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Travel: Liminal Movement

Winged Guide, National Museum of Archeology, Athens; copyright 2019, Lisa McSherry

I’m in a truly liminal travel state for an extended period of time, and — as usual — the universe is offering me some lessons along the way. However, I’m not ready to talk about them yet, being in media res. Then, just a few days ago, a reader asked me what the heck I mean by “liminality.”

Liminal comes from the Latin (limen) for threshold and refers to the in-between state or place of transition. It may be literal, such as when we travel from one place to another, or metaphorical, such as when we are experiencing a shift in our perception about something we previously understood.
Liminality can be seen in a person standing at the crossroads between their previous way of life and and new path of identity or community. It’s the remains of a dinner party after the guests have left, each piece offering a memory of a shared meal. It’s the humming roar of flight on a jet plane, and the waiting room of a hospital.
A fundamental part of liminality is that it is uncomfortable, most of the time. (Personally, I believe that if it isn’t even a little bit uncomfortable you may not be in a liminal state.) It’s a place where our basic assumptions can be challenged, broken open, and new ideas slip in.

Losing a job, preparing to launch a project, deciding to raise a family, moving to a new country, living through a societal revolution: the world’s chaotic flows force us all to walk through liminal spaces at one point or another during our lives. (Anne-Laure Le Cunff)

Within this state we can experience creative forces and use them to enhance our life in meaningful ways. I often find myself either journaling or writing in ways that are expansive, but others might find mind-mapping, brainstorming, or drawing to be valuable methods to tap into this powerful transformative time.
There are a variety of Deities who preside over thresholds, guarding gates, and protecting us as we cross boundaries. You might choose to work with Enodia, the goddess of crossroads in Greek mythology; Janus, the dual-faced god of beginnings and endings in Roman mythology; or Menshen, the divine protectors of doors in Chinese mythology.
Here’s a simple exercise to provoke a sense of liminality.

  1. Find a liminal place where you normally do not spend time. This can be a doorway, entryway, a bus, or other moving vehicle.
  2. Be in that space and do nothing else. How do you feel? Does the discomfort emerge in your body? How long can you endure without distraction from your phone or something else?
  3. Go someplace and journal (writing or drawing) about the experience.
Travel: Liminal Movement

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