After subbing a full week of yoga classes this week, I couldn't wait to get to the yoga studio to actually take a class and have a practice just for ME. So I went to Yin yoga at my friend's yoga studio, but it wasn't really a Yin class...it morphed into something like a Yang class with a little bit of Yin at the end. Either way, it was exactly what my body wanted after a long week of cold temperatures and crappy weather.
About halfway through class, the instructor showed us a pose she had picked up last night at another workshop. She went from a low lunge into a runner's hamstring stretch, and then we pivoted over onto one side so that our legs were in a halfway position, almost in the bottom half of cow face pose.
It was an interesting in-between place for me. I had to prop it up a bit because I'm still being cautious with my hip and low back stretches, but it was a new place to find a rest between places. It was a yoga pose that embodied the concept of liminal space - when we've left one place, but we haven't yet arrived.
This concept of liminal space is an important one in shamanic practices: learning to honor that place of in-between is where the magic happens. It's that mental downtime that we all need to rest and recharge. It's a way to create space, or to find new space, like the pause between inhales and exhales.
And while this liminal space is so important for us, we as humans are constantly losing out on opportunities to honor this place of in-between. The way I explain it to some of my students is to picture what it feels like when you've finished grocery shopping and are waiting in line to pay.
How often do we simply stand there and allow our minds to wander? We get bored so easily, and we have smart phones and all manner of distractions available to us these days. How many times have I seen people standing in line at the grocery store looking down at their phones instead of looking around the store, allowing their minds to wander? (A lot.)
As I was driving home from yoga, I stopped to get gas. Television screens have been installed on the gas pumps of this particular company, and as soon as you start pumping your gas, you're bombarded with commercials and entertainment news clips. It annoys the hell out of me, to the point where I actively try to not fill up at these stations anymore - do people really need to be entertained 24/7/365?
Instead of allowing people that beauty of a few minutes of liminal space in their day, instead they're being shown flashy advertising for all kinds of things.
The liminal space is our chance to learn the power of surrender: to change, to our fears, to transformation. Cultivating comfort with an uncomfortable situation is the gift of liminal space.
Science also tells us that we need more downtime for our brains. Scientific American compiled a list of studies that have been done that clearly illustrate the neurological benefits of having idle time for your brain.
Try it this week, just for one day. Or maybe for a whole week. No distractions, no cell phones or smart phones or computer games to distract you. When you find your mind wandering, allow it to wander. Bring your focus to the discomfort in your mind. It's in this place of in-between that we can harness our potential for personal growth.