We are trembling as a species.
Poised at a defining moment of being either on the brink of wiping ourselves out, or of transforming to a higher level of consciousness collectively, we are momentarily hovering in the space between. It is as if life has become transparent. This offers us the potential for more clarity, since we can see through the density at last, yet at the same time reality has become more ephemeral and has lost some of the reliable solidity of material existence. We still perceive it as solid, but the solidity is not reliable since our link to it has been made tenuous through the ecological crisis we are in, and because we have awakened to the power that our external environment is only a mirror for our internal experience. The recognition that we can change who we are, that we can raise or lower our vibrational frequency, that we can change our environment through our intentions, makes our world lissom, supple, or more graceful.
It also makes it more scary. More unknown. More astonishing.
We have moved into liminal space. Liminal means ‘between’. It is a threshold, either between being asleep and awakening, life and death, or the breakdown of an old order and the establishment of a new one. When a liminal state exists it allows for fluid boundaries and creates malleable situations. Out of this dissolution of being neither here nor there, or in both places at once, new institutions and customs can emerge. It is the necessary ‘gap’ that we need to fall into in order to create a new world order that is less hierarchical, one that is more aligned to being in tune with the Earth. Tibetan Buddhists refer to the liminal state as the ‘bardo’. Traditionally the bardo states refer to the time between one life and the next. In liminal lands we are transitioning between realms, one foot in dream space and one in waking consciousness, or one foot in our present way of life that is destructive to the planet, and one foot in the hopeful resonance of a more integrated consciousness where solutions to the ecological crisis that we are facing can reveal themselves. This space of liminal awareness is the pivot point. The new form of conscious awareness we are birthing on Earth of collaboration and inter-being arises from this point.
The feeling we tap into through liminal space is one of being poised, hesitant, vulnerable, and simultaneously bursting with potential. Liminal spaces are this and that, here and there, both and neither, they are in-between. They present the opportunity for massive transformation and yet they are delicate as unfurling butterfly wings. They makes demands of a different sort of us, requiring that we stop our daily distractions, notice their luminous, transparent quality and breathe anew.
Today is a Sunday, a meditative restful day of allowing some space for stillness to arise. This morning I wore my pyjamas and dressing gown till long after morning was a distant memory. This afternoon I went for a walk and the recent rains had caused moss to grow on all the pathways. This evening I made pumpkin fritters with large yellow squashes because I didn’t have any pumpkin. Mostly though I spent the day meditating, settling and letting go. Extraordinary beauty emerged in everything as the day progressed. It arose from opening my heart to the stillness within, and the stillness overflowed into everything around. I revelled in the grace arising in this unpretentious place.
The movement of stillness is not more inward than outward, because stillness is quiet and without movement. We move inward to access stillness, but in stillness we rest, and out of that resting, form grows naturally and effortlessly. Pure stillness is a liminal space. It is the creative potential at the point before bursting forth into manifestation.
Moment by moment turning our awareness inwards into this point of pure being, the brilliant kaleidoscope of life emerges like water from a spring.
At this pivot point out of which our direction arises, we settle into the natural order of things, and into flowing in harmony with the Way of the unconditional and unknowable source and guiding principle of all reality.
This still point resonates with love, serenity, joy and compassion. It is the level of awareness that we must birth into if we are to find solutions to the present ecological crisis we are facing on Earth. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Our responsibility is to know that from centering in the pivot of liminal space we create these worlds of experience on Earth, and to become the puppeteer rather than the puppet we must first become the still point at the centre.
The easiest time of day for me to tune into this point is on waking. Each day I play with noticing how long I can maintain my balance in this luscious moment by moment experience before falling forward into directing and controlling my life again.
It is entirely possible for me to preserve my equilibrium whilst brushing my teeth, showering, meditating, eating breakfast, walking, seeing clients and working in my garden. But sitting in front of my computer where I spend a lot of working time, usually zaps it, as does talking on my cell phone, being in a rush, or being stuck in traffic jams.
My son Nix and I once attended a weeklong lucid dreaming retreat with a young teacher, Charlie Morley, at Bodhi Khaya, a retreat centre near Stanford in South Africa. We all got to drag our mattresses into the shrine room and use sleep as a meditation exercise. Charlie is a Master at lucid dreaming, and he experiences his dreams as more real than everyday life. Because he is consciously aware in these dreams, he can direct his subconscious to resolve many of his deep seated issues. Much as I admired his skill and wished I could lucid dream every night, I wasn’t in fact very proficient at lucid dreaming. However I came away from the retreat with a deeper cognitive understanding of the still, centred place I’ve been referring to above, because I learned that it is created by aligning my brain waves to higher amplitudes. This piece of information was like a central puzzle piece onto which many other puzzle pieces could attach to form a clearer sense of myself in relation to the world.
Charlie described the twilight zone that we move through prior to falling asleep as the hypnopompic state, and the one of emerging into wakefulness as the hypnogogic state. At these times our brains are resonating at about 7.5 Hz or at the border between alpha and theta waves. We can learn to balance ourselves in this space between sleep and wakefulness, and doing so boosts our creativity, reduces stress and energizes our minds and bodies. I instantly recognized that Charlie’s descriptions of moving into and out of sleep were synonymous with my experience of the still point.
Unlike normal dreaming where I lose consciousness for the most part, in liminal space I am hyper-aware. I need to remain clear and focused to not only remain for longer periods in liminal consciousness, but also to function in the world whilst holding my awareness there. I can only harness the wisdom and insights of liminal space if I’m fully conscious when I’m there.
It is not difficult though; because liminal space is so delightful that it is magnetic too. When I am enveloped in a liminal world the bird song outside my window is sweeter, my early morning cup of hot water is more hydrating, and my heart buzzes with gratitude.
A few years ago I wrote about the feeling of waking into liminal awareness. I dug around in my dusty computer files to find it, and extracted this short piece:
The Universe made love to me again last night,
My body sparkles, deeply quiet.
Within the womb of my blue-grey duvet
Whole worlds unfurl.
The liminal art of transitioning between worlds is like bridging Heaven and Earth. Liminal living is not an escape into a heavenly realm and away from this one, but rather an experience of pure presence. It includes bridging the astral planes that hang between the two. The astral plane is often filled with emotional gunk, so to access the delight of liminal space we also have to be very open to clearing away the sticky stuff that we carry as our emotional baggage.
There are many ways to access liminal space depending on our choices, interests, personalities and our passions.
Zoning into the liminal
Being ‘in the zone’ is another description of the liminal experience, and the ways to access the ‘zone’ are many and varied. Jenny cycles to enter ‘the zone’, Anne sees clients, Alan runs marathons, Bob gardens, Shafeeka goes to trance parties and dances with her two young children, Jazper creates culinary masterpieces, Cecil fixes cars in the hot Botswana sun, Pat teaches horse riding to disabled kids, Oonagh laughs with autistic ones, Malika tells stories, Sarah slams poems, Karen delivers babies and Maf sings and writes lyrics. Sometimes all I do is lie in bed and smile at the ridiculous deliciousness of it all.
Movement arising from a liminal space
Another way to describe liminal living is to notice how life passes us by when we stand in the centre of it. Like a movie made up of single images spliced together to form a landscape rolling past the moving car that is filming it, when I walk in liminal space, the bushes, grasses and trees move past on either side of me as if I’m in a movie. When I’m in my centre, life flows past me even though I’m the one who is actually moving.
This is an enticing exercise. We simply put one foot in front of the other whilst our peripheral vision allows the world to flow by as we move. It is walking meditation as a fine art. It feels like a state of grace and it occurs to many pilgrims when they walk the Camino or go on Haj. Being in the zone, entering this higher stream of consciousness or being in the flow is merging with God.
Beloved Afghan poet Rumi was a Sufi who belonged to the order of the Whirling Dervishes. He used the movement of pirouetting to take him into this still point in the centre. Instead of this being a one way flow where the still point creates the dance, as described by T S Eliot’s poem “… except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance”, for Rumi the dance also created the still point:
“Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.”
Credo Mutwa, a Southern African sangoma has a clear understanding of dance and its relationship to the liminal. He says, “Dance is used for many purposes – all of them positive! In the old days there were massive migrations along exactly the same migration paths year after year. The animals were actually migrating along powerful ley lines and reacted as if the earth is singing to them. These migrations vibrated the earth. Nowadays the natural migration paths have been disturbed, so we need to dance. By dancing you scratch the earth where it is always itchy!! Through movement the earth comes alive, heals itself and in turn heals you!”
Friedrich Nietzsche also understood this still point, and he recognized that to some of us, it is so foreign as to seem confounding. He said, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
The nada sound that arises in liminal space
A small part of the music of the spheres that we tune into through liminal living is that of the ‘nada’ sound, which is sometimes called ‘the sound of silence’. It is in fact a high-pitched ringing tone, sometimes misdiagnosed as tinnitus, which resonates with the hum of Universal energy. From Sanskrit, ‘Nad’ means to flow. The etymological meaning of Nada is a process or a stream of consciousness. Generally, the word Nada means sound. There are yoga schools that base their meditation on this technique. Kabir, 15th Century mystic poet described it thus,
“Nada is found within.
It is a music without strings which plays in the body.
It penetrates the inner and the outer
and leads you away from illusion.”
The nada sound is a manifestation of the experience of bridging worlds. This sound brings us into an awareness of higher planes of consciousness.
The Way of the Tao
Liminal living is kin to the ‘Way’ as expressed by Taoists. The ‘Tao’ describes the Unknowable and Ineffable, yet even though we can’t grasp it directly, through it we become manifest. The Way of the Tao holds the quality of effortless effort, it is sometimes called the Watercourse Way. Water flows around obstacles, it follows the path of least resistance, yet over millennia it wears away rocks and mountains.
Liminal living is the art of standing poised between the Tao and the material world, bridging the two. It is neither and both, it is doing and non-doing.,
Kari Hohne’s poetic interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu in the 4th Century BC, describes the Way of the Tao thus:
“… we rise like an ocean wave
called forward by the moon.
we breathe into the wind
the way winter changes into spring.
not with expectation
but because the night sky
is suddenly filled with light.
And like the bird who sings
without knowing why,
every step is taken with gratitude.
Who can be patient
until life returns us to its dance?”
The liminal awareness of babies and children
Babies live in liminal space, they have not yet entirely left behind the world of dreams and cosmic consciousness and yet they are fully immersed in the fascinating exploration of living in a tiny, rather uncooperative body. My son Rory drops into this liminal space when he plays with his toddler Caetano. Rory’s face softens, he becomes enchanted and captivated when he sees the world through Caetano’s eyes where even cracks in the dusty Lima pavement can be fascinating areas for investigation.
Time disappears for children playing endlessly in liminal space. The play that children love best is the play of working. Driving boats, trains or fire engines, pouring tea into fairy sized cups, mothering baby dolls, or building bridges and roads and empires and castles is all work which children love to do. When did we adults lose our love for work? Often I hear radio presenters complaining about how it is only Tuesday, so far away from the weekend, as if we all know that work is something to be endured, but never enjoyed.
When did we lose our connection to the living, breathing Earth beneath our feet? When did we forget how to bridge worlds? How did we become so very disconnected? This separation, this division of Heaven and Earth, of body and being, of ourselves from unconditional love, of soul and spirit, of play and work, is the root cause of worthlessness, depression, wars and environmental degradation on Earth.
Meditation on liminal space
The liminal land is fleeting and elusive. To capture it requires stealth and patience, like a lion intent on its prey. When the sun is hot and fierce, a warm breeze ruffles its mane, flies twitch the skin on its back, but nothing disturbs its focus. The lion’s intention is so pure that even the birds hold their breath. Watch how it prepares itself. Feel its stillness and absorption. Every muscle is alert, the marrow in its bones tingles in anticipation, its paw-pads hold the earth steady. The lion’s breathing is slow and sure, its eyes do not waver, its ears quiver this way and that, listening to every shifting moment.
Wait like the lion. Your prey is this very moment. Let nothing distract your watching. Not your cell phone in your bag, a mosquito on your neck, or an ache in your shoulder blade. Gather your attention like the lion. Hold this moment in your awareness as if your life depended on it. Become still and absorbed. Allow each muscle in your body to relax into responsive alertness.
Just so. The waiting is the capturing. You will not find it elsewhere. This very moment in time is the point of it all.
Soul Integration into the liminal
We can also access the liminal lands through Soul Integration sessions. They are one of many different modalities for diving into the deeper layers of our consciousness to discover creative solutions to our problems, or to retrieve insights on global ones, or to meet soul to soul with our loved (or hated!) ones to align with the true purpose of our relationships.
Working in the liminal realm acknowledges the wisdom of our inner knowing, and aligns with that to delve into deeper levels of consciousness to clear what is contracted and resistant to life. Process work, Karuna sessions, Hakomi or Transpersonal psychology are other modalities that trust the truth of the body and the soul to develop more clarity in our lives. However I only have in depth experience of Soul Integration work, and it is profoundly powerful.
In a Soul Integration session we use active imagination to travel into the liminal lands where the underlying ground of our being, experienced as unconditional love, is tangible. Once we’ve tethered our consciousness to the wisdom inherent in this love, we can explore the murky filters that we have created that impinge on our ability to live authentically and to be truly present to our lives in a wise, serene and loving manner.
The role of the facilitator is to hold a trustworthy enough space for clients to anchor their awareness to their inner wisdom. We call this inner wisdom the Higher Self, and it serves to protect the client during the session. The Higher Self knows exactly where we need to delve to discover and release the roots of our problems, but it also knows to only show us that which we are ready to release at any given time.
Lisa is a Soul Integration facilitator. She works with gentleness and a sense of the sacred; a deep honouring of life. Lisa has passion for the wildness of soul and the art and adventure of its uncovering. She says, “The evidence of the mystery and the power of the work and the wisdom of the soul and psyche of each client are deeply meaningful and wonderful to witness.”
Each time I have an “Oh wow!” insight about life through dropping into this mystery, whether through Soul Integration work, through meditation or through eating a fine plate of mushroom risotto, I am always gratified to notice that many people are having identical breakthroughs in their awareness elsewhere in the world. It is as though the lightness of liminal living is beginning to shine through all the cracks that are breaking up our existing, more constricted world-views.
We need this light desperately, because metaphorically, we can hardly breathe any longer in the stale, dense, atmosphere of our very damaged societies. People worldwide are searching for radical reform and are waking up to alternative solutions that have always been waiting in the ethers ready for downloading when the time was right.
At the same time that I describe the delicate balancing act of centering my awareness on the pivot point between intuition and rational thought, many other people are describing or experiencing liminal living in myriad alternative ways. They might arrive at their insights through being irritated by the tinnitus created by the Universal hum, or through being overwhelmed by the separation from God consciousness that, whilst a trait of the human condition, is also more strongly prevalent in the hopelessness of 21st Century life. They might describe their breakthrough as ‘presence’ or ‘inter-being’ or ‘the birth of a new form of consciousness’, but the most inspiring part of these shared insights is that they exemplify what Buddhists for centuries have termed ‘stream entry’, and this ‘stream’ is becoming a flood. It is awe-inspiring. However ‘awe’ isn’t always the easiest emotion to deal with. The flood is washing away the crumbling hierarchies of the existing world order. And this flood is likely to turn into a tsunami soon enough. It is time to wake up to it, because we don’t have a lot of time left to learn how to surf.
 Kari Hohne. Tao Te Ching: The Poetry of Nature. Chapter 15. Way of Tao Books, 2009
 ‘Stream entry’ or ‘Sota-apanna’ literally means “one who entered (āpanna) the stream (sota)”, after a metaphor which calls the Noble Eightfold Path, ‘a stream’ which leads to Nibbana or Nirvana. Stream-entry (Sota-apatti) is the first of the four stages of enlightenment.