Liminal Spaces in Our Lives – the ‘In Between’ That Continues

Unknown, liminal, doorI certainly didn’t imagine a few months ago that the pandemic and its myriad impacts would still be affecting us on a daily basis as we move into September! I hadn’t thought much about such occurrences, and I must admit in retrospect that I wasn’t really affected mentally or in any other way by the most recent H1-N1 or Ebola epidemics. It was on my radar, but it didn’t impact my day-to-day reality.

And here we are entering the fall months, still in this space between – this liminal space. This description from https://inaliminalspace.org/ is helpful: “The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.”   I wrote about this concept earlier here: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-liminal-space-next-phase/

As the months have passed, more and more things have been revealed, not only directly related to the pandemic, but to all the other crises we have faced. I hear people pondering what it will look like when we have come to the other side of this – whenever that may be.

Eileen Button wrote an interesting post, “Welcome to Liminal Space” https://flushingview.mihomepaper.com/articles/welcome-to-liminal-space/  in which she invites us to use this space to be open to examination of our lives and reality on a broad level and as it applies to us personally:

“This season asks us to notice and evaluate what we’re doing to the Earth and all its inhabitants. It begs us to examine how we collect and distribute our wealth. It demands that we not only notice the vulnerabilities of our neighbors, but to work to change the systems that keep them oppressed. And it pleads with us not only to thank those whom we have labeled “essential,” but to ensure that equitable adjustments will be made so that our resources are placed where our gratitude is.

“In short, this liminal space is illuminating. It’s shining a light on us, which is sometimes unflattering as it shows us harder truths about ourselves and the society in which we live.”

Everyone Has a Role to Play 

How can this reflection and examination happen? Surely businesses and organizations are looking at some of these questions. Hopefully citizen groups and networks are or will be as we move into another season. Our elected officials on all levels are faced with the issues in stronger ways and must respond.

And we individually can reflect, write/journal and discuss it with others. Perhaps a virtual gathering on Zoom, Google Meet, etc. with specific related topics can be stimulating and generate some creative ideas and directions. Invite friends and acquaintances and try it out. It’s a process in which we all have a role to play.

If you are interested in learning how to use Zoom, there are lots of resources at Amazon.com https://amzn.to/3aZg3sb  or available through a Google search.

Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/

 

 

Using Liminal Space to Create the Next Reality in America

unknown, liminal, tunnel“It would be difficult to exist in this time of global crisis and not feel caught between at least two worlds—the one we knew and the one to come. Our consciousness and that of future generations has been changed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”

Those words by Richard Rohr, author and theologian, articulate something many of us are feeling. It has been several months (for lots of us) of being under “stay at home” orders  or other restrictions so that the infection rates can be reduced and our health care systems can be likely to handle what comes in the long haul. The more that we hear about what is to come, the more caught between we can feel.

There is a word that describes this position.  Not a common word, but one that grasps the essence of what lots of people are feeling.  We are in liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing.

Richard Rohr addresses this directly: “This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of …calling so-called normalcy into creative question.”

I see this perspective as helpful in providing a framework for the days ahead. The most significant things we can do are to use this time to examine what opportunities this massive disruption of our “normal” can offer.

What about our personal normal of the past do we consider important and life-giving to ourselves and others in our immediate circle? What things would we like to modify, change significantly or eliminate?

Then there are the larger questions within our communities and country. This crisis has revealed (to some) and amplified (to others) some of the ways in which our country is not life-giving and nurturing to everyone. The obvious examples are these:

1) the disproportionately high infection and death rates among our African American, Latino, and indigenous groups

2) the high infection and death rates in long term care facilities – nursing homes, assist living facilities, etc.

3) the dire effects of lack of health care services, facilities and insurance among people in rural America as well as among the communities of color mentioned above.

As we view these things – among others – in this liminal space, what do we want to do about them? There is so much pressure to “get us back to normal” which is not going to happen quickly. In fact, it will never be the normal we had several months ago. There are ways in which that is good. To simply return to what was is not in the interest of many, many Americans.

We are having an extended time to look at how we will live, work, educate our children and ourselves, take care of the vulnerable, and make our country a more just and lifegiving place for all of our fellow citizens.

Liminal space is where all transformation takes place. We are on a threshold and we will be here for a while. How will we use this time and space to ponder the next phase for ourselves, the organizations of which we are a part, our communities, and our country?

Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/

 

 

 

 

 

Nurturing Creative Thinking in Challenging Times

thinking

 

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” ~ Mary Lou Cook  

“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward de Bono

Our ability to be creative has been called upon so much during these times when everything is different, changing and unpredictable. It’s required for each of us to navigate daily life. And it’s absolutely necessary for anyone involved in leadership and management of a group or organization of any kind. “Necessity is the mother of invention” has new meaning and significance!

Sometimes we tire of the pressure to come up with new solutions in so many areas of life and feel as though we don’t have much left creatively. Perhaps that is you right now.  There are a few practices to consider which could re-ignite your creative thinking. They are simple and may not be new – but I have found it easy to forget or set aside some of these helpful tools in the midst of everything swirling around me.

Our creativity is needed for small, daily things that come up like managing the disappointments and desires of children (or adults in the household) who are frustrated and unhappy about restrictions. And it is needed for finding ways to navigate the larger and longer term things such as the future of your work situation and managing your home space longer term with changing use – work at home, distance learning for students, etc.

These approaches can condition your brain to tap into your creativity easily. Give these a try:

  • Expect yourself to be creative. Nurture the mindset that there are ways to address whatever you are facing that will be positive and fulfill the needs expressed. In other words, don’t give up.
  • Start an Idea Catcher or Idea Journal. Capture ideas you have about anything, whether they apply to immediate situations or not. By doing so you are reinforcing your recognition that you are creative – and you will also have things to consider acting upon in the future.
  • Have a virtual sharing session with a few people. We can be inspired by others and inspire them in return. This takes it a step beyond one-on-one conversations you may be having. Use whatever tool or platform works for you – Zoom, Google Meet, etc. You may want to choose a specific topic like how each of you are managing some shared concern or situation. Or it could be a sharing session about how each person/family has innovated to meet the changes of the past few months. There is value in naming, acknowledging and celebrating what you all have done to manage and thrive!
  • Have a virtual brainstorming session. Invite people who are dealing with or anticipating the same situation, for example ways to provide support for distant parents when travel is not advisable. Or creative ways to celebrate upcoming holidays safely. These interactions and exchange of ideas can help you re-focus on the creative ideas that work best for you and help you narrow down your options.
  • Focus on fractals for a few minutes one or more times a day. Take photos of some you see in nature and post them where you can see them regularly. It can both relieve stress and free your mind to be creative. (See my blog post here: https://carolbrusegar.com/use-nature-and-fractals-to-reduce-overwhelm-and-stress/ )
  • Practice asking yourself “What if….” questions that focus on positive possibilities like “What if making dinner every night is a positive, interactive activity for the family?” (The alternative is “What if making dinner is another disaster of complaining and whining?”)  Or if you are alone, “What if I learn a new craft that I enjoy?” (Rather than “What if I sit here in front of the television all day again every day this week?) The positive questions shift our thinking in amazing ways and ideas can flow easily.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes, using whatever technique works for you.
  • Deep breathe throughout the day. https://carolbrusegar.com/deep-breathing-for-stress-relief/

We are by nature creative. By nurturing our creativity we can enhance our lives now and in any situation in the future. As we look forward, creativity is going to be necessary on every level. This reality shaking time opens up possibilities for innovation that can be life affirming at all levels. I, for one, intend to expand my creative skills to take advantage of this.  Two resources I recommend are the following:

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are feeling fear about the future and your ability to creatively live in the coming months and years, this can be inspiring and helpful.

The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp.  Included are simple exercises that can expand your creative thinking as you go about your daily life.

 

 

 

The Art of Allowing – When Everything is Topsy-Turvy

hands+candle2020 so far has been topsy-turvy for all of us. So much has changed, so much is uncertain. For some of us it’s disastrous in terms of income, housing and of course health. There is a wide spectrum between those most severely impacted and those who are affected in less extreme ways. But every single person is affected. As someone noted, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.”

We all intellectually understand that life is going to teach us some tough lessons. No one escapes sickness and death. Everyone is going to have challenges in their life to mold them into what they can become.

When we are faced with upheaval, we generally have two major approaches most of us take: the default of fighting and raging against it – or attempting to ride it out as best you can, knowing that there is an ebb and flow to life and that this situation is temporary, no matter how it feels right now. The latter usually involves letting go of the illusion of any control and working with what you’ve got.

Letting go of control is anathema to many of us; Americans seem to be especially afflicted with an illusion or obsession of independence. It has become part of the cultural struggle – for example, no government official can tell me I have to wear a mask vs. our actions affect others and for the good of all, I will wear a mask.

It is encouraging to hear and read about people who are using this unexpected time in our lives to do the proverbial “making lemonade out of lemons.” As we find ourselves in situations that make us pucker up at the very least, many are seeing ways to use this opportunity to reflect on what was normal. Was that normal optimum? How can we do things in ways that are more family-affirming and better for personal health and wellness? People are creating things that better meet their needs and desires now. What impact will that have as we move through and beyond the immediate crisis?

What is Your Mindset?

Our mindset is key to how we handle any situation. Some people have a foundational belief that life is one big struggle after the next, and then you die. They might feel like they are always unlucky or accident prone. Our current situation just reinforces that. Others see life as basically good with some rough spots that they will go through and probably gain knowledge from. From both positions, the expectation nearly always is that person’s reality. What we focus on, we will attract more of.

Most of the time we don’t even realize our mindset. We live on autopilot and by living that way, stay in the same rut we’ve come to expect. Cultivating and reinforcing a mindset of basic good is a key part of continuing to go through this pandemic year and beyond. By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on. Those who view situations as being temporary, will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in life’s rear-view mirror. That mindset leads to flexibility and adaptation – two outlooks that help people recover from bad situations.

Create an allowing practice

If you find yourself struggling to maintain that belief that things will get better and we will get through whatever it is we face, creating an allowing practice and using it daily can be of help.

This is a simple practice you can do daily when you put your attention and awareness on allowing rather than resisting. Think of:

  • accepting things as they are;
  • identifying, receiving and celebrating the positives, surprises and gifts in the current situation;
  • trusting things will ultimately work out.

Taking a short time each day to do this can release some of the intense responsibility you feel for all the outcomes of everything facing you and your family. It may also release some of the anger (even rage) about the difficulties of these days. Give it a try!

Summer Superfood Smoothies For Health And Energy

smoothies Summer is winding down, but warm weather continues for many areas. I have noticed my early summer focus on healthy eating has diminished. Perhaps you have also. This is a good time to re-look at some options and boost our health and energy as we move into fall with all of its unique 2020 challenges.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of options of summer superfoods and what they offer, I wrote about them here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/

Why are smoothies such a good way to consume those great superfoods? Here are three good reasons.

Quick and Easy Preparation

Superfood smoothies are very quick and easy to prepare. They take literally 5-10 minutes at the most to prepare. Gather your ingredients, do any chopping, throw the ingredients into the blender and within a minute the smoothie will be ready to drink.

If you are preparing for one person, I hope you have a personal blender which makes the process easier. There are many varieties; check them out here: Personal Blenders

They Taste Delicious

You can combine ingredients to fit your taste preferences, either of green-based or berry-type smoothies. Eating or drinking something “healthy” that we don’t enjoy means we likely won’t continue consuming it very long. So experiment with recipes and variations to find combinations you love and look forward to drinking. (I suggest a great recipe book below.)

Drinking Your Smoothie in the Morning Starts Your Day With Energy

Although smoothies are great whenever you choose, there can be benefits to having one for breakfast. Of course, they are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and high-calorie pastries. And they deliver lots of nutrients which will help you to feel more alert and energetic and ready to start the day.

Now, let’s look at a few tips for creating healthy superfood smoothies.

1) Use either fresh or  frozen ingredients

Fresh ingredients are great when they are easily accessible and economical. But frozen ingredients can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. If they were picked and frozen right after being harvested, they’re going to maintain the same level of nutrients as they had when they were fresh. Many times frozen ingredients are cheaper to buy, and there is less waste too.

2) Use natural flavorings

If you find your superfood smoothies to be a little bland, always use natural flavorings to enhance them. Did you know for example, that dates can help to add sweetness to a smoothie instead of sugar? Honey is also an excellent natural flavoring to add sweetness.

3) Add water to thin the smoothie out

If you find the smoothie is too thick, water is the best thing to use to thin it out. It’s healthy, readily available and will help to thin the smoothie out without adding additional calories.

4) Tailor your ingredients to your needs

Any superfood smoothie will provide a healthy alternative to many of the other things you might eat. Perhaps you would like to boost your immune system or want to take off some pounds. If you have those goals, you can research ingredients or recipes that will work for that.

5) Pair your superfoods carefully

Not all superfoods will go well together. So, when thinking of what to add in the smoothie, be careful to match the right superfoods together. Orange fruits and avocado or kale and almonds, are great examples of superfoods which work well together.

This cookbook will help you with both tailoring your ingredients to your needs and in deciding on combinations of superfoods. It provides recipes, indicates what they offer your health, and is a great reference. http://Simple Superfood Smoothies: A Smoothie Recipe Book to Supercharge Your Health

smoothy book

 

Dixie, Stephen Foster and the Song Track of Our Childhoods

 

The Golden Book

 

“I wish I was in de land oh cotton, old times dar am not forgotten,

Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.

In Dixie Land whar I was born in, Early on one frosty mornin’,

Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land! Den I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray, Hooray! 

In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to lib and die in Dixie.Away, away, away down south in Dixie….”

I picture myself as one of about thirty white children ranging in age from six to thirteen, in a rural one-room school near Stoughton, Wisconsin in the 1950s, heartily singing this song, “Dixie,” (as we did). It takes me back and it prompts questions about the role of music in our early years and what if any imprinting it may have done.

In those rural one-room schools that endured until the mid-1900s, one teacher taught all subjects to all eight grades, including music. I really can’t imagine managing all that. Of course, they relied on basic curriculums and standard songbooks. For our regular music time, we relied heavily on The Golden Book of Favorite Songs, A Treasury of the Best Songs of Our People.

The Golden Book was first published in 1915 with subsequent copyrights in 1923 and 1946. Probably thousands of schools used this popular volume around the country as a first exposure to American music for millions of children. The nostalgic value for many of us is indicated by the price of “vintage” copies of the 1946 edition on Amazon.com: $799.39 and $855.58. Now reprint copies are also available.

I remember not only using it regularly at school but also receiving my own copy as a reward from my teacher Mrs. Olson at the end of first grade. She had written in the front “To a very sweet girl with a very sweet voice.” Somehow through the years, I lost that special copy of The Golden Book but happened to find one of those reprints on Amazon.com some years ago.

I haven’t paid much attention to it recently, until reading a reference to “Dixie” – one of the songs I first learned in that book. I found my songbook to see if the authorship and background of the song matched and took some time to examine the whole volume. I have recently been doing a lot of reading and viewing about cultural diversity and how racist policies and practices have been built into American culture and commerce. A part of that is also understanding how the actual events of our history have been taught and told from a largely white view over the years. There’s so much more to learn to have a full view of who we are as a nation and why.

Looking at The Golden Book as an iconic mode of learning during at least half of the past century is quite enlightening. It is an interesting combination of three major elements: 1) patriotism: quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge to the Flag, The American’s Creed, and the Gettysburg Address plus all of the typical patriotic songs; 2) religion:  a responsive reading from the Psalms, several Christmas carols, and a group of typical hymns sung in Protestant churches; and 3) culture.

Culture is the theme of the majority of the songs. One category, “Folk Songs,” includes several Stephen Foster compositions – “Old Black Joe,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Old Folks at Home,” “Uncle Ned,” and “Massa’s in the Cold Ground.” Other songs in that category come from Scottish, Irish, English and other Northern European countries.

Reading the words to the Foster songs makes me cringe. I wish I remembered how I reacted to them when I was 7 or 10 or 12 years old. Our area of southern Wisconsin was all white and far enough from Milwaukee that we weren’t regularly exposed to the diversity and issues of that city as young children. These songs provide imagery, words written in dialect, and depictions of formerly enslaved people as missing and yearning for a return to those days. Noted in this section of “The Golden Book” is that Stephen Foster lived from 1836 to 1864, pre-Civil War. It states that he often visited “Negro camp meetings and there studied the music of the colored people.”

For example, from “Massa’s in the Cold, Cold Ground” –

“Massa make de darkeys love him, Cayse he was so kind,Now dey sadly weep above him,

mourning cayse he leave dem behind. I cannot work before tomorrow, Cayse de tears drop now.

I try to drive away my sorrow, picking on de old banjo. Down in de cornfield, hear dat mournful sound;

all de darkeys am aweeping.Massa’s in de cold, cold ground.”

What did we think about that? How did we process it? What messages were implanted that we couldn’t even articulate? How did the songs fit into what we were explicitly taught? I wish I had access to some of the textbooks we used back then. How did they address slavery and describe Black people? How whitewashed were the descriptions?

 Going back to “Dixie,” notes in The Golden Book indicate it was written by Dan D. Emmett to be performed by the minstrel group of which he was a part, Bryant’s Minstrels, in 1859. This all-white group that performed in black face was one of the most popular of the time. “It became the great inspirational song of the Confederate Army” notes also indicated. (I learned elsewhere that Emmett disavowed the song’s association with the Confederacy.) Minstrelsy was popular from the late 1830s into the 1920s and even beyond in various forms.

Have you thought about how the music you heard and sang when you were a child affected you? What kinds of songs were they? What were the messages, implicit, explicit and inferred? How might these still be affecting your beliefs and attitudes today? Ask those same questions about the music your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other children are hearing and singing today.

As white folks striving to expand our knowledge and awareness of American history in all its dimensions so that we can change things that must be changed, this kind of learning and reflection is so important. It’s an essential part of creating a more perfect union.