‘No longer’ but ‘not yet’ Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:21
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We’re all stuck in the time between ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet’.

British cultural anthropologist, Victor Turner, coined this phrase. He died in 1983 so he had no way of knowing that his research would be so apt at a stage when the entire planet earth has been hurtled into a rite of passage.

The world as we’ve known it has changed forever. We’ve been disconnected from our environment, our routines and from others as we’re told to hunker down and wait. We’re still waiting . . .

Victor called the period after separation from life as we’ve known it, liminal time – the stage between no longer and not yet. The word ‘liminality’ comes from the Latin word ‘līmen’, which means ‘a threshold’.

In anthropology, it refers to the disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when you no longer hold your pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status you will hold when the rite is complete.

We are literally standing “at the threshold” between our earlier way of structuring our community, time and identity, and a new way; one which in this case we cannot yet imagine.

Victor writes that while the dissolving of one’s identity might bring about disorientation, it might also lead to new perspectives. Because liminality is a time of withdrawal from normal modes of social action, it could also be a time of scrutiny; of re-evaluating the culture in which you’ve grown up.

Normal limits to behaviour, thought and self-understanding are undone, so the very structure of society is temporarily suspended, writes Victor. Everything you’ve taken for granted is thrown into doubt and social hierarchies may dissolve for the time being.

Sounds like chaos? Actually anthropologists say that the suspension of order during liminality creates a flexible and adaptable mindset in which new customs and institutions can be established.

Liminality cannot last forever, though. Victor writes that it must eventually dissolve because it is a state of great intensity that cannot exist very long without some sort of structure to stabilize it.

That is why dr Joan Borysenko says that this period of uncertainty is a time for making meaning and listening sincerely for guidance and inspiration about who we are and what we are becoming individually and as a society.

Mythologist Joseph Cambell calls this the “dangerous night sea journey” because we don’t have markers yet; neither do we have anchors to hold on to. I mean, what do you cling to when everything has fallen away; when your compass needle just spins in a circle? When you can’t find your north star?

Qigong master, Mingtong Gu, says that you should stop looking outside yourself and go within. Stay connected to the unerring compass that is your heart. “When your heart opens, the world around you changes,” he says.

One of the keys to opening the capacity of your heart is to shift from contraction and stress, to natural flow and expansion again. To do this we must start rejecting the ‘doomsday’ messages that are all around us. You cannot listen to those and keep an open heart. The opening-up process does not involve criticising, retribution or blaming others. Those are all ‘contracting’ mindsets.

Now is the time for openness, for generosity. This not only means giving away what you have in abundance, but also being open to receiving what you need from someone else.

Opening your heart means that you must learn to let go of ‘the story’ your mind is telling you about what is and what isn’t possible for you. Now is the ideal time to ponder the ways in which you can personally redefine and reclaim your life. Colette Baron Reid says that the Covid-19 virus is called ‘Corona’ for a reason: Corona means crown and we’re all being asked to become sovereign over our own lives.

It’s time to choose between remaining a victim versus affirming your creatorship. You may not be able to change what is happening to the world, but you can change how you live through it by opening up to the situation just as it is.

So, girlfriend, sit up straight; unfold your arms, stretch them wide open and, à la Marci Shimoff, say: I open myself up to miracles. Then listen deeply. You are not alone on this journey.

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