Lessons from the liminal life

The pandemic has thrust us into a free fall, a plummet into loss – of control, resources, relationships, health, and for too many, life itself. We are suspended between what was and what will be. We are in a liminal time.

Liminal passages are periods of “neither/nor” as well as “both/and.” An adolescent, whose behavior embraces both realities, is no longer a child but not yet an adult. When we mourn, we honor the blessings of the intimacies we knew while holding the pain of the loss.

Joseph Campbell and Arnold Van Gennep studied and identified key patterns of the liminal time. Focusing on four of those dynamics may help us take more control over the trajectory of our own upended lives.

Each liminal stage holds for us a jewel, a truth of insight, knowledge or understanding. In order to access that precious awareness, we go through many demanding trials. We are challenged by trolls, those who confront us with the dark sides of our nature, and we are assisted by guides, those who elicit our redeeming lights. Inevitably, the precious jewel is protected by a guardian who must be persuaded or conquered to gain access.

Liminal times beckon us to identify and generate our answers to four questions.

  • What for me are the jewels at the heart of this difficult time?
  • Who is/are the guardian/s of those precious insights?
  • What are the dark-side trolls keeping me from getting there?
  • Who are the guides I can turn to for advocacy and support?

This time of great upheaval threatens us individually and collectively. With the time granted us may one of our responses be to seek the growth possible within it, and may we support each other in that pursuit.