Embracing The Liminal Spaces


When I was a kid, I used to have this recurring dream where I was walking through the woods, and the air around me seemed thick, and I felt like I was moving in slow motion as I walked. 

The colors around me were so vivid and bright, and it took a lot of effort to focus on the path I was on as a result.  And sometimes, there were people in the dream speaking to me, and I could hear their voices but couldn't make out what they were saying or where they were exactly. 

All that mattered in the dream was the thickness, the color, and the feeling of moving through the woods, breathing in the scent of pine and flowers, and feeling the leaves and pine needles crunch beneath my feet. 

It was such a vivid dream that I can still recall it today as if I just dreamed it. 

That dream instilled in me a love for spaces where I could feel hints of it in my waking reality.  I've always referred to those spaces as "thin places," where the distance between this world and some other reality is thin enough to notice. 

Sometimes, those spaces have been cathedrals or small churches in the English countryside.  They have also been fields filled with flowers, a wooded glen, or a dusty floor inside a house in Mexico. 

This past summer, I experienced these "thin" or liminal spaces in walks on the streets of Edinburgh, in art galleries, on the side of the road in New Mexico, and high above the Pacific Ocean in a cabin within a monastery. 

Liminal space is the space in between.  It's the space after we move from where to are and before we get to where we are going.  Fr. Richard Rohr has written extensively about the importance of these thin spaces and has this to say: 

Liminal space relativizes our perspective. When we embrace liminality, we choose hope over sleepwalking, denial, or despair. The world around us becomes again an enchanted universe, something we intuitively understood when we were young and somehow lost touch with as we grew older. 

It's not easy to both find and remain in a liminal space.  We struggle to see them because we are so distracted by the busyness of life or too self-absorbed in focusing on our feet as we walk to lift our heads and look around. 

And when we discover them, we seldom do our best to stay within them because there is always a sense of urgency to keep going, to get to the next thing.  

If we are patient enough, however, we will find that we can learn to see again within these thin, in-between spaces.  Our once-clouded eyes become clear like they were when we were young, and we can behold the mystery of the universe again. 

God is experienced most fully in these spaces when we choose to stay within them because we tend to surrender more, become more open, and feel the Divine Presence without needing control. 

Every single one of us constantly moves in and out of these thin spaces.  The trick is to be able to recognize them and stop for a moment to feel. 

Pay attention to the way you experience liminality.  When your body reacts with chills and trembles, or you feel overwhelmed by something about to arrive, say a prayer like this: "Speak, Lord. I am listening."  

Don't let yourself feel odd by praying that prayer.  It's merely a way to focus and open "the eyes" of your heart.  Try it today.  Sit in the thin spaces and look around, expecting and wondering. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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