10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Suffering is the extra tension created in the mind when it struggles. –Sylvia Boorstein
I was chatting the other day with a friend who is writing a book. She has worked with much more diligence and self discipline than I ever practiced in writing mine. So when I asked her about her progress, I was surprised to hear her say that things had stalled a bit, not on the writing side, but on the publishing side, the part she can’t control.
She is such a dynamic and highly motivated person that I expected her to express some frustration and impatience. But as she described how she is coping with this time of uncertainty, she said, “I’m learning to embrace limbo.”
Wow. Limbo is not a comfortable place. In her book Open the Door, Joyce Rupp calls this the liminal space, in the doorway, where you are no longer here, but not yet there. Many of us do not like this space. We have left the comfort of what was familiar, and we can’t see clearly what is in the next room. We sometimes handle our anxiety by trying to control things, by pushing through to resolution, any resolution, rather than pausing, waiting, breathing.
Limbo, or the liminal space, is not something I have historically embraced, or even tolerated very well. I’ve noticed over the years that my life seems to run in four year cycles. Every four years, there is often some major transition in my life – a move, a new child, the beginning or end of a significant relationship. I went through many of these cycles before I noticed the pattern.
Even now that I see the pattern, I often forget about it until after the transition into a new cycle, when I look back and realize that I have passed through a cycle year. Last year, for example, I retired and became a grandmother twice over. It was only as I started writing this post that I did some quick math and what do you know? Last year was a cycle year. I guess by now I should not be surprised.
Leading up to the cycle year is often a time of restlessness, agitation, a time of limbo. This used to be an extremely difficult period. I often was wedded to the way things were and didn’t want to give up what I thought was going to last forever. Once I accepted the inevitability of coming change, then I wanted it to come fast and be over with so that I could settle into my new “permanent” state. (How many cycles did it take me to understand the nature of impermanence?!)
Finding footing in the shifting sands of limbo was challenging on so many levels. Even more upsetting than knowing change was coming was not always knowing what the change would look like. And worst of all was trying to alleviate my distress by trying to control things I could not control.
So when my friend said she was learning to embrace limbo, I recognized those words as meant for me. I have made my peace with limbo, but she has inspired me to see the liminal space as a welcome gift, full of promise. Embracing limbo is accepting the natural rhythm of the universe, trusting in its basic goodness, releasing our fear, finding perfection in the mystery.
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. –Unknown
related posts: Man Plans, God Laughs; The Doors of Change; The Curiosity of Not Knowing
Posted by Galen Pearl at 1:34 PM
Labels: fear, Step 3-Control, yield
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I love this post. I am one of those who wants to settle into the "permanent" state of everything being like I want it to be. I don't do well with limbo--I want a resolution when I want it. It's a battle for me to get through limbo, but the way you've described it--"accepting the natural rhythm of the universe"--reveals it as something beautiful. Thank you for sharing your insight.ReplyDelete
Tina, We are sisters in certainty, or at least the desire for certainty! I'm glad the post spoke to you. Thanks for commenting.Delete
You have absolutely mirrored my thoughts and feelings here, Galen. Although I haven't noticed a pattern as it pertains to time, there have been those periods of limbo for me. Somehow, I learned early on my Christian journey that when I'm all at sea, God is still in control and has something extra special in that next room which I cannot yet see if I will just wait upon His time, not mine. Coincidentally, my blog tomorrow speaks to the amazing things that happen when we let go, and let Him.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this beautiful post!
Martha, Faith bring much comfort and reassurance to our spirits. I look forward to your blog post tomorrow. Well, I look forward to all your blog posts for that matter! Thanks for commenting.Delete
That quote at the end of the post - each time I read it - I love it more.ReplyDelete
To me, limbo has always meant a space full of anticipation and either looking forward to new things or just a change from the status quo. I just love all the restlessness combined with excitement that comes with it. Probably comes from moving so much. But I love it.
Vidya, You have a positive attitude towards change--loving the restlessness. I can't say that I have loved the discomfort and restlessness, although I agree about the excitement. You are a model for embracing limbo! (And for so many other wonderful things!) Thanks for commenting.Delete
How true. Being in a limbo is not an easy place for us humans who are always in a hurry and dont like to embrace the unknown that is inevitable. In my life I have so often found myself in a limbo. I used to protest in the beginning but it didnt help so these ow I just sit through it and wait for the inevitable change that will come.ReplyDelete
Rimly, We add to our discomfort when we protest, don't we? I read a post yesterday in which the theme was the advice "Don't resist." That made a big impression on me. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I know the feeling well. Isn't it funny that going with the flow of Nature is always the answer?ReplyDelete
JJ, Yes, and it is the answer we often come to only after trying all the others! Thanks for your comment.Delete
I love the idea of embracing Limbo. I, too, was in limbo with my new book and then something happened and it all fell together. Love this post like all the others! Thanks for the inspiration!!
Betsy, The book process does seem to involve some periods in limbo, definitely! Thanks for your comment.Delete
Interesting post. This is the first time learning about limbo. I like how you said, finding perfection in the mystery. That is very fascinating to me. I always find confusion in the mystery. But, that is a wonderful perspective.ReplyDelete
Confusion in the mystery--you and me both! I'm learning to breathe when I am feeling lost in limbo and be patient. Not always easy for me. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I've never heard the term "liminal space", but it makes sense and I think I'll enjoy using it. God knows I'm used to hanging out in subliminal space. I do understand the aspects of growth resistance/risk aversion/safety & complacency from growing up in the Midwest, but ever since heading West at 27 I've been struggling to accept my inner call to wander into unknown territory. I'm glad I started out timid, because the risks I do take are more intellectual than physical, but I'm happier in unfamiliar space than I used to be. This is all very interesting to consider. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Mikey, You started out timid and I started out crazy bold, but we have come to a similar place! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Galen, I found myself nodding in strong understanding and resonance with your thoughts here. I wrote a blog article titled "Useful Limbo" a while back that discusses similar thoughts. I, too, have learned over a lifetime that I have a specific cycle, or pattern, where new experiences chart and reach zenith and completion within a specific time frame. It does take being mindful, living consciously, before becoming aware of those cycles, but once we do grasp the energy of it, it becomes a wee bit easier. Sometimes!ReplyDelete
I'm currently in a Useful Limbo stage that I know is preparing me to jump off into a new energy stream. I'm taking the downtime now to process, do some literal and figurative housecleaning and take stock of where I've been, where I'm heading, where I *want* to end up.
I love when Serendipity hits! Beautiful article, my friend. :)
Dawn, That's a great phrase--useful limbo. I'm going to borrow that! Like you I like the connection between literal and figurative house cleaning. Thanks for your kind words.Delete
This was more of your lovely thoughts put into such gracious writing. I enjoyed pausing here right now and reading. I am actively working on embracing a limbo stage right now. I am thinking about not pushing the river - this time! I am sorting and cleaning files and drawers; taking loads of things to charity. Giving away books to help others. Reading, reading and reading because I have the time to do all the reading I want to do...I would like to freshen the paint in the house since it looks like we will be here for at least 7 more years. I am also trying on new things - such as the Intuitive Painting Workshop I took with Chris Zydel in San FranciscoReplyDelete
I do not know if I have a pattern, but if I do it is centered around care-giving and listening - sometimes that is intense, and sometimes it is limbo...I too am thinking about how to celebrate or embrace this "down" time I am in right now - watching the waves, enjoying the beach
I liked reading here Thank you for sharing
Patricia, I was just talking to someone yesterday about sacred listening--it is such a gift. Thanks for commenting.Delete
You are so amazing. I think I needed this post today and I am going to ponder upon it. Life really is all about change and the thought of embracing limbo intrigues me. Right now I feel I am limbo. I am anxiously awaiting my husbands future retirement and I don't know when it will take place. Hopefully, sometime next year; meanwhile I feel like I am in limbo because there will be so many changes when that occurs. Your post has given me a new perspective; thanks.ReplyDelete
Blessings and hugs!
LeAnn, You are so sweet. I'm glad the timing of this post was good for you. It was really a gift from my friend who uttered those words--embrace limbo! Thanks for commenting.Delete
Thank you for your insights Galen. It's amazing how much happier we can be when we let go of the need to control things or be comfortable and embrace uncertainty and ambiguity.ReplyDelete
Guy, It is indeed amazing. I don't know why we struggle so against it! Thanks for commenting.Delete
The liminal space is where we truly do our living. "Go with the rub!" That is my motto! I never take the easy way out, as i assume I will pay for it later! That doesn't mean I don't chose simplicity, because I do.ReplyDelete
Jodi, That's an interesting motto. It's sort of like practicing at the edge, or walking the razor's edge, two descriptions I've read elsewhere. And as you say, it is completely compatible with simplicity. Thanks for commenting.Delete
As human beings, it's difficult to accept that there are some things we simply can't control, and the pace of progress in our lives is one of them. Of course we can improve our chances of success by hard work and perseverance, but I think "fate" plays an important part. As you indicated, it really does take time and experience to understand the pattern and to learn to make the most of the liminal space. Great post.ReplyDelete
Adriene, Time and experience certainly help. Once we understand how little we really can control (basically only our own thoughts, words, and actions), then it's more clear to us when we are trying to control what we can't control (everything else). Thanks for commenting.Delete
Interesting about your four year cycle. I'll have to go back do some calculations and see if my life is on any particular cycle. Waiting for the unknown can be unsettling, but great reminder to embrace the time and look forward to what is to come. Take care.
Cathy, I went through the cycle many times before I started to see it. Once I did, it was uncanny how regular it was, even when I forgot about it. Thanks for commenting.Delete
wow I needed this Mine is a five year cycle. the limbo.... well sometimes the limbo is a year long and one does tend to get restless....Then there is effort that is to be put in often alongside the waiting...Yeah one needs to breath and relax and embrace the uncertainty too and trust...ReplyDelete
Maybe u could find this post on the cycles useful http://jerlyt.blogspot.in/2010/05/spiritual-cycle.html
Jerly, That's interesting that you recognize a cycle in your life, too. I will definitely check out your post. Thanks.Delete
Galen, I have been sooo enjoying the last few posts-- I purchased your ebook but have not made time to delve into it-- will do so in earnest in January.I am pretty upbeat and have a spiritual practice that feeds my Soul.. I, too, see the cycles of my life, and at times have trouble with that liminal space.I get pushy about moving on to the next chapter.. I can be type A.. but have been actively moving ut of that space over the past few years (Saturn return)ReplyDelete
This past year was full of huge shifts in our lives.. the changes were all of our choosing, which is nice! No "calamaties.."-- but we were moving so fast for 6 months we hit a wall of exhaustion.Now, we're stepping back, and regrouping.. 2013 is time for us to make some new plans and goals..and let go of some old ones (Bob's great posts!!)
December brings the whole holiday scene, and like you,I stay away from malls and shops, I enjoy the baking, the friendly get togethers,pot lucks, and a few local concerts. We enjoy some time in Sedona around christmas, too, and do some family hiking. NATURE is my favorite church!!!!
I look forward to your blog in the new year--I am working on designing my own.. I miss blogging but my focus is not on the astrology anymore-- it is background.. well..all part of the regrouping going on.
We have to settle into the dark, into the liminal space for a bit, in order to be quiet enough to listen! Some years I actually savor the dark, and the quiet..and this year is one of those years!!!!!
Madeline, Thanks for much for your kind words and for buying my book. I hope you like it! January is a good time to read it because I know for some people, they read the book one small section at a time as a daily reminder to practice habits of joy. I'm enjoying the dark this year, too. A good time to turn inward. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Galen: What is the title of your book? I love to read and I would like to purchase it?ReplyDelete