If I were to summarize 2019 for myself, it would be “the year of sitting in the in between,” or the interstice. Mystics and contemplatives refer to it as “liminal space.” According to Richard Rohr, some native peoples refer to it as “crazy time,” a sacred space where transformation takes place, “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.”
MIT professor Otto Scharmer, in his Theory U, calls it “the bottom of the U,” or the time between “letting go and letting come.” The main task, according to Scharmer, is “presencing,” or simply sitting at the threshold.
This liminal space is not for the faint of heart.
It is deeply uncomfortable to reside in the tension of this hiatus. If you don’t believe me, the next time you’re on the subway or standing on a long line, notice the urge to check your phone. Look around you, and you will observe people of every age who can’t seem to tolerate just a few minutes of the in-between without grasping for the closest distraction. In an age of “life hacking” and toxic productivity, so-called experts tell us how to make the best of this threshold time. They give us lists of activities and distractions to map out our Next Big Thing.
The wise among us tell us to sit, to be still, to be patient. We learn to allow things to unfold.
“Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring.” John O’Donohue
Poet and philosopher John O’Donohue encouraged us to be patient in the threshold, to experience it not as a boundary, but “a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres.”
Alan Seale tells us that liminal space is an “invitation to surrender,” that “transformation happens when we are not in charge.” Tough advice for a control freak with a plan.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Blaise Pascal
The great mistake is to think that nothing happens during this time. Just as in winter, as seeds germinate hidden beneath the cold surface of the ground, something is being knit together here. The intention and practice is contingent on “our willingness to listen, sense, and feel what is waiting for us.”