Discover more from Ten Thousand Journeys
🦋 Honoring thresholds
On thresholds, Part 2
A few months ago, as a small experiment, I decided to count the thresholds I pass through on an average day. When I did this the first time, I realized I was counting only the physical/ structural spaces like doorways or stairs. So, the next time, I counted all kinds of points of entry into change, both physical and not, and each one of them a threshold in a mundane guise. There was the first threshold between sleep and waking, followed (too) soon by the one between staying in bed and getting up to start the day. I left the room (#4), went down the stairs (#5)1, crossed into the kitchen (#6), and made myself a cup of tea. Here was another prosaic yet potent threshold: I teetered on the edge of a decision (#8) on whether to add a spoon of sugar to my tea before deciding not to do so today. Technically, I gave up sugar in my tea five years ago, but every single morning, I remake the decision. (Decades ago, I went to medical school in India, and for years, I volunteered as a health coach. To me, health-related choices, especially because I find such change difficult, feel like personal thresholds.) Later that day, in a conversation with a friend, I wondered whether I should bring up something that was bothering me, but as usual, I hesitated too long, and the moment to speak up was lost. That, too, felt like a threshold (#16), one I hadn’t yet found the courage to cross.
Ten Thousand Journeys is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
When I had to travel away from home for a few weeks, I dreaded the day I was leaving. This is where it gets interesting- I’ve always dreaded that moment of leaving home, even if my travel is just for a few days, a kind disproportionate terror. I know it's the result of some earlier life experiences. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but it still causes me some distress. Apparently, and in spite of the repetition, some thresholds are specific to us, and some of them might always be a little difficult.
In all, I counted at least 30 thresholds on a day spent at home, and there were more if I ventured out. I was taken aback by the number and variety - physical, emotional, time-related, seasonal, big, small, etc. I noticed some were repetitive while others were new and unexpected. Even as I passed through each one, I tried to steer away from a “getting-it-right” kind of solving mentality though I wasn’t always successful.
When we read about the hero’s journey or any other grand life journey, there is this sense of a threshold being dramatic, and requiring almost magical feats of discipline and strength to get through. Just as often, they may also be the everyday, ordinary moments that request a moment of contemplation and honoring.
Does that mean thresholds are everywhere, small daily choice points, that fit, like puzzle pieces, into the broader backdrop of our lives?
Though I’ve lived in the United States for more than 26 years, I was born in a small city in southern India. I go back often, and one of my favorite local traditions is the decorating of thresholds, for example, just outside a home, with hand-drawn designs. This is called a Kolam2. Traditionally, it is drawn by women using some rice flour, and they draw it early in the morning and again, at dusk. Which means it’s a transient design drawn repeatedly at liminal times to honor threshold spaces, though it is also drawn at altars and festive venues, among others. I found that beautiful! There are many designs ranging from the simple to very complex ones, and they are passed on through generations in a mostly oral tradition.
Where have old and new thresholds shown up for you? What do your consider an especially-for- you threshold? How many thresholds did you count on an average day?
If the math feels dubious, I counted #3 as the threshold between the bed and the floor.
Here is a link to more on kolam: https://www.sahapedia.org/significance-of-kolam-tamil-culture