Taking That Step

I found a threshold to cross in Selkirk

One of my first memories of being on Iona involves a fellow vollie's (volunteer's) leaving. Steve (who continues to be my Facebook friend and very loyal blog supporter) read a piece by John O'Donahue called "Thresholds." So I find it lovely that the same poem was quoted in The Soul of a Pilgrim...

As I wrote in my June Newsletter, I want to to take a look at the "Practices of Pilgrimage," as outlined in Christine Valter Painter's, The Soul of a Pilgrim. These include:

1. The Practice of Hearing the Call and Responding.
2. The Practice of Packing Lightly.
3. The Practice of Crossing the Threshold.
4. The Practice of Making the Way by Walking.
5. The Practice of Being Uncomfortable.
6. The Practice of Beginning Again.
7. The Practice of Embracing the Unknown.
8. The Practice of Coming Home.

"At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres. Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up. At this threshold a great complexity of emotions comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. This is one of the reasons such vital crossing were always clothed in ritual. It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds; to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward. The time has come to cross" — John O'Donahue

This time, crossing the threshold involved three different flights! My spoiled New York self was used to taking the Super Shuttle to Newark and being practically in Edinburgh already.

The Soul of a Pilgrim describes crossing the threshold as seeing what needs to change and moving into that knowing without necessarily knowing what to do about it or what comes next. It's about having the courage to step into the unknown and live in the meantime (which I don't enjoy at all). It's like sitting inside a room and looking out a window where you can dimly see your future in the far distance, but the door to the outside is locked. When I realized my New York life no longer worked for me, I did not cross the threshold easily. A lot of anger sprang up in that moment because I had created a life I no longer wanted to be a part of and didn't know how to fix it. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. When I left for Scotland this past May, I knew I was approaching yet another cross roads and stepped across with a little more grace, but my self compassion has been an uphill battle once again. It really is something that needs to be taken one day, sometimes one step, at a time. 

Another important thing is to understand that the work is never done. The book reminded me that crossing one threshold just leads to another one and another one...and the meantimes can vary between amazingly high to unbearably low. I'm pretty sure I thought leaving for Iona in 2012 was the end point, when in reality it was the start. I followed that thread back to the states, traveled, came to Louisiana for culinary school, got one job, then another...and another, auditioned for the opera, was in some operas, made some friends, re-designed my website, rekindled some dreams...and the thread keeps gaining fibers.

I keep thinking about all the thresholds we choose to cross in our day to day lives: Starting a new relationship, a new job...leaving or letting go of a relationship or an old job, starting a new chapter of our lives, etc. These all require leaps of faith into the unknown and can bring up fears that can be a result of old baggage we have yet to shed or a fear of the unknown (I usually experience a blend of the two). It's a very courageous thing, to keep stepping across these thresholds and building the fibers that create the tapestry of our lives. We want to make sure they are as colorful as possible.