Liminal Time and Liminal Spaces

I woke this morning at 4.30am. Residual anxiety from an event last evening still prickled the blood in my veins, which meant I twitched all night like a hot cricket. Instead of lying in my warm bed while full of anxiety, which was not going to go willingly, I decided to get up and grab a coffee. I know, I know, coffee and anxiety do not go well together, which is why at 6.15am I was walking the streets of my neighborhood trying to burn off both, the anxiety and caffeine. 

 The sky was still dark and the crescent moon hung low on the horizon. That time of day on the 24-hour clock which is not quite morning, but is also not fully night. Twilight is more commonly thought as only being in the evening. However, twilight is actually the time of day when the world hovers between night and sunrise or between day and evening, so both am and pm. Twilight is also known as liminal time when the world is betwixt and between. Liminal time is potent as are liminal spaces precisely because they are not fixed entities. Liminality is a boundary point that always contains an element of fluidity.  

 As I turned onto a street in the inner sanctum of our neighborhood I paused. I was struck by how aware I was which had nothing at all to do with the effect of the caffeine. The birds were not singing evocatively like a well-rehearsed orchestra but as a cacophony of raw, out of sync instruments. My senses tingled but I couldn’t tell why. I took a few steps and again stopped. As I listened to what my body was saying I knew I wasn’t in danger but there was something or someone close by. Now I have no idea why, but my next thought was that it was a dog off leash, nevertheless I still could not see OR hear anything so I proceeded with caution. Our neighborhood is an urban forest within the city limits of Atlanta, Georgia and the “dog” I sensed could quite easily be a coyote on the move. 

 Unlike daylight hours or even night hours, liminal time is itself very quick. Within just a few moments the moon competes with the sun for the light of the sky. You know that feeling; I’m sure you’ve experienced it at least once in your life when you are just waking up and you aren’t really asleep yet you couldn’t run a marathon either, that’s also liminal time. The earth between night and day is like a sleepy human shaking of the dreams imagery to be lit again by consciousness. Walking through the betwixt and between hours can be like lucid dreaming, when human beings are open to receiving inspiration, wisdom, images, ideas, and solutions for our worldly problems. The fluidity of liminal time speaks to our unconscious minds and encourages our innate knowing to reveal itself. 

 Just as liminal time is in essence fluid, liminal spaces also challenge our notion of fixedness, solid ground, or being made of one element. In other words, liminal places aren’t constructed out of a single component. For example, there is a distinct contrast at beaches where salty liquid of the ocean meets soft sand or hard volcanic rock. Another is at the top of mountains, individual or ranges, where earth meets sky, or at edges of cities where coyotes cross between the wild places and domesticity or through the wild places behind urban landscapes. 

 In our culture we cross many thresholds – again a liminal space. For example, when a groom picks up his bride or groom and steps over the threshold of their new home, symbolic of their new lives as a couple. The potency is not lost on our psyches even if we are not fully aware of the power that liminal times and spaces have on our lives. Think for a moment about the times you pause before you cross ‘thresholds’, new schools, new universities, new jobs, or restaurant doorways on a first date! 

 All these examples become really good metaphors for examining the space between our conscious and unconscious minds, call these our hunches, senses, our knowing, and our intuitions. We knowbut we have no proof. Our intuition is a gift from liminality itself but more often than not, because we have no fixed evidence it is challenged, chastised, or belittled by those around us. If we are not in tune with our own unique sensitivity to the gifts of our individual liminal psyche then we ignore, repress, or cannot even hear its voice. Either case is very sad indeed.

 If you have a problem that needs a solution whether it is a creative project or a scientific solution - take a walk during a liminal time, at a liminal space or both. You never know what wisdom from your own unconscious mind will reveal during the potency of liminality. This guidance has served me well on more occasions than I can count, for example when I had to make my final presentation for my BA degree. I had spent a long time working on the speech but still felt there was a key element missing. At the time I lived in Seattle so took the opportunity to walk down by Puget Sound on the cusp of the eve. As I began the walk, I spoke my intention out loud. About half way through I noticed a seal swimming about 2 miles off shore. “How wonderful” I thought to myself. However, the deeper synchronicity hit me like the seal had come up to me and kissed me, he didn’t but it was, as if she hadIrish mythology has an important story of the Selkie, the seal woman. How this story fits into my senior synthesis project is not important. What is relevant is the fact that the seal arrived as a guide to the missing piece of the project. 

 Just to loop back around to my liminal morning walk, I took about another 40 steps from when I very first set foot on the inner street in my neighborhood when a dog charged the fence at the back of a house set on a small hill. He began barking loudly, which gave me a start. He or she was unleashed so was able to move back and forth alerting all its owners that there was a human walking in the twilight of the morning. So although I was safe, I was also surprised. I responded to both the dog and my own intuition by acknowledging what good guard dogs they both were.