Lately I’ve been feeling this feeling; a feeling all too familiar, yet rarely discussed. A feeling that led me down a path to this moment. A feeling that continued and led to a conversation with a friend. A feeling that allowed me to be vulnerable and come clean about how I’d really been feeling. This feeling, as a newbie to vulnerability, wasn’t the easiest for me, and yet was the best thing I could have done. Finally, this feeling led me to a reminder. A reminder of the spaces in-between. A reminder to bless the gap between what once was and what has not yet begun. The space between what we have already done and what has not yet begun or Liminal Space.
Liminal Space is defined as the time between the ‘what was’ and what will be ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and of not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
When things don’t move forward, I usually feel stuck and my need to know why leads me to two questions. First, what is my next move? And, second, what’s happening in my life right now that is hindering my next move? I’ve come to understand this place of feeling stuck can be quite sticky; however, being able to answer these two questions makes it much easier for me to understand which tools of understanding I want to pull out of my toolbox to help me get through this time, .
So, as I stated before there are two questions I ask myself:
What’s going on?
What’s next refers to the questions, doubts, and thoughts that arise after “I’ve done a, b, and c to the best of my ability now on to d.”
What’s going on is, correlates with “I’m done with what was and ready for what’s next, but, I am experiencing the liminality or liminal space.”
Understanding Liminal Space
One type of liminal space we may experience is right before we fall asleep. That in-between time when we float between conscious and unconscious. When we turn the lights off and allow the darkness to escort us in to dreamland. We revisit liminal space once again in the morning when the sun then escorts us back into our physical reality.
However, liminal space is not assigned stringently to the short term. On the verge of being becomes a liminal space when, for whatever reason, we feel stuck. It doesn’t matter how much we want to move on, our awareness realizes that something is going on inside, and we can’t blast or hurry through the process. It will take as long as it takes.
In my experience, the realization of having faith and knowing that what we want is on the other side of the current experience, is something I remind myself of daily, especially residing in liminal space. It can be painful, uncomfortable, and even send me off to bed early if I’m not continuously aware that this time and space is a necessary time. For without the transitional space, personal transformation is nearly impossible.
Liminal space is the space we occupy when we are done with an endeavor, and have not yet begun a new one. Whether it be the spaces between relationships, jobs, or for my purposes here, steps on a personal journey, it’s the space one occupies between the end of something and beginning of something new.
This liminal space has three defining parameters: finality with what was, uncertainty of what will come next, and anticipation of newness. Below I will explain these attributes along with some tips for getting through this time.
3 Step Guide to Liminaltiy
You have entered liminal space when what once served you no longer serves you. One or more of your core beliefs have been shattered, changed, or transformed, and you can no longer go back to what was. For example, for whatever reason, the career you’ve been thriving in suddenly no longer serves you. You feel unfulfilled, even though it once fulfilled you immensely.
Being done or feeling finality with one aspect of your life can be quite rewarding when you’ve got control over it. Being in this state of liminality takes that control away. It’s an invitation to surrender. As a matter of fact, liminality is state of an all-out access to surrender to whatever is happening because in your doneness, you have planted seeds established in the knowing of what you want, and you are ready to move forward. It’s important to know that, liminal space – that of being betwixt and between – is not what’s expected. The expectation is to move right into transformation, which is what liminality gives– the space to transform.
2. In-between time – Disorientation
Although one may stay in the unfulfilling career of the previous example, the disorientation and in-betweenness of it adheres to a feeling of being stuck. This uncertainty and unknowing, of not being here nor there, and waiting for something new to begin is evident in one or more feelings of disorientation, frustration and unknowingness, which is liminal space.
When what’s done is done with lessons learned, movement forward seems inevitable; yet, when nothing seems to be happening, it’s that space of disorientation, confusion, and overall feeling of something being off, that is liminal space. This is the time when having faith that whatever we’ve finished with has been completed, whether it be a career or the entrance to a rite of passage; the work has been done, the seeds have been planted, and the transformation that is happening is crucial.
Imagine a caterpillar. We don’t know what the caterpillar knows about creating its cocoon and transforming into a butterfly; when it is a caterpillar no more, and not yet a butterfly. I would translate this time as a liminal space for the caterpillar.
Liminal space puts us face to face with our fears, has us questioning our beliefs, and subsequently opening up space for transformation, immense creativity and change.
As unsettling as it can be, liminal space gives access to unlimited creativity. This is a time to release expectations and judgements both of ourselves and others and focus on being aware of how we’re feeling and how to help ourselves feel better.
Tips for easing through liminal space
- Create an affirmation
Liminality has been called a “crazy time”, so during this time be clear and affirm what you know to be true. For example, “I bless this time because I am aware that this time is needed for my expansion and growth.”
- Life Review
Life review is vivid observation, an opportunity to look back, review a journey, and connect some dots. It’s a chance to begin to understand why one “unfortunate” event occurred and see that it was in fact not unfortunate at all, but rather what was needed to happen in order to move forward.
- Write down your accomplishments
After a life review, write down your accomplishments. Put pen to paper and write down all the goals you’ve accomplished. All the things you wished for that you now have or have done. Go back and re-read, add to, and so on. Reading about what you’ve already accomplished and how you’ve gotten through times like this before, is a very powerful tool.
Feeling stuck is frustrating especially during liminal space so write down how you’re feeling. Keep track how it feels to go through this space. Put pen to paper again and feel the energy of how it will feel on the other side. Read it back to yourself and remember this time won’t last forever.
- Be open to the paradox
Being open to the paradox of not knowing can be trying. Nevertheless, it is what liminal space is all about: neither here or there, neither black or white, feeling the need to let go yet holding on. The best way to describe it in my opinion: one either resists by holding on to what must be let go or release your hold.
In any case, liminal space will have you let go. The choice you have is to either release and flow with the transformation or resist and suffer longer. Think of sailing down a river. It’s easier to flow downstream, and while there are paddles and you do have some control, the current will still take you despite your paddles or how hard you use them. If you choose to turn your boat upstream and paddle, you will have a much harder way to go and despite your efforts, the current will take you anyway. So again, there is a paradox, you have some control, but not ultimate control.
Be exceptionally kind to yourself during this time. Pay attention to how you are communicating with yourself. Check in with yourself and notice how your self-talk is going. Give yourself a break and take time for you.
Meditation is an outstanding tool to use during your time in liminal space. Close your eyes, make an intention, ask for guidance and breathe. Allow the awareness that is you guide you to clarity. The calm and stillness meditation offers is the best thing you can do for yourself during this time.
Once a new beginning shines on the horizon, the confines of liminal space dissipates. No longer is there a feeling of being stuck, as the transformation has come about, and renewal has begun, The once fulfilling career has been left behind, the in-between time of uncertainty and disorientation has been traversed, and a new career has been found with a new path illuminated. A new journey has begun.
If we are willing to let go and surrender to this transitional time in liminal space, and if we trust that the shift in our awareness and transformation can be massive, the gifts that follow liminal space will surprise and delight us.
I have encountered several obstacles during this journey of life, but none of these challenges have catapulted me farther in my development, than experiencing and coming to understand the value of liminal space. I’m not going to say it’s an easy space to occupy—it’s not—but what I’ve learned is that pushing against this particular phase of being is the least productive and also the surest way to remain there and prolong the struggle. Use the tools, understand the process, and remember it won’t last forever.
Bless the gap between what once was and what has not yet begun.
Have you experienced liminal space? Let me know in the comments section and if you like what you’re reading here come visit my website at www.rachelgolan.com.
Have an amazing day!