Living with the Liminal
We are beings of flesh and blood, of hungers and desires, of ecstasy and quietude. We are beings that must know touch, that find pleasure in beautiful music, and that take in the patterns and contrasts of light and shadow. We are also beings of imagination, of places and things seen yet unseen, of thrills tasted yet never touching the tongue, of being moved by music that our ears do not hear. Our imagination points to the possibility of unseen worlds, of people and song that have never met the eye or ear, of textures never caressed, of scents that could rouse the spirit if they ever experienced skin.
What if the imagination is not only a reordering of the sensory world and its impressions, but a way to bridge the sensory world with worlds unseen? What if the worlds unseen use the content of the imagination as way to communicate, that images are the basis for a language of sorts? What if there is an unseen order to the sensory world that the imagination can feel as signs and symbols? These are the premises that visionary experience in any form rests. Different traditions and philosophies can and do characterize and define the sources of the unseen in a myriad ways, but one underlying theory is the same: The imagination is a bridge to what we cannot sense through our embodied senses. In this use of the word “imagination” we include yet go beyond the worlds of personal fantasy to something much larger.
While it can be an entertaining, insightful, or serious endeavor to speculate about what the unseen worlds “are”—the physical universe as movement and energy, of many universes at slightly different “angles” to our own, of astral and heavenly realms, of the memory and potential of a great being, of the personal and collective psyche of humanity or the planet, or any number of other stories—it' s not truly necessary to have a firm grasp on what the worlds are, but that they are in order to work (and play) with them. Dreams are a natural and universal human experience that provide a gateway to these worlds through the imagination. By personal proclivity and/or practice, waking visions, lucid dreaming, shamanic journeys, oracular activity, and synchronicity are experiences that can expand the use of the imagination to bridge the seen and unseen worlds.
To fully engage with what these unseen worlds are offering us, however, we must take action with our bodies in this world. Such action can be the sharing and discussion of dreams, of the creation of visual or performance art inspired by the content of the imagination, of the application of messages received to lifestyle choices and the service to others and to oneself; in sum, the action honors in this world what the unseen worlds offer. The purpose of this kind of action is twofold: 1.) It allows one to harness the power of the unseen worlds in this world, to bring something into existence which has not yet been; and 2.) Much like a day-to-day conversation in this world, it allows the “conversation” with the unseen worlds to continue by acknowledging the sources of the images that one is listening. This action in combination with the imagination (vision) is what builds the bridges between the worlds. In several traditions this sort of action becomes ritual, and while ritual can be quite powerful if genuinely connected to the unseen sources, one need not use ritual patterns or ritualize every action. A sincere and genuine connection is all that is required to create bridges through embodied action and the imagination.
With practice one can begin to live in a liminal state where many more options for an enriched life are possible: Not only does one have the staggering inspiration from our sensory world, but also invites the inspiration from countless sources of other worlds. One's life becomes the bridge through which the seen and unseen ebb and flow; it is simultaneously personal and transpersonal. This can play out in the smallest of signs—such as encountering an everyday object one saw in a dream the night before—to larger life stories, such as a continual relationship with unseen forces that offer specific guidance or protection for life's trials. And you are not alone—this exchange is constantly happening throughout this world inviting co-creative work and play on every scale. This is the magical life and it is offered to you.
If you are curious about the possibilities that living in such a way could bring in a safe and playful environment, or if you'd like to join with others and experience the magic of a group dynamic and how it can enhance everyone involved, consider attending an Active Dreaming Circle in your area. I facilitate a circle here in Boise; others can be found around the United States and several other countries around the world.
[image credit: Helena Nelson-Reed]