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The transformative power of liminal space
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I'm reading
The transformative power of liminal space
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The transformative power of liminal space
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
26 May 2016

The transformative power of liminal space

It’s in liminal space that we start to undergo a transformation, that our psyches are open and malleable and the edges we’ve created for ourselves soften.

Written by Nathan Scolaro

This blog post is sponsored by G Adventures 

What does this mean?

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Image source: Javier Diaz

This blog post is sponsored by G Adventures 

What does this mean?

Earlier this year, I took part in a rites of passage leadership retreat led by doctor, counsellor and issue 43 profilee, Arne Rubinstein. It was a three-day training program that blended personal and professional development: we learned about rites of passage in indigenous and western cultures and the elements that make for a healthy transition into adulthood, and then experienced some of those elements. There were big chats around campfires, challenges that tested our inner and collective strength, and a ceremony where we acknowledged the unique qualities we saw in one another over the course of the camp. It was challenging, illuminating and quietly transformative.

The transformative aspect interested me most. We learned about liminal space: a transitional state we experience when we leave what is familiar and known within us and move towards the unknown. It’s in liminal space that we start to undergo a transformation, that our psyches are open and malleable and the edges we’ve created for ourselves soften. I realised this is what many of us experience when we travel. Not sit-by-the-pool-and-eat-at-nice-restaurants travel (which has its place of course): meaningful travel. The kind where we’re following our curiosities and learning about the richness and diversity of the world in a way that makes us feel bigger somehow, more expansive.

Pico Iyer, who featured in edition 46 of Dumbo Feather, puts it so: “A person susceptible to ‘wanderlust’ is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.” When we move through the world with an open mind and heart—seeking out new lands, witnessing how others live—our minds and hearts open further. It’s as if, away from the everyday settings that bind us to a fixed way of being, we encounter our true selves and our potential to be more wonderful.

One of the interesting things that happens when we travel meaningfully, and maybe enter liminal space, is that time slows down; it almost feels like the past, present and future converge. I experienced something like this last year while hiking the Camino, a popular pilgrimage in the northwest of Spain. After walking for a few days through villas, vineyards and pine forests, I became acutely aware of the entirety of my experience: who I was in that moment, key passages from my life that made me so, who I could be in 10 years’ time. I felt all this gratitude and possibility. And when I got home, I felt more self-assured, more myself somehow. Different to who I was when I left.

Transformation can seem like a lofty notion—especially in Australia where we don’t like people changing too much. We want everyone to remain as they were when we first got to know them. But that attitude does no one any favours in a world that requires us to be greater and step up to its complexity and challenges every second of the day. The retreat made me realise that I need to seek out and embrace transformative experiences, however they present themselves, to push the limits of who I am and who I want to be.

Nathan Scolaro

Nathan is the editor of Dumbo Feather magazine, and a great lover of language, poetry and storytelling.

Feature image by Javier Diaz

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