Onward and upward

Liminal Spaces, Mindful Places

When you are sitting still in the space between where we have been and where we want to go you are in the liminal space. This is not the same thing as being in the present moment. Finding yourself in this space can be daunting, it can feel like being stuck in slow motion, and it can also be the greatest opportunity for change, growth and expansion. The liminal space is temporal and temporary, the mindful place is spiritual and omnipresent. Combined, this space and this place can be transformative. Let me share some of my story.

I found myself in the liminal after a series of major life events. My life seemingly crashed over me like a storm-fueled wave. I had not thought at all about my future enough, not really. I had let life happen to me without intentionally happening back, responding to crises and situations that kept my awareness horizon very narrow. I thought of myself as a problem solver which felt like meaning and purpose as I went around solving problems, many of which I had a hand in creating. A problem solver must have problems to solve to feel engaged. Chaos can even become welcomed when we’re afraid to look deep inside ourselves and beyond. I was a problem that needed to be solved. I felt stuck.

One cold winter morning, I was walking with a friend who listened to me go on and on with my worries and fears. She looked me in the eye and said, “You are in the liminal space.” She went on to say that this was a gift from God to be in this space because it is exactly where I needed to be in order to reflect, introspect, and find solutions to determine how I will move forward to the next chapter of my life. Or as Ray Dalio says, “Pain + Reflection = Progress.” I did recognize this gift. I felt fortunate to receive this blessing, as many don’t get the opportunity to slow down, to stop, and to step into the space that has opened for deep learning about one’s self and find the right path forward. I know I wanted to live a full life with no regrets and knew deep down I was not yet on that path.

What does one do in the liminal? I saw it as the perfect space to meditate and become more mindful. Mindfulness has the power to take us to places in our minds so we can feel and express our soul. Mindfulness helps us pay attention to the essence of energy present in all things. Deep in our mind is exactly the place where deep understanding about ourselves and our connection to all other things occurs. As Moe Factz says, “We must seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Without mindfulness, the liminal can be hell. With it, it can be where we find heaven in the form of questions we never thought to ask, answers to things questions we have, quiet and stillness to clear the clutter and renew the spirit. Before mindfulness I sought to blame others as an easy way to get past the past, but blaming others is easy. Easy is earned, and shifting blame takes no effort therefore nothing truly changes within. Meditation is the place where the work can begin. Meditation is but one tool in the mindfulness box and I’ve heard it said that praying is when we talk to God, meditation is when we listen. Bringing the spiritual into the temporal is the great gift of mindfulness. 

Seek first to understand, a.k.a. “Know Thyself”

What was it that got me here? To answer I had to look deep inside, take stock of my feelings, my health, my environment, and all my relationships. More importantly I had to examine my behaviors and patterns that led me to this point in my life. I furiously wrote in my journal, devoured books, listened to podcasts, hired a therapist, meditated with the Calm app, and talked to anyone who would listen. Most importantly, I began to park my ego and allow others to talk openly and honestly, listening to criticism, feedback, and advice with acceptance instead of taking it as a personal insult. This was not easy for me, but the pain and stress I felt was the signal that my ego had to soften in order to finally learn and grow.

I discovered many things about myself that I had never considered, or perhaps was reluctant to accept. Harsh reality revealed itself; I had to inventory my good traits, talents, skills, and achievements along with own up to my shadows. The liminal spaces and the mindful places brought me to understand who I really, really was and it was time to find out who I really wanted to become.

Seek to be understood, a.k.a. “To thine ownself be true”

One of the things that stuck with me was the realization that the only things we have control of in our lives comes down to our attitude and our effort. While self awareness and personal growth begins with listening and learning, changing your mindset and attitude. It is action that proved that I was hungry for change with the attitude of growing as a Next Level human. When the attitude is good, the effort is more frictionless. It was time for action, and my attitude was one of excitement as I pondered the possibilities ahead and embarked on my new mission to reach new heights and begin to realize my true, God-given potential.

Here are some things that have happened since finding the space and places to grow and expand and began to live more intentionally:

I inventoried my character traits, discarding the negative traits that held me back and brought in new ones through building new habits and rituals, and adopting and practicing the best traits I saw in those I admired. 

I wrote my Honor code. Taking from the list of essential character traits I wrote my personal honor code. It is essentially a mission and vision statement that clearly describes the human I want to embody every day. I review this often and enhance as I make new discoveries about myself. It includes things that begin with “This I believe…” What do you believe about yourself?

I wrote a list of my personal and professional goals. Before I really had no stated goals because I had not asked myself what I wanted. I generally had an idea of a comfortable life but nothing specific. I let life happen and took things as they came. Now I am working toward manifesting the things I actually want to achieve: financial freedom, great relationships, a beautiful, strong and loving partner, my kids to be great citizens and reach their true potential, staying strong and healthy for a long and active life, being able to help others.

I established new boundaries. I barely had boundaries before and as a consummate problem solver would take on other’s problems as my own to help solve. I was seeking validation and acceptance. Now I accept who I am, value my time and effort, and no longer need validation through sacrificing my own goals for others (I didn’t really have stated goals before). I now put myself first, not in a selfish way, but choosing myself before I let others dictate my actions and demand my efforts.

We can stay stuck in the liminal space forever unless we take action to make the changes and do the work we know we need to do to create our desired new reality. Allow me to share some ways I am taking action…

Sobriety – I realized that I had to end my comfortable relationship with alcohol. It was my number one nemesis, and my go to mistress. I found the courage to admit it was not sustainable and the motivation to choose healthier behaviors to better align my health and fitness values.

Relationships – I am engaging more fully with my kids, my romantic partner, my friends, and my coworkers. Some of my relationships, the enablers, had to dissolve – when the energy isn’t right, that is the signal it is time to let go. I seek to create new relationships with others whom I share high frequency energy with – feeling their positive vibes as it were – with authenticity ang genuine care.

Social media – I quit Twitter, deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone, and stopped looking at news feeds. I use social media sparingly and it has given me back so much time to use in more fulfilling ways.

New house – While this one was a struggle due to the tough market for buyers I finally found the ideal house for me and my kids. It was a super stressful time in my life and added to the weight of the world on my shoulders as a solo parent and provider. I kept the faith that the right one would come along and it finally happened after looking at over 30 houses and having lost bids on 5 of them before this one came to me. It’s my new space for creating new memories, traditions, and opportunities.

Group exercise certification – I have taken group exercise classes in some form or another since around 2001 when I attended my first hot yoga class. I stumbled into a Les Mills BODYPUMP class at the Y several years later which turned out to be the foundation of my fitness from then on. A few years later I was asked if I wanted to become and instructor and I laughed it off but it always stuck in my mind. I finally signed up for instructor training this past winter, successfully completed the requirements and now teach classes part time at Wake Forest University. It is challenging and super fun to teach and lead others in class to get fit and stronger. It has helped immensely with my confidence and works different parts of my brain that had not been engaged before.

Yoga teacher training – I finally realized a long time goal and completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program and now am a Yoga Alliance certified RYT200. I love how yoga helps shape my life, my body, and ease my mind. I absolutely love teaching yoga and learn so much more with each class.

Health coaching certification program – I once took a 3 day intensive program for health and wellness coaching. It was to prepare for sitting for a nationally recognized board certification exam. After the 3 days of classes we were expected to practice with clients and submit records and recordings of these sessions. I did not put in my best work and was not recommended for the exam. I failed. This stuck with me as it was the first time – aside from college chemistry class – that I had failed anything academic related. I was determined to correct this and enrolled in a much more lengthy and comprehensive health and wellness coaching program. I love the thought of helping others find their inner divine and begin to make the changes necessary to become the best versions of themselves. Aligning a pursuit with a core value feels good beyond words.

Dharma every day – I was feeling much angst around my professional and personal lives. My therapist helped me understand what it meant to find your dharma and I got another boost of this notion with Jay Shetty’s book Think Like a Monk that I got for Christmas. I could engage myself in the things I was doing in a way that brought out the best in me no matter the task or situation and find the dharma in the roles I play each day. It’s always a work in progress and I remind myself when I start second guessing to set intentions and review/revise expectations. If something is still not sitting right, I can take it as a sign that something needs attention.

Harmony at home – Finding dharma at home has helped me work on creating better relationships and dialogue with my kids. I have not always excelled in my role as a father and it took a lot of time for me to figure out better approaches. With the help of my therapist, friends, and so many books, podcasts, and articles on the topic, I have found encouragement, positivity, and open-ended questions that evoke more engagement and connection with my kids. I am much firmer with my boundaries, I tell them to do things I need them to do instead of asking nicely so they see it as negotiable, and I demand more from them at the same time encouraging them and showing them love. Most importantly, I have shown them a model first hand through my own transformation. There is still much work to be done as the dynamics constantly change, but I am standing up as a leader, a role model, and father with open arms and a loving heart.

Allyship with my kids’ mother – What was once constant combative and contentious episodes, we now have an understanding and the resistance has given way to collaboration. All it really took was a conversation where we set the foundation that we both absolutely want the best for our kids, would never jeopardize their safety, and will provide for them to the best of our abilities. When hearsay and assumptions were made we made it clear to communicate the reality on the ground without emotion and have a true dialogue about the matter at hand. Involving each other in the conversation and respecting each other’s viewpoints and setting a clear path forward that we both could agree on. We also established boundaries of what is and is not okay with regard to each of our personal lives. It sounds easy but it took years of forgiveness to get to this point of understanding and collaborating as allies in the parenting of our children.

What I’ve learned along the way:

  • Everyone has the divine inside them
  • We are here to learn, to teach, and to love
  • Some days can be slow, but all years are fast!

These past two years have been the most transformative, transcendent, and expansive of my entire life. When you find yourself in the liminal space, use it not to ruminate about the past but learn from it. Use it not to worry about the future but to plan for what comes next. Use it to look deep within and ask yourself “who are you really?” and “what do you really want?” Then take the time to ponder the answers to these questions, discover what you need, and start to plan your action. Get yourself moving out of the liminal space, and always travel to the mindful places. 

Being in The Liminal is a great space to flip your script and get on the path to become your best self!

About the Author

Andrew Brewer

Live courageously, love fearlessly. Amor fati, memento mori.