The Liminal Space


I’ve never been a particularly patient person, I prefer more of a “carpe diem” kind of approiach to life, and as useful as that is in some contexts, I’m learning that slowing down and waiting for the right time holds much power in it’s potential.

Allowing the space for the magic to happen, and just sitting tight until the moment we are clear enough to decide on our next course of action, this is important.

Apparently there is a word for it, it’s called “the liminal space”, which is the border or threshold between possibilities. There could be more than one path to take, each hold different outcomes, or it could just be deciding if that one potential route is the one for us.

It’s the “sliding doors” moment, but with a pregnant pause.

The time before we make a decision, or take the plunge, when all is still unclear and uncertain tends to make us feel uncomfortable. The mind, or the “ego” rather, hates uncertainty. We’d much rather take action and make a mistake than wait around not knowing.

Think of how time seems to drag when we are waiting for results to come in, whether it’s been for medical tests or academic exams. We feel uneasy in those times, the waiting feels like torture.

But what if that liminal space was to teach us something, to help us see more clearly before acting?

There is an old I Ching saying:

“Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching a goal”.

The sun doesn’t rise in the morning in an instant, it’s a gradual awakening of the next new day, but it’s going to happen. We are not sitting thinking,” I wonder of the sun is going to come up today”, it just will at some point, it doesn’t have to be ”right now”.

We live in a world of “instant gratification”, we want it and we want it now, and what’s the point in waiting?

Well there is a big point.

When we slow down, our senses are sharper, we are more likely to make good decisions in that moment, and there is a lot of pleasure to be had in the anticipation.

The problem is that we all want to have some great big flashing sign saying “this way”, some guidance from the Universe to tell us which way to go, the lightbulb moment in that exact moment when we decide we want to act.

Sometimes this doesn’t happen and that’s possible because we aren’t quite ready.

I remember when I was recovering from my surgery in the summer. I would get out of bed in the morning in the same way I usually did, jumping up, getting ready in a flash, ready to “seize the day” and get stuff done. I had all this space and time, after all, I was going to make sure I made the most of it. My body had other ideas.

“Oh no you don’t”, it said, “you, young lady are meant to be resting, and healing”. So instead, I would get myself a hot water and lemon and go back to bed, and ease my way into the day, getting up when it felt right.

The waiting, the liminal space, is to prepare us for the next step, but we have to take that time and space. Life can’t be all forward movement. Sometimes we need to sit back, be patient, and when the time is right, we will know it. There will be a sense of inevitability about it, divine timing if you like, as if it was always meant to be that way.

Timing is everything, and everything in time. Trust the journey.


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