Thresholds are places to linger. At a graduation, for a time, a student is no longer a student, and not yet a graduate. During an engagement, the question of coupling has been asked, but not yet answered. Rites of passage provide liminal experiences, at least they are meant to, and the practice of creating these experiences for yourself is powerful indeed.
A few weeks back I got a massage, the first in a long time. I used to get them regularly, and I had almost forgotten that to offer my naked body to touch is to enter liminality.
It’s not the same as disrobing before bedtime or a shower. The ritual of massage or medical examination or love making should be transformative. We step out of our clothes into a moment between what we were and what we will be.
I don’t write about this enough. When you make your Week’s Plan, stop time, stop space, and create a threshold. Do this during Step 1. Pause and Reflect, just after you assess the past week and let it go. Like stepping out of your clothes, step out of your roles, your goals, and your plans, and linger. Go to flesh. Love it.
A meditation that might serve
To help, I’ve copied this passage from Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved which takes place just after the American Civil War. In it, the character Baby Suggs preaches to a group of freed slaves gathered in a clearing in a woods.
She did not tell them to clean up their lives or to go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or its glorybound pure.
“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick ‘em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O’ my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off, and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ‘ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it, they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O’ my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it, and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver – love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”
You were someone else before. You will be
someone else again.