Tag Archives: Joseph Goldstein

Endings/Beginnings: Living in Liminal Spaces

The Lebanon Valley rail trail near Cornwall, Pennsylvania

Summer is on its way out with a few last hot, humid days. Metereological fall arrived September 1, and the Equinox is tomorrow. Autumn is my favorite season. I love watching as it slides into our lives every year, chilly mornings and foggy fields reminding us, as Robert Frost once did, that nothing gold can stay.

With summer gone, I find myself nesting, decluttering and organizing my studio, making lists of fall projects, and taking some time to explore bullet journaling and planners. It seems as though everyone has a planner to sell. As I explored the options, it occurred to me that I could just make my own planner/journal, the goal being to use it for both planning and reflection. I have always been intrigued by the Daily Examen, a spiritual practice based on Ignatius Loyola. Loyola’s practice was based in Christian imagery, of course, but I think it is possible to take it as a more general approach to ending the day with intention. Actually, my Apple watch even suggests a bit of mindfulness as a way to wind down at the end of the day so the practice has certainly entered the secular world.

Even as I work on my organizer, I continue to drift along a bit. There have been endings: my retirement, the loss of Spot, the last of the vegetables from the garden. And there is the usual beginning as I head into the fall semester. But, for now, while there are a few glimmers of new opportunities, there is no clearly marked path. Astrologer Chani Nicholas mentioned the concept of liminal space in past two weekly readings, and the concept resonates with my current state. As I understand them, liminal spaces, from the Latin limen or threshold, are the spaces in between the endings and beginnings of practices and lives, its roots in anthropology and rites of passage. It is considered an uncomfortable place, and there are days when I wonder if I am living it right.

Joseph Goldstein, in the Ten Percent Happier app’s Common Questions course, commenting on what might happen at the beginning of your practice, says with a chuckle, ” The beginning can be the first twenty years.” I have only been exploring my own new beginning for a couple months so maybe I don’t need to worry too much and just allow myself to experience liminality for a little while longer. I created the image at the beginning of the post, using my own photo of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.

Hobby Versus Practice

Picture of a spring blossom with the words begin againI haven’t written a lot of blog posts over the past few years but many of those I have posted focused on my meditation practice. So, it’s telling perhaps that in describing my plans and goals for the future, I didn’t mention meditation despite it playing an important role in my daily life. I think it may be because I was writing about hobbies and meditation, as I have written before, is a practice.

Teacher Joseph Goldstein talked about why meditation is not a hobby and why that is important as part of a course I am following in the 10% Happier App. Goldstein reminds us that meditation is more than the practice itself. Its impact is meant to be felt beyond the mat as the lessons we learn in quiet contemplation can change the way we move and live in the world, if we let them. So, the fundamental mantra of “begin again” that we repeat each time we bring our wandering minds back to the breath and the body during meditation is one we can use throughout the day when we are distracted or disturbed. See the anxiety or stress, name it, recognize the pattern that causes unhappiness, and begin again to focus on the present, the now.

The meditation teachers I follow assure me that even the most seasoned practitioners have bad days. The secret is to let it go and…wait for it…begin again. And again. And again. And that’s what it means to practice.