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Enter: Liminality


When we last left off, our precocious protagonist (aka, me) was sent off into the forest by her intrepid alternative school teacher, so that she could (insert learning objective here)?  Well, there was no learning objective or outcome outlined for this foray. And as many of us know, without prescription, all is possible: including the magic of liminality. 

In this episode, we delve into my first encounter with a liminal state.

The word has its roots in the Latin word “limen” or threshold, as in the entranceway, or doorway.  So often we rush through thresholds, opening gateways only to close them or vice versa, swinging through the doors of perception. At the gates of this particular door, there is a freshness, potential, the energy of anticipation - there is an experience within the experience, before we make it to the other side.

It's kind of like the vestibule of a shopping mall. You walk through the gates of entry and receive a perfectly climate-controlled breeze, and just before crossing through the interior doors, you are suspended in a moment of pause.

So here I was: 8 years old, seated on the spongy forest floor, and surrounded by friendly supportive logs, a chorus of birds, and that small chance of encountering a sleepy alligator.  I was inhabiting a space in between the mundane and otherworldly.  And it was within this spacious expanse that possibility shimmered.  It was here that I was able to recognise my True Nature: the inherent belonging that we all have within the Natural World:

Moss being, Tree being, Stream being, Bird being, Rock being, Human being - not a hierarchy, but a gossamer web of interbeing.

If you recall, my first experience contrasted so deeply with the second, though both occurred in the same place… what’s going on here?  The initial visit had been entirely focused on cognition: learning facts, categorizing species, and locating things.  We were supervised, lectured to, and directed from place to place.  It was about residing in the reason-and-logic mind: a societally constructed, orderly place: the "Tamed World" (a term I would (much) later learn in my guide training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy).

In my second experience, I was encouraged to follow my intuition and the call of the creek.  This allowed me to discover a gateway into liminality and a heart-centered, somatic adventure.  Here I was able to explore what my trainers would call the "Wild World”.  

In her classic poem “Wild Geese”, the poet Mary Oliver calls us to let “the soft animal of your body/love what it loves” and in this moment, in this forest, by exploring my surroundings using my senses I uncovered a direct line to my soft animal body. In the same poem, Mary Oliver proclaims:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely

the world offers itself to your imagination

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things

So, who was I? Just a girl in the forest, in a liminal space, with one toe in the "Wild World," in a state of deep receptivity.  Receiving requires a degree of spaciousness and it was in that space I was able to feel an intimate connection with the world around me.  Rather than consuming (the act of taking), I was communing (a fluid state of giving and receiving or reciprocity). Here was my place in the family of things. I didn’t know it then, but there is a name for what I was doing quietly next to the stream at 8 years old…

I was having an immersive forest experience, better known as Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy.  

So, the difference: my orientation.  In one, I was in logic, projection, tamed, separation. In the second experience, I resided in receptivity, feeling into more nonduality with being-ness. I offer you a question, as we close this chapter:

Have you had a similar experience?

Returning to a familiar space, but having a vastly different perspective? 

Maybe you haven’t felt this shift, but are curious. 

I invite you to join me there.


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