The trees are letting go of their leaves. I watch as the brilliant colour of autumn fades and withers and then pirouettes towards the Earth. The dance of letting go. We are moving into Winter.

I used to think of Winter as a time of darkness and shorter days, a lonely time when bare branched trees look forlorn, and a barren time when the earth is left fallow. More recently, I have come to appreciate this season as symbolic of the liminal space between endings and new beginnings.

As a society we are not very good at endings and this means, we can struggle with that liminal time between the end of one period and the beginning of another, the threshold between the known and the unknown.

How often have you stood at a threshold of change, wondering whether to make that step forward towards an uncertain future?

Whether it’s the end of a job, moving house, the loss of a relationship or letting go a limiting belief. Or even something positive like graduating from college or going travelling. These are all moments of change and transition.

I can struggle with uncertainty as my inner chatter is constantly bringing up my fears. But if I have found that if I surrender to the change, I can learn to embrace the opportunity that comes with the unknown, the ambiguity that comes with the blank space,. It is when I surrender that I am more open to possibility. Then I can pay attention to the opportunities that are there, waiting beyond the threshold.

When my husband and I sold our business in 2010, I was surprised how much I grieved. I told friends it felt like we had given our family up for adoption. We had run the business with many of the same staff for over 10 years. They were family. But here we were being given a blank sheet to have new experiences or new careers, to travel more. At the time, I turned to William Bridges’ book “Transitions-Making Sense of Life Changes”. He worked with people going through all sorts of transitions from retirement to birth of a child to loss of a health.

He created a simple three stage model for this process that I embraced.

  1. Make an ending. Having a ritual, a process or simply an acknowledgement that an ending has occurred is very important. When we sold our business, we held a farewell ceremony and celebration. We spoke about the value of our staff and what we had a achieved together, we exchanged gifts and we sang together, creating a truly memorable moment as a community.
  2. Embrace the Neutral Zone. He calls this the bridge between the old and the new. He emphasises paying attention to the gifts that you have brought from the past. Perhaps writing about the experience, cataloguing the skills gained and identifying what you are carrying forward. He also recommends spending time alone and connecting with yourself, if that seems appropriate. In this time, I journaled, I wrote metaphorical stories to explore this uncomfortable liminal space. I made art. I explored and wandered to see what sparked my curiosity. Some paths felt right, others were not a good fit.
  3. Step into a New Beginning. This to, can be stressful, learning a new job or role, making progress towards possibility. Taking small steps and paying attention to progress helps gain traction in these early stages.

Now I look at this model and see the similarities with the three stages of the Heroic Journey. Now, knowing what I have learned in Art Therapy, I have more tools to help manage this process within myself.

Some of my favourite strategies for navigating the liminal space of change and transition are:

  1. Simple ceremony or ritual to mark an ending. Honouring what has gone before and acknowledging the change.
  2. Journaling with words or art. Pay attention to what you have gained from the past as well as what you have lost.
  3. Allow emotion to surface, grieve for what you are missing.
  4. Seek connection with others for support, therapy or mentoring.
  5. Make small steps towards a new beginning. Try new ideas, create opportunities, test the water for possibilities.
  6. Map your journey and create a vision for the way ahead.

Pema Chodron says “..things are always in transition. The off-centre, in-between state is an ideal situation where we can open our hearts and minds beyond the limits.”

If you are struggling with your liminal space, reach out and book a session with me. I can help you with practical steps and emotional support as you navigate this place of change.

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