Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Living at the Threshold ...

At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres.

John O'Donohue

Thresholds are in-between places with possibilities for growth and transformation. They come in many shapes and sizes. This Thursday, we will all cross the threshold from winter to spring. Some of you will  soon be leaving the school year and entering summer holidays. Others will be leaving old careers and starting new ones. Some of you will be leaving couple bliss to become parents. Others will be leaving work to retire. Others, still, will be leaving behind years of caregiving to enter the realm of widowhood.Whatever our situations, we will all cross a series of thresholds over our lifetimes. Part of being resilient is learning to recognize the potential of these thresholds and knowing how to live well in the"in-between" places.

Thresholds are places of excitement, uneasiness and un-knowing. Author, Christine Paintner, writes, Try not to analyze (thresholds). The threshold is about resting into mystery, into unknowing, into the liminal space where the old is released but the new hasn't yet come into being. 

When we entertain the possibility of something new, we find ourselves in the humbling position of not knowing what the future will bring. This can be both enlivening and frightening. If the fear outweighs the excitement, we can find ourselves desperately trying to jettison our anxiety and find a sense of control. While this is an understandable impulse, it doesn't contribute much to our transformation and wholeness and it doesn't allow the universe to "unfold as it should".

Rather than trying to escape the turmoil of our un-knowing by retreating from the threshold or by avoiding our feelings, the practice is to stay present with ourselves in the space between old and new. To be attentive to our experience in the moment and to allow space for our feelings of grief, fear, emptiness, self-criticism and despondency. We need to let go, wait, and trust that, in one way or another, life and promise will declare themselves.

As the threshold of spring and new life approach this week, what are the thresholds in your own life, the ones calling to you to cross but that feel difficult to face or challenging to imagine? What might you need or want to guide, support and nurture you as you pass through these doorways into something new? 

Perhaps this blessing by Jan Richardson, one of my favourite writers-of-blessings, will help you on your way:

A Blessing In the Dust

You thought the blessing
would come
in the staying, 
in casting your lot
with this place,
these people.
In learning the art 
of remaining, 
of abiding.

And now you stand 
on the threshold 
The home you had
hoped for, 
had ached for,
is behind you - 
not yours, after all.

The clarity comes
as small comfort,
but it comes:
illumination enough
for the next step.

As you go,
may you feel 
the full weight
of your gifts
gathered up
in your two hands,
the complete measure
of their grace
in your heart that knows
there is a place 
for them, for the treasure
that you bear.

I promise you
there is a blessing
in the leaving,
as you walk toward home 
- not the one you left 
but the one that waits ahead,
the one that already
reaches out for you
in welcome, in gladness
for the gifts
that none but you
could bring.

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