The liminal space or zone is a boundary area, a border between two entities, such as the space between me and the other. It is a neutral zone, a place of transition and not knowing. It is both a physical space and a conceptual construct.
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Have you ever met someone, and they lean in a little too close to you, into your personal space and you become uncomfortable? Or maybe you’ve attended a theatrical performance, a lecture or an information session, and the actor, actress, or person leading the event moves beyond their space so close to you that you become distracted. He or she has moved into the liminal space, which is sometimes an unsettled place, a place of agitation.
The liminal space is a place of learning or deep meaning-making. It exists between a piece of art and the viewer of the art. Have you ever been moved by viewing a painting in a gallery or home? That experience happened in the liminal space that exists between you the viewer and the object of your viewing. Or dreaming you may find yourself in an alternate world. And at some point, you may feel yourself slowing coming back to the world your body inhabits. For that brief time when you are neither awake nor asleep, you are in a place between realities.
The liminal space is place where connections are made. Energy healers and Reiki practitioners straddle this space when they channel the positive energy from the universe into earth-bound beings. If you want to experience the liminal zone, try embracing a mindful practice because it slows everything down. In the stillness one notices the present moment. Being in the now state opens our awareness of the other, in a caring, compassionate way and makes it possible to notice connections with other beings.
The other day, while walking on a trail in the woods, I paused next to a tree. Then, I placed my hand on that tree and tried sense the being within. By doing so I moved into the liminal space, between human and plant. The poet Mary Oliver often reflected on these connections, between plant and human or between human and animal, as we see in this poem of hers.
How I go to the Woods by Mary Oliver
Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.
Later that day, while pulling into a parking space at a coffee shop, I became aware of a driver who was pulling into the space directly in front of me at the same time. Both of us noticed each other through the windshields at the same time and brought our vehicles toward each other, slowly and carefully, not wanting to hit each other, but wanting to pull fully into to our parking places. Once our cars stopped moving, our eyes met for the briefest moment, across that space. I twitched my upright fingers in a little wave, she smiled back, two dimples framing her smile for an instant. We went on with our day. That shared moment, brief and fleeting, was nevertheless, a shared connection. A connection in the liminal space, that may not have occurred if we weren’t noticing.
Perhaps you will notice the liminal spaces that are opening in front of you, as you go about your daily life.