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The Liminality of Dreams and Poetry

Updated: Apr 19

Clochán na Carraige _ Partial Sign _ Inis Mór (Apr 16, 2019)

In all things there is a life force, an essential vibrational energy, that is within and surrounds. It is hard to even experience what this means when we reach for it with our minds. Timothy Carson’s suggests that by “reading between the lines” we can sense a liminal space where this energy is the strongest. He refers to liminality as “the nebulous space of feeling and transition between one thought and the next.”


In my book Soul’s Homecoming I talk about liminality as a threshold, “a border or doorway between one thing and another. It is a reminder that in the breath between words are worlds full of meaning.”


Given our busy lives it may be difficult to pinpoint this elusive life-giving energy. Yet, if we use our body, we can feel it in our breath flow as we engage in qigong movements. We can sense it when our intuition gifts us with goosebumps or a heart flutter in those awe-inspiring moments.


Poets are navigators of life force

The poet’s imaginal expressions weave a passageway into the world of qi, prana, or nwyfre. The poet peals back the hiding place of this life force by braiding together a word-path full of lyrical, figurative guideposts. Anne Hillman in her 8-line poem Light beautifully illuminates the moment when recognition happens, “…quite unexpectedly…it pierces like a laser…touches a tiny spot within…a holy, shining space.”


I recommend using the writing of poetry as a meditative practice. Forget all those rules about perfection and “doing it right.” Life force is available to anyone. Engaging our poetic nature isn’t about making a living as a poet. Writing poetry as self-reflection helps us tap into our inner stillness. As Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem says, “…Forget your perfect offering | There is a crack, a crack in everything | That’s how the light gets in.”


The first Native Poet Laureate Joy Harjo says, “…writing poetry can make you fall in love with yourself.” To begin writing poetry she suggests accessing a time when you are “still waking up halfway in the dream space, a place beyond the thinking mind.” Harjo’s master class on poetic thinking helps build awareness of liminal spaces in order to touch our creative nature.


The liminality of dreams

Like poems, the imagery in dreams are living entities with a life force of their own. To deep listen to dreams is to listen to what is welling up from within. Carl Jung said, “The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul.”


Each time I begin my work with individuals or with Dream Circles, I intentionally guide us through a threshold. Moving from our distracted lives filled with essential responsibilities and ever-present understories, is an important part of the process. Dream messages in the form of images, characters, colors, shapes, and emotions are not interested in being interpreted literally. Instead, they are waiting for us to quiet down and enter their space, their realm, in order to start the journey. The stuff of dreams and the essence of poetry lives in us. This journey that can take us minutes a day and a lifetime.


And so…

If we are to experience for ourselves the other reality that poems and dreams tap into then undergoing a transition – even for a few minutes – is primary. The threshold itself is not to be rushed. In the place between here and there are the rough edges to feel and the challenges to be considered.


Welcoming an experience of liminality is a way to approach the light behind the hidden door while we carry on toward inner wisdom. Engaging in this process fundamentally changes who we are.

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