Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Following The Heart, The Spiral Journey ~ And Living Through Liminal Times...

"My topic is about transitions or the stuff out of which life is made, liminal and archetypal situations. The word liminal refers to being over the threshold but not through to the other side. It comes from the Latin word "limen" meaning that place in between. When you're in a transition zone, you're neither who you used to be before you got into this transition, nor have you crossed over that threshold to where you will be settled next...There is always an ending of one phase of your life in order to develop and grow into another phase."

~ Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen ~

There is no better way to explain what I am going through than Dr. Bolen's discussion on liminal times. On the threshold, where you are not who you were, and not yet who you will be. And as you sit on that threshold, metaphorically, there is much going on.

Surprising things will happen, perplexing things, you will make your mind up, firmly, about something that feels very important, and then turn so fast in the other direction your head will spin. It is a spiral journey, wherein your life to date has brought you to the center of the spiral, and now you must find your way out. It can be harrowing, certainly frightening, you feel tentative and confused, and often, like me, your Circadian Rhythms flip-flop all over the place leaving you exhausted and sleeping (or not) at odd hours, out of step with the rest of the world, and living through something there is no way to explain. Your actions may bring criticism, and there will never be a more important time for you to be steadfast in your belief in yourself, and to follow your heart, as you prepare to finally step over the threshold and into the new life and times ahead.

I have been afraid. I have been teary eyed a good bit of time, sometimes from fear and confusion and often from lack of sleep. My mother's dying process is part of this, but when she dies my life will change dramatically in so many ways that I have to both prepare for the changes, and yet I am will not be making the changes until after she passes. At one of the most emotional and heartbreaking times in my life I still have to soldier ahead and do what I have to do to take care of my own life.

So now I sit on the threshold, leaning against the door frame, hugging my knees to my chest and rocking back and forth, eyes closed, breathing, and meditating. All things will flow just as they are supposed to, and no one can help me. The most important thing that we can and need to do is to be steadfast in following our own heart's wisdom about what is right for us during this time, and not allowing others around us try to dissuade us, and they will. Some will be afraid for you, some will not like the choices you are making, some may even be jealous and try to undermine you, but you keep breathing, you stay in the present moment, keep moving forward and you keep your heart wide open so that you can hear what it is telling you. The wisdom of the heart is life's greatest gift, for it comes from spiritual sources beyond our understanding, and we are not meant to question, simply to follow. This is such a time for me.

I will give you an example and it is important enough that it woke me up in the middle of the night and a very important answer came to me. I had been feeling very off about something and I hadn't quite known what it was. At 2 a.m. I knew.

Sunday I started writing a novel with the NaNoWriMo program (
National Novel Writing Month). It is an incredible program and many writers have sold books and even ended up on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out of this intense month of writing. I wrote almost 2000 words on Sunday and I am very proud of the writing. I think it's a novel I can pick up at some time and finish. I love my character and her story, but the thing is it is a light-hearted and sometimes very funny story, (also a very deep tale of a woman's journey in the last 30 years of a very long life...) and I am just not at that place in my life. Not only is it hard to write humorous literary fiction when your mother is dying, but I realized, after one night of almost no sleep at all, and last night falling asleep at 7:30 p.m. simply exhausted, and then waking up at 2 and sitting here in a very contemplative place until 5 a.m. before going back to sleep for awhile, that it is not time to write this novel, and at 5 a.m. I pulled out of the program to pursue what I'm really supposed to write. It is the book I have been working on for some time, and it comes right out of this blog. It is called Maitri's Heart, and is about a woman at midlife and beyond going through these liminal changes.

I write non-fiction, poetic prose, it is my strong suit. I have written twelve novels that did not sell and though I love writing the kind of non-fiction you read on this blog, part of me has felt "less than" because none of my novels sold. In the end I realized that while I have always read and loved fiction, nearly swallowing some books whole and having, often, several books going at once, the novel that I want to write is something for a future time and needs to be something different than what I started. Writing
Maitri's Heart is part of what I need to do at this time in my life. It is part of what will help me cross the threshold.

After I made that decision it was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. So often we get into something and, even when we know the timing is not right, we will keep at it, against our deepest knowing that we really should be doing something else, simply because we are embarrassed. I will be addressing that later today on my Unimaginable Dreams Made Manifest blog. Embarrassment is a useless and even egoistic emotion. Being true to ourselves is not always easy, but if we are to serve our life's journey to the best of our ability, and grow abundantly in the direction we were meant to grow, we need to continue to follow the path before us as we are led to and not afraid to say, "No, this is not right for me now, perhaps at another time, but I am going to do _______ instead." Be prepared to have those around you call you wishy-washy, tell you that you never finish anything, and even, perhaps, treat you with disdain, but remember that is coming from inside of them, not you. Only you know what's best for your own life, and it is up to you to make the choices that will take you where you need to go.

Too, there really are no mistakes. Though we may take a different direction than the one we thought we would take, we have not lost anything. Those brief times in our life when we do something that we decide is not right for us at this time in our lives are actually stepping stones along the path, leading us, if we will fully embrace them, to exactly where we need to go. We may choose to change our mind about a certain decision, but we will have taken something with us from the thing discarded for a different fork in the road. Those things will serve us very well.

The NaNoWriMo writing that I did on Sunday, which I really enjoyed, and now understanding the way that NaNoWriMo works, helped me to understand some of the problems I have had approaching the writing of Maitri's Heart. I can use some of the tools that I learned there, and move forward from here finally about to do what I need to do at this time. Without NaNoWriMo, and what I learned there, I would be not be picking up my non-fiction work today and committing to write every day until it is finished. I have been given a great gift, and its import is not lost on me.

So what I would leave you with is this. Do not be afraid to follow your heart. Do not let others dissuade you when you are going down roads that they don't understand. They have a journey of their own that is their destiny and they will not make it through if they are so tied up in yours. That's a great tactic, avoiding our own work spending time telling others how we think they should be living their lives. We can only live our own lives, and no one can tell us how to do it. And that expression, "Never explain, never complain," is very apt here. We often spend so much time apologizing for ourselves and our choices and actions because we are emotionally battered by others who would try to get us to change our course that we never move ahead. We need to make our own choices and stick to them firmly, and don't engage in discussions about the whys and the wherefores. Do what you need to do and keep on keeping on.

So I am on my way. I have reset my course and I will keep moving forward, in a similar, albeit slightly different, direction. I know this is right. And so I gather my belongings up in my carpet bag, throw it over my shoulder and prepare to step over to the other side. We can only do it when we grasp the lessons of liminality, and the importance of following our own heart. In the middle of the night I knew what I had to do and I am doing it. And nothing has ever felt better. I am on my way...


Lidian said...

I'm writing to you here, because that NaNo site is really slow!

It takes great inner strength and wisdom to listen to the deep voice inside and follow it - so I am very happy to think that you are doing just what you need to right now, in the now...And I'm thinking of you a lot -

And thank you for the lovely messages on NNWM :)

xx Lidian

cissy said...

Wow, i just read this post in it's entirety and have goosebumbs. You have a special gift for getting right into peoples hearts and making them feel. I have bookmarked this post for the times when I feel all hope is lost. I can re-read it to remind myself that my path is not always someone elses and is not meant to be understood by outsiders. It is for me and me a lone.
Thank you!

Jaliya said...

Maitri ... bless you. I've just been writing about liminal times ... thresholds ... bardoes ... my own mother's death.

I suspect that November itself is such a liminal time ... With turning the clock back an hour last weekend, darkness seems to have made a huge leap into our days.

Spiral, spiral, spiral ... all things move and change ...

So glad you are writing ...

vickie said...

Hi Maitri, I have an award waiting for you at my blog:

spinninglovelydays said...

Wow. This really spoke to me. I call myself a writer, but I've always been too afraid to commit. I have a long list of excuses and as I get older, my cowardice has begun to gnaw at me. Thanks for this very inspiring and insightful post. :)

spinninglovelydays said...

Oops, I originally meant to let you know that I have an award for you over at my blog, but ended up writing the previous comment, lol

Oils and soap said...

really inspiring. thank you.

Mariuca said...

Hi Maitri, I love your new badge for this blog! Thanks so much for advertising on my sites this month. And I hope things are getting better with your "situation" as well. Love and hugs! :)

FishHawk said...

"Maitri's Heart" has been included in this weeks Sites To See. I hope you like the image I featured, and I hope this helps to attract many new visitors here.


Anonymous said...

what an amazing writer you are. I am so thankful for coming across your blog I will continue to follow. May you open light on all those lost in the dark as I believe this is how it seems to be. Bless you.
Sarah Sonntag
New Zealand

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