Kainoa, Transitions

Lingering in Liminal Spaces

nāhuku, volcano, hawaiʻi

nāhuku, volcano, hawaiʻi

Transitions are difficult, but necessary and serve to usher us from one reality to another. For many of us, they are uncomfortable and the best way to get through them, is quickly. Transitions are meant to be temporary, but serve a very important function for the individual, which is to provide the time and space for reflection and acclimating. I’ve grown to liken it to a calm harbor, a place to drop anchor temporarily, take stock of the journey, rest, and prepare for the next leg.

I had not always been cognizant of honoring transitions until I returned to hula 7 years ago. As an adult, I had grown serious and single-minded, my only priority being my career. Hula always brought out the best in me, and being older, the reawakening and aligning of self felt like a homecoming. It was evident that for far too long, I wasn’t entirely engaged in life, particularly on the physical, spiritual, and artistic fronts. Hula gave me what was desperately missing in my overly sensible and cerebral life. And so every day after that, I willingly and whole-heartedly descended deeper into hula, because I wanted to, but more importantly, I needed it.

Later, I watched “Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames,” and it was mentioned how “death” was necessary in transformation and in pursuit of ones evolution. I didn’t realize until much later, what it all meant.

Three days before a rite of passage, after months of submerging myself deeper and deeper into hula, I was in up to my chin, my head barely above the surface when the realization of the next depth came swift and sudden. My heart began pounding in my ears because I was suddenly aware of what was to happen next. A kind of “survival instinct” kicked in and the dying of self had manifested in my own life, probably not the first time, but definitely the first time I was aware. It was trying to survive, a last ditch attempt to not transform, to not commit to something, to tighten its grasp on what was comfortable and not let go. For awhile, I had been chin-deep, happy and unaware, much to the discomfort of my old self. Essentially, I had been slowly dying, willingly, waiting to be reborn.

It was too late to go back nor did I want to, so I did the only humane thing I could. I committed time to reflect on and cultivate gratitude for how far I had come, then gently and lovingly putting my old self to rest, letting the waters that had been rising all along, envelope me, mai ke poʻo a i ka hiʻu, from head to tail, and when I emerged from the ceremony, I was changed. The new self was in residence and another chapter had commenced.

kulani, hawaiʻi

kulani, hawaiʻi

The next morning, I awoke with eyes wide open. Perhaps not “new” eyes, just enhanced vision, like a smart, new pair of bifocals seeing various dimensions with greater clarity. My old self was gone, fondly remembered, and it was the start of a new chapter. Had it not been for the decisions I’d made leading up to the day before, including the decision to “die”, I wonder what might’ve happened to me? I shudder to consider the slow, painful death that Anaïs Nin refers to in choosing a stagnant life of complacency:

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” 

Since then I’ve “died” a number of times, each death playing pivotal and meaningful roles in my becoming. I’ve gotten better at recognizing transition, delving headlong into the process, and honoring the passing of my former selves.

Change is inevitable, but we can determine how traumatizing it has to be by how we learn to handle transition. Practice definitely does make perfect and youʻll have a lot of opportunities, the rest of your life, to figure it out.