Crossing The Threshold
first published May 2018
My friend, Yvonne Laeubli, runs vision quests in the Swiss Alps. Based on Native American traditions, “The vision quest is a retreat and pause from everyday life. […It] is a confrontation with oneself, with the solitude and power of nature […] asking for an interaction between heart, body, mind, and soul. It is about nourishing the spirit, meeting the unknown…”
In the preparation, participants are taught to cross a threshold. Out in nature, without the clarity of a door to signal the shift from day to day thinking and their social minds, they have to consciously decide on a place and a moment when they will cross over into this solitary time, without entertainment, with an intent to meet a different Self.
Something similar occurs if we sit down to meditate. Once we have begun, we hold an intention not to jump up and make a cup of tea, or have a chat, or pick up a book.
And there’s a threshold to cross when we decide to do creative work. We know that we have to meet a different Self in order to ‘plug in’ to the source of our creativity. Of course there are jobs we can do around our creativity that do not require us to cross the threshold, such as completing clearly defined tasks, whether that’s checking punctuation in writing, scaling up a drawing, or stretching a canvas. Those and similar jobs can create a gentle transition that leads us gently towards the threshold, where we then stand back to look at the scaled up drawing and begin to consider whether it needs revising, or re-read the newly punctuated story and consider whether any nuances of meaning have shifted.
Nevertheless, at certain points there is a threshold to cross and we can feel resistance to crossing it. On a vision quest, we might feel concern about how we will deal with prolonged solitude, hunger or discomfort. That makes sense; naturally we might feel a little resistance to this. But it’s confusing to feel something akin to anxiety about the simple act of starting to paint or write. What is it in us that perceives this as dangerous? And what is the nature of that threat?
Let’s consider what we're threatened with. We might feel unable to make a decision about our work, and sit or stand there, stuck, bored, frustrated. We might make a bad decision and ruin work that was almost complete. We might make work we dislike. We might face disappointment as our brilliant vision doesn’t materialise. There might be no brilliant vision at all, just hard work with no guarantee of a successful outcome. It's understandable that we might not be keen to face any of those situations, yet none is dangerous or life threatening.
So back to the previous question; what is it in us that perceives crossing that threshold as such a huge threat? We are considering the possibility of meeting a different Self in creativity, meditation or on a vision quest. Is it the little self, the one that will be displaced, that fears annihilation? The numb self being woken up, and starting to feel; the proud self that considers itself to be special, and doesn’t want to be deflated by possible failure; the complacent self, that feels ok and doesn’t want the boat to be rocked - not when it’s so comfortable! The self that dreams of perfection and doesn’t want the reality of an imperfect outcome. Those little selves may well have reason to be afraid; their existence is threatened, even if only for a time. But we are not those little selves, those sub personalities, we are much more than any of them. We don't have to claim their anxiety as our own.
And the act of seeing any one of those sub personalities at work means that already, in witnessing it, we are no longer identifying with it, and we are creating a space between ourself and the little self that can grow into sufficient distance and detachment to give us the freedom to say, “Enough.” It’s time to cross that threshold.