Ep. 199: What Is Liminality? The Space Between Transitions

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What is liminality?


It’s often seen as the space between transitions, or between two ways of being.


We see it a lot during our soul journey, which isn’t very straightforward. Some parts may be relatively smooth, but others seem like days of fog and confusion. Moments of feeling VERY lost.


In these transitions it seems like the old way of being/identifying no longer fits, but we also haven’t embodied the new (or even fully understand it).


We can see liminality as a time for transformation – the opportunity for Mystery to slip through the cracks and into our lives, permanently changing us.


You may see some similarity here to the cocoon metaphor I’ve used in the past – the necessary death of the caterpillar identity to allow the butterfly to emerge. But the cocoon is the place of liminality, of transformation.


We may also recognize liminality in rites of passage, which often happen when there’s a significant life transition, like leaving our old social role to assume a new one (e.g. a Batmitzfah, a quinceanera). We are in an in-between stage, awaiting confirmation of being in the new role.


It’s usually more ceremonial and involves family and community (a bit more elaborate than when my mom made me jump 3 times in front of my aunties the first time I got my moon – a tradition in Filipino culture to help guarantee a shorter 3-day period, and maybe even to grow taller 😉


In modern industrialized society, it’s often up to the individual to know when a transition into the next phase is needed and how to navigate that liminal space, since there are few mentors who can act as guides since it’s no longer an essential human experience in this context.


The word liminal means “threshold,” the door between one season of life and the next. The time between the wound and healing. It has a few characteristics that can be helpful to be aware of.


While we can’t prepare for everything in our liminal expereinces, we can ziji up our confidence and resilience by having some idea of what to expect.


Liminality has a destructive quality, like fire, Kali, Durga…and is often symbolized in practices such as tattoos and scarification rituals. This is because transformation always requires a death of sorts – certainly of the “old self” so we can become something new. 


We can see this in stories and movies too – like when Luke Skywalker was drawn to Dagobah after his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi died.


Liminality is also chaotic – when we enter that liminal space, our old value system is destroyed, causing us to become disoriented. And then we need a new value system to live by, right? But we don’t know what that is because it’s new and unknown. So we enter into all these experiments and it’s uncomfortable AF… and full of failures as we try and try again.


AND what’s cool about this space is that when our old beliefs die, the restraints that once held us back no longer have power over us, and we have more freedom in who we are and what we do. This is also scary AF, BTW – because we don’t know what’s next!


Threshold crossings are also a part of liminality. Boundaries like gateways, bridges, and doors can act as markers to symbolize the point of departure and a transition into a new phase of life. 


Some things can help us navigate the paradoxes, uncertainty, and fear of liminality. One of them is an anchor (I go into more on the pod).


Similar to the breath in our meditation practice, we can use an anchor during this time of spiritual transformation, something constant and grounding, which provides a sense of connection, guidance, and protection. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi was an anchor of sorts for Luke Skywalker, reminding him to “use the force” whenever he was not sure what to do.


When we’re in this space, it can be hard to navigate, so it also helps to practice staying grounded through somatic practices, supportive routines, seeking support when needed, and maintaining a sense of purpose, keeping our eyes on our north star.


By that, I mean to remember our intention – why we listened to the call to adventure – and stay aligned with it. It helps us focus amidst the chaos. We are likely to veer off course here and there, but if we can course correct, we can still navigate through it all.


Like I said earlier, there’s a lot of unknown and ambiguity in liminality. We feel we don’t fully belong anymore to our old world and identity, but we’re also not able to embrace the new one. However unsettling this might feel, it acts as a catalyst for our transformation.


But when we’re forced to let go of the old beliefs and habits and confront the unknown, we will open up possibilities for growth and self-discovery. The insight gained here allows us to better understand ourselves and our place in the world  – our Soul Purpose.


Now, because of all the chaos and changes and death of the old self and birth of the new self, we may experience some cognitive dissonance. Like Luke Skywalker realizing that the dark enemy he was facing was his own father.


But there’s such a huge opportunity for healing and for positive transformation in liminal space, which allows for reflection, letting go of what no longer serves us, and establishing new practices.


Our ziji also gets fired up – that radiant inner confidence. Our resilience grows from making it through all the uncertainty and disorientation. We learn to be adaptive, building our capacity to cope with change and adversity.


Sometimes liminality can feel like being led astray compared with the safety of where we’ve been. This also happens a lot in the transition through midlife, when we’re reclaiming and reworking the past with a focus on paradox and contradictions.

You will learn:

// What liminality is and the places we see it on our own journeys – and in everyday life

// The difference between a mental health crisis and being in liminality

// The importance of recognizing when we’re in liminality and some of the common characteristics

// How liminality leads to certain types of death and transformation

// Ways we can help liminal spaces seem less frightening and more navigable



// Episode 100: How to Know You’re Making Progress


// Episode 126: How to Know if Your Making Spiritual Progress


// Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Plus, we have entire months devoted to wisdom and compassion. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! 


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.