It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in-between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”
~ Marilyn Ferguson
My work as a life coach could be described as, a bridge between. I work and encourage and support in the liminal spaces. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, meaning literally, "threshold." I'm there at the threshold, standing with the client as they ready themselves to cross the boundaries from where they are, to where they want to be. I tell clients that this is the sweet spot, where they must let go of all that's comfortable, and familiar, and reach for the new. It might be more accurate to say it's the bittersweet spot, because there are always things you must give up in order to change, grow and move forward.
A liminal space - the place of transition, waiting and not knowing, is happening at all times. Most people want to quickly cross the threshold and rush to the other side, but there's much to gain from the in-between, and it's a necessary stage to acclimate you to the coming change. Can you embrace the in-between?
Regardless of your awareness during a transition, regardless of wanting the transition and regardless of asking for the transition, it's still disorientating. Career change, moving, having children, sickness, marriage and divorce, are all examples of times where you're at the threshold; where you can still see and feel the old life, but you know you must walk across to the new.
“I am seeking the bridge which leans from the visible, to the invisible through reality.” ~Max Beckmann
THE MIDDLE WAY
This can be a painful place; you may feel lonely, depressed and overwhelmed, and the natural instinct is to run, but because this is a place of ambiguity, a grey area with blurred edges, you're running blind and often, in fear. Many of my clients describe it like there's a fog all around them, they're lost in a thick forest, or they can hear voices but cannot make out the words. In Buddhist philosophy this is called “the middle way.” A place where there's no reference point, and beyond needing courage, you must adopt a new way of seeing; with intuition, a beginner's mind and trust.
It's in the resistance of the in-between that you can miss the opportunity to transform. If you can just pause and rest in the liminal space, you'll see that pain and possibility can exist simultaneously, and that hardship and ease are there as well. If you practice standing in the liminal space, you can not only let go of what doesn't serve you, but begin to clear the fog and start to imagine what could be.
The essence of transformation is awareness, and you cannot become aware when you're looking for a way out, instead of accessing what is within. Transformation demands curiosity and openness, and is the process of shifting from patterns of fear and avoidance, to new patterns of possibility and willingness.
During the coaching process we don't rush headfirst into a solution, but instead see the richness in the moment as the client explores what wasn't working and what needs to be released; a cleansing, and ultimately an acceptance of something that's come to pass. It's also a time of claiming the memories, messages and meaning from the previous experiences – tools and treasures which they will carry over the threshold as they embark on the journey.
It's in the middle way that new perspectives, habits and ideas can materialize. Maybe that's why I've always loved the image of a beautiful door; it conjures up the image of possibility, and the knowledge that you can close the door on one chapter of your life and open the door and cross and the threshold into a new and more fulfilling one.