Liminal. I Found the Word.
Welcome back to the ‘Shifting Times’ series.
Discover a healing window into the nature of change.
A Lovely autumn & the Veils are Thin
Hope you're enjoying this time of year, the colours are changing, the air is crisp, as transformation reverberates through the trees…
As the wheel of the year continues to turn towards its darkest point (in the Northern hemisphere), we start moving into the depths and shadows. They say the veils are thin this season. The veil between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown, the potential and the manifest, the boundary between this world and the next. In my experience, the last quarter of the year is always the most pivotal and potent, a time of magic and power. In the spirit of these times, I am happy to announce the shifting times series has been developing steadily. The most liminal time of year, it’s the perfect moment to touch back to this new transformational content, all about how to navigate the personal and collective cycles of change we’re all moving through during these seismic times. We’re in a liminal state together now, and I can’t wait to explore this time and space with you in the next few months.
Anyone else experienced delays moving forward this fall? We've all had to fill in the gaps and polish bits of our lives to make sure they keep running smoothly this year. My personal journey through COVID-19 has been similar to that of many people - full of change! While I was coasting along for the first several months of the pandemic, the uncertainty and information overload of 2020 caught up with me. I felt like my energy was being pulled in all sorts of directions, so I took a little time out from publishing to centre myself and balance my energy. Most of all, my remoteness is due to being immersed in creative development getting this series ready to share with you. Lucky to have a few tools to refocus and realign myself onto this new track. And we could mention all those planetary retrogrades delaying things too but no comment here, the astrologers own that one.
My writing process for this special series had been stuck in a type of holding pattern we’ve all felt in some way or another this year. Back in the spring, I was flooded with inspirations, ideas and insights about this phase in our lives, and recorded as many as I could over the course of several weeks. The writers among us may be able to relate - sometimes we start with outlines, and other times so much comes through at once it’s just a matter of pouring heart, mind and soul onto paper and trying to make sense of it all afterwards. At the time I wasn’t able to understand the gestalt that was forming, it came in dissolved and my job is to arrange the pieces, but I couldn’t get a grasp of the whole structure. So much to process, so little time, I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say or how to say it, anyone else felt that fog? Though elusive, I knew this content was timely and I had to stick with it, to let it become something other than a jumble of gathered impressions. So I took a deep dive into editing this project and gave it time to settle at each stage, and finally, a light turned on and everything crystallized. What a relief!
Before I happened on the central concept of this series and freed my voice, I told myself part of the reason I was feeling lost was ambivalence to contribute more to the mass of information and opinion on the pandemic. Of course I follow the news and keep up, but by August was starting to feel pretty saturated with COVID-19, how about you? Plus, I’m not a doctor, scientist nor government leader, so what could I really add at this point? But this was just a cover, a mental block from not being clear with myself about what I was really writing about, which is not the pandemic itself, but the climate of massive change it has brought into the world. Major aspects of our lives have been altered through this time period and as we continue to adapt to fluctuating conditions, we’re all going through dramatic changes. Certainly I’m concerned with the virus and doing my part to protect myself and others, but the truth is, I’m even more interested in the actual experience of living through this period of profound change and how it is influencing us all in our individual lives and the collective at large. As a globe we are witnessing rapid ongoing transformation and everyone is personally affected: certainly these times are shifting us (see back to this article from when I was first trying to wrap my mind around these shifts). While this change factor took up most of mental bandwidth over the last few months, I guess I was simply intimidated to talk about such a huge subject. So, what does all this change mean?
Understanding the Cyclical Nature of Change
Change is a phenomenon of life. It’s a constant - we’re always growing, in transition, evolving. It comes in all shapes, sizes and intensities. Often it is so subtle that we don’t even notice it enough to think about it, it takes place behind the scenes. However, some periods of time such as the one we’re in right now usher in change with such power, speed and reach, that transformation is a dominant force and defining factor in our lives. We’re in a state of great global transition, but so what, and is there anything we can do about it? Are there any strategies to work with change consciously rather than in confusion? Let’s take a deeper look, I’m ready. In times like this, we look back to history for precedents that may offer guidance, direction, or perhaps some way to predict what’s coming next. Well, although pandemics have occurred before, their contexts were entirely different, this is the first we’ve had in the electronic age. Ok fine, so the past may not hold the answers, but is there a window we can look through for a semblance of clarity amidst all this uncertainty? Are there certain properties and patterns to be found in these times of transformational potency that can teach us how to navigate our current circumstances? It turns out yes, if we ask Nature.
Look to nature to understand how reality works.
- Ray Dalio -
When overwhelmed, I try to remember that I too am part of Nature, created and cared for by her. In my effort to draw wisdom and find my bearings, I found solace in the natural world. When in doubt we can peer into Nature’s realm to understand ourselves and find meaning in our experience, through her timeless perspective she’ll show us what’s taking place at an elemental level. Although life may feel tumultuous while going through transformation, change is a natural process that takes place in cycles with predictable stages found throughout all of life. There are many natural cycles of change from the seasons to the moon phases, some daily, some annually, some epochal. We find change cycles in the journey of life forms, such as the transformational processes of growth different creatures undergo towards their biological destiny, from the acorn and the oak tree to ourselves. Some animals are emblematic of the concept of metamorphosis. Off the top of my head I thought of a snake shedding its skin, a frog entering a new dimension, and a newly formed butterfly emerging from a cocoon, but there are many more. It is comforting to view change as a cycle, to know our experience is part of a continuum leading us somewhere, that we’re all growing through this. Each cycle of change has its own atmosphere, which could be applied to understand our own experience with change?
The Path of the Butterfly
With all this talk of the old and new normal, I knew it had to be a creature who goes through metamorphosis. Intuitively, it struck me that butterfly is the most fitting guide to understand the type of change we’re all in. At first, I thought of how the various physical distancing measures and restrictions such as closures, curfews and lockdowns remind me of being held up in our own private cocoons. Aloneness and isolation are such pronounced themes of this time, and it’s part of how I imagine living within a cocoon might be like. Also, a caterpillar has no real choice in the matter of being suspended in a cocoon nor how long it will stay, and neither do we, it’s a waiting game and we’re in it for survival. A caterpillar instinctively surrenders to its path of dissolution into slime, and while this may be quite fearful and uncomfortable, it has to be endured. And in the end, when her new form is ready and the cocoon opens up, it was all to re-emerge brighter and soar as a butterfly. Butterfly’s path is inspirational, as through the process of surrender, it’s fortune leads it to become a greater version of itself. Its life story demonstrates how change is not just a meaningless challenge of survival we go through in vain, but serves to elevate us and leads to our expansion. The change cycle she travels is actually a change spiral, evolving with each turn around her potential, growing ever upwards. Beautiful butterfly is ultimately symbolic of ascension. This hopeful expression of change may help us to remember our own eventual new beginnings, how we too may surpass ourselves and come to feel better and brighter through these transformative times.
change is natural and cyclical
Liminal. The Power of a Word.
To learn more, I googled ‘butterfly metamorphosis’, and my first click brought me to an article where I came across the word Liminal. Not sure what it meant, and it seemed to have a sparkle around it, calling out to me. Intrigued, I looked it up and with great satisfaction, I realized I had found the perfect word with which to describe how this era feels. It encompasses what I’ve been writing about but didn’t have language for. Still entrenched in the mystery of our times, we may not fully understand our experience, but at least we can give it a name. Liminal. Even an undeniably powerful force when unnameable remains ephemeral, but putting a name on something somehow makes it real, perhaps it’s the visceral qualities of the sound, seeing the letters on a page, the tangible feeling of the word in your mouth. It nearly tricks us into thinking we can hold onto something that otherwise constantly seems to slip through our fingertips. With definition, it becomes a distinguished part of conscious reality, not just a significant undertone. When you find a name to call your experience you give it an identify, a reference point to find your own relation to it, with which to understand communicate with others. Liminal, that’s it! The word I was waiting for, the key that put everything in perspective.
Definition / Etymology
In a general sense, the word liminal refers to a state of being in between. It is the middle part of a transitional stage, space, process, or period. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning ‘limit’ and ‘threshold’. A limit is a point or period of ending. When we reach the limit, we cannot go any further. It is the level at which something does not, or may not, pass nor extend. We approach the limit when we come to the end of something. It signifies a point of finality, reaching a culmination or completion, arriving at the edge. When we arrive at the limit of a space, stage or state, we find ourselves at the threshold of what was and what will be. It is at the boundaries of where we have been, in the form of a border, which when crossed, will take us beyond the limits of what we have known into somewhere or something new. A threshold is an entrance, a door, a gateway that takes us beyond the limits of our former space or state into another. A threshold is the level where you start to experience new phenomena, the inception point where something else begins to happen. A threshold is also the size or intensity that must be surpassed for a certain result to occur, for a condition to be manifested. When a threshold is eclipsed, we cross through the veil from one circumstance to the next.
Liminality is the condition at and between a limit and a threshold.
It is the gap between the end of one circumstance or cycle, and the beginning of the next one.
It is the portal between two stages, states, spaces.
When we are liminal, we are in between what was, and what will be.
All Change is Liminal
This term resonated immediately. In my view, it sums it up. Liminal is a fundamental quality of change, it implies transformation. Anytime we go through a transition, we naturally experience a state of liminality, it is a process we have to grow through while we are changing. Liminality is the focal point around which transformation occurs, it is integral to the overall course of any and all change cycles. Once I found this word, I knew it was the sun in the constellation of the ideas I’ve been working with. A useful structure began to appear through the filter of liminality and before long I had a conceptual framework. Finally able to find cohesion, to integrate and arrange concepts into a logical order, you writers know how good that feels. And again, tuning in to the secrets of nature helped me find the pattern to give shape to this work.