Liminality is a point of no return in life. A liminal experience is a state of overwhelming change that imposes the requirement of leaving behind a familiar way of life while moving toward a new realm of experience that is not yet fully visible. Liminality conjures the distressing condition of being held betwixt and between what once was and the unsettling mystery of what has yet to come.
To be inside liminality is to be confined within a state of limbo that permeates our sensibilities with feelings of ambiguity, confusion, anxiety, struggle, and vulnerability. A liminal encounter permanently alters our sense of identity, purpose, and worldview in crucial ways. In other words, to be inside liminality is to be thrust into an environment, medium, crucible, and total surround of personal transformation.
Liminal experiences in life are natural and normal. They remind us that our lives are connected to forces we cannot fully comprehend. In this sense, liminality is an apprenticeship with the ineffable. To feel the presence liminality is to lean into the essence of humility. Liminal states can be dangerous; there is no guarantee that we will find our way out. Inside liminality, it is our capacity for creativity that remains our most trusted advisor.
Liminality is a remarkable shape-shifter; it presents itself in diverse ways. There are no convenient patterns to structure to grab on to. There are no standardized methods or procedures we can follow to extricate ourselves out of a liminal state. In this sense, liminality invokes a profound sense of aloneness. This means that genuine stories and accounts of how people work with and move through liminal encounters are our most valuable resource.
- A Dark Night of the Soul: The experience of a dark night of the soul is utterly transformative. It reveals the threatening nature of liminality and its power to imprison our sensibilities inside a feral wilderness of searing spiritual ambiguity, confusion, and loss.
- The Buried Life – Reclaiming Our True Course in Life: “The Buried Life” is a poem by Matthew Arnold that describes a liminal state characterized by the painful recognition that the life we have been living is not our own. We are buried underneath the burden of liminality and the potential of irredeemable regret. In other words, a buried life conjures the possibility of failing to live a life worth living.
- The Liminal Frontiers of Aging: Liminality is pervasive within the human condition. Aging is an example of a natural biological force that conjures a variety of liminal conditions and experiences across our lifespan. The direct felt experience of aging is permeated with liminality.
A person immersed inside a liminal state is often called a “threshold person” or a “liminoid.” On an individual level, a liminal experience demands passage through a point of no return in life. On a collective level, a liminal experience can confine groups, societies, and nations inside a trance of assumptions, beliefs, and patterns of living permeated by uncertainty and risk.
- An Artist’s Journey: Creativity and liminality are deeply connected. For an artist, liminal experiences often result in a complete transformation of their identity and approach to life.
- The Art of Improvisation: Overcoming Adversity – Improvisation is our best chance to find a way through a liminal state. This article explores the artistry of Keith Jarrett and how improvisation forms the underlying ground for both his musical performances as well as a means to adapt to adversity in life.
A liminal practice is a ritual or technique that helps us navigate the turbulence of our existential confusion and despair. These self-made practices hinge on our creative capacity; that is, our ability to find a way through a liminal period in life is entirely dependent upon the depth and breadth of our creative reserves.
- Transformative Writing: The practice of transformative writing is a powerful technique to help find our way through a liminal state. Unlike keeping a journal or diary, the primary intention of a transformative writing practice is to fully understand what we must leave behind while finding creative ways to reveal new potential, opportunity, and possibility.
A liminal state means that we have become ensnared by an unrelenting sense of confusion. The assumptions and beliefs that once helped us to make sense of reality begin to deteriorate; they no longer offer comfort, stability, or security. A frightening emptiness begins to emerge, and we are haunted by relentless visitations of confusion, ambiguity, uncertainty, risk, and vulnerability.
- A Conversation with Grief: Grief is a common and prolific form of liminality. It immerses us in a state of deep sadness and sorrow invoked by a significant loss. To experience grief is to hold a conversation with impermanence.
- Liminal States – Feeling Very Strange: A liminal state is the experience of profound personal transformation. It is not a state of controlled or planned change; it is an encounter with the wild and feral nature of life. Liminality overwhelms our mind and humbles us to mercurial forces we cannot fully comprehend.
- Liminality – The Loss of the Familiar: A troubling characteristic of a liminal state is the loss of the familiar; that is, the old patterns and routines of life that had provided a sense of comfort, stability, and direction are abandoned. Liminality demands the rehabilitation of our sense of identity, purpose, and motivation in life.