inch my way forward.
If this resonates with you, let’s chat!
Contact me to schedule a no-charge, 20 minute conversation where we will learn more about one another. In that conversation you will learn more about my coaching style and experience. I will listen carefully to your needs. Together we will determine if collaborating is the right fit for both of us. Deborah@watershedmomentscoaching.com