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🦋 On thresholds, Part 1
Three things about thresholds, and looking beyond crossing
In any new journey, there is a threshold-a line, a border or edge, a gate, a doorway, a bridge, a passageway, a span of time, or set of behaviors- that lies between the old, familiar, known world and the new, unknown world. Because thresholds are the first step into the unknown, they can evoke fear, doubt and anxiety.
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Whether thresholds are physical spaces or measured in time or behaviors, they are liminal (Latin ‘limen’ or ‘limin’=threshold) or transitional spaces: a lot of change is happening here. I remember train compartments linked by accordion-like connectors that allowed passengers to cross from one compartment to the other- the connectors shook when you walked through them. They were made of rubber or some other soft material and felt unstable and unsafe. When you were moving through the connector, you were literally in transition. That’s one example of what a threshold zone feels like. Or, say, you start a new lifestyle habit. In the beginning, it’s hard to maintain this habit. You forget more times than you remember. You face some internal resistance to this change or maybe your friends don’t want to hang out with you because they don’t like your new lifestyle. You wonder if this habit is really worth the effort, or if you are going to be able to sustain it. This too is the liminal time-space of a threshold, the old you slowly changing into a different you.
In your life, where is a threshold coming up? What has your experience been of past thresholds?
From the hero’s journey, there are at least three things we know about thresholds. One, thresholds function as a boundary keeping us in the known, and they can act as an invitation to step into the unknown and try something new (new task, skill, venture, job, relationship, or a new way of being). Imagine a tall, arched gate with a sign that reads Enter If You Dare. Second, thresholds are often guarded (“threshold guardians”). Now, imagine a fierce being guarding this gate. She demands a toll to open the gate for you or a fight to prove you are equal to the task of entering this new zone. And third, and perhaps most importantly, while it’s tempting to think having crossed the threshold, you will achieve whatever you set out to do, there are no guarantees.
Today, I’d like to offer another image for your meditation on thresholds.
What if, next time you are faced with a personal threshold of change, you think of a lily pond in the very center of a dark forest?
The forest is shrouded in the silence of dusk, yet another liminal time. The water of the lily pond is still except for the occasional ruffle caused by darting small fish. Hundreds of lily pads cover part of the water's surface, forming a precarious dark green island. Slender yellow-pink lily buds stand proudly in the middle of inky black-green. The buds are tightly closed, like a clenched fist unwilling or unable to soften. The entire scene looks like something straight out of a painting. Lush. Vivid. Magical. But the magic isn't only in the setting. Every time you venture upon a new life threshold or take the tiniest step towards bringing more of yourself into fruition, imagine that a lily bud in the pond in the middle of the forest softens. And in the dark of the night, the water lily blooms.
When you hold that image, and place a hand on your heart, you might experience that same softening, as though you too are a waterlily on the verge of blossom. Softening, as a way of approaching a threshold of personal change can mean befriending one’s fears (internal threshold guardians) and recognizing their intent to keep us safe. Softening looks like offering oneself a helping hand and making space for both fear and change. Softening looks like ally-ship (not a word) with oneself.
In your life, where is a threshold coming up? What has your experience been of past thresholds? What is your best advice to anyone navigating a threshold of change? Please share in the comments below.
I will be publishing every week on Sunday mornings from now. Thank you for your patience as I navigated a small threshold of my own! Have a great Sunday!