In about 10 days, I will be at the Pacific ocean, facilitating a radical water ritual for women. This ritual offers the opportunity to let go of and release the old stories, beliefs, patterns, and pain that no longer serve who we want to be.
As this ritual approaches, I am reminded of previous rituals and workshops that I’ve either facilitated or participated in. I’m reminded of everything that begins to unfold prior to the actual event.
Last year’s water ritual:
For instance, in the days approaching last year’s Ritual of Letting Go, I began to hear story after story of really difficult things arising for the women committed to participating in the ritual.
There was the dramatic dissolution of a long-term relationship, pain-filled emotional patterns surfacing, and just extra-sticky doubt, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty arising in general.
Then, on the morning of the ritual itself: a car tire was punctured, another car broke down completely, and just all kinds of crazy, unexpected things popped up making it difficult (impossible for one participant) to arrive at the designated time.
It was fascinating!
As the various stories began trickling in, prior to the drama of the day itself, I sent out the following email to the participants:
“The ritual has already begun.
In fact, the ritual begins the moment you commit to participating in it. I’ve spoken with several of you over the past couple of days and heard stories of really intense things coming up. This is normal. And to be expected.
You might be experiencing unusually difficult life challenges, or you might simply be feeling extra reactive and more easily triggered than normal. Whatever the case may be for you, stuff coming up is a good sign.
It means energy is already moving; the things that need to be released are coming to the surface. Take note of what is coming up for you and add it to your list of things to release.
Again, we are already in the ritual.”
The ritual (or workshop/group/marriage/whatever you are committing to) does not begin the day the ritual is actually performed. No, it begins the moment you say Yes.
Saying Yes opens the door.
Saying yes opens the door to transformation, to change, to that which is new, mysterious, and unknown.
Saying yes also opens the door to all which stands in the way of the transformation that needs to occur.
My friend, Cynthia, calls all these things that arise when on the verge of transformation “Threshold Guardians.”
Note: While this is likely a common term, I first heard it from her, so she receives the credit. 🙂
Threshold Guardians can take many forms. Some include:
- feeling extra emotional, reactive and easily triggered;
- fear, anxiety, doubt, uncertainty, and yes, more fear arising;
- old, unresolved patterns surfacing (ex: getting into fights over old stuff with your partner);
- being in a state of resistance and/or considering backing out of the thing*;
- weird life things happening (like your car breaking down, a child becoming sick, losing your keys last minute, etc).**;
- a vague sense of dis-ease or discomfort (a very very tricky Threshold Guardian);
- being in a state of distraction or overwhelm, of forgetting about it, being late, etc (another very tricky TG).
*There are times/things that really aren’t right for us – it is often important to discern whether, for instance, the desire to back out is because the thing is truly not right for us or whether we are simply experiencing a very tricky Threshold Guardian.
**Again, it is a matter of discerning whether these circumstances are Threshold Guardians that need to be walked through or valid reasons for discontinuing this particular journey at this time.
Most of the time Threshold Guardians are there to help us reaffirm our Yes, our commitment to our own transformation.
They are rather like gateways (or initiations) we have to walk through so we can receive the healing and transformation we are requesting.
It is normal to be scared.
It is fine to resist those things that can transform and change us.
It is also proper to hold everything that is coming up with a certain lightness of perspective so that we can walk (or crawl, or hop!) through it in the best way possible.
We don’t have to like the Threshold Guardians.
We don’t have to skip through them with laughter and joy – although this may be the case at times (yay!).
Often, however, it truly is a matter of gritting the teeth, gathering ALL possible allies and skills, and just getting through it.
For example, a very common Threshold Guardian for me is wanting to back out of something last minute. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prepared for something in a state of total resistance, overwhelm, and total hatred of EVERYONE and EVERYTHING only to arrive at the ritual or event and have it hold the exact medicine I needed.
When we commit to participating in something (anything!) that has the potential to truly transform us in some way, stuff will come up.
While the nature of the stuff varies from person to person, the important thing is to retain some small fragment of perspective – perspective that reminds you that this is normal. This is to be expected.
And, that the very fact that stuff is coming up means the thing you have said Yes to does have the potential to change you in some way… which is what you want!
…at least I assume you are seeking transformation and healing; otherwise, why would you say Yes?… 🙂
I have so many stories I would love to share about the Threshold Guardians I have stepped through over the past few years. Maybe some day.
For now, what threshold guardians have you stepped through? I’d love to hear about something you committed to that brought up all sorts of stuff for you and how it resolved.
Of course, just saying ‘Hi’ is adored as well!
Photo credit: Schäferle from Pixabay
Larisa i can hardly believe what I have just read!
I am currently exploring the idea that resistance is some kind of a tool/guide/map showing us the path to take in order to continue our personal growth.
I love the idea of threshold guardians .
I notice when I commit to things I often then start to back track my way out of them and often experience doubt and anxiety – I am beginning to see that this inhibits my growth and stops me getting the most out of life. Thanks for an interesting post.
Welcome. I love your exploration! For me, resistance very often *is* a guide/tool showing the path for continued growth. Beautifully said!
Thank you, Larissa.
I used to think that all the stuff that happened was some kind of coincidence, but it (kinda) makes sense to think that after all it’s exactly the change what’s causing it.
Right now I’m not feeling any of that, but my partner is because he’s going abroad for the first time in his life and all sorts of stuff are affecting us. It’s good to know that it’s normal, that we don’t have to like it and that if I become even more supportive with him, instead of fighting with him or even starting fights, things will be easier.
It’s very inspiring to me to hear how you are supporting your partner as he walks through his threshold guardians. Going abroad for the first time is Huge! And, for me at least, most definitely brought up many challenging things. My best to both of you. <3
Thank you 🙂
btw I just realized I misspelled your name, sorry. I’m new to your blog.
All the best
Larisa Koehn says
No worries 🙂
I’m happy you are here.
I like the term threshold because I often think of ritual as a journey, the last part of which is crossing the threshold. The bulk of the work happens before the final phase, the ritual itself is the last step. The ritual itself is only the symbolic crossing of the threshold into the new. The transformation actually comes before in the preparation. Then when all that has been completed we are ready to step through the doorway. But this is only the last step in a series.
Sometimes the more challenges there may be leading up to a shift, the more valuable the ritual becomes.
Yes! I really appreciate your words. That often seems to be the case for me as well, that much of the work is done prior to the actual event or ritual and that the ritual then becomes the symbolic act of completion (or the ‘crossing of the threshold into the new’ as you said).
And yes, also, to your comment about the more challenges, the more value. Thanks!
Let’s see, some of my threshold guardians have been several nights of insomnia followed by a single night’s sleep with VIVID dreams; forgetting to prepare and gather [whatever physical items needed] because I’m so wobbly from lack of sleep; having a campsite that usually sells wood NOT selling wood and having to go back into town because the forest itself was soaked; negotiating people out of the area I’d already determined was the Right One; extra clumsiness & spaciness. But really, all kinds of stuff. Always stuff that you have to get through.
Larisa Koehn says
What great real-life examples of Threshold Guardians! Yes, there always seems to be something (or many many things) that one must just get through. I hope that the transformation you were seeking did occur – or something even better than what you thought you wanted (this often seems to be the case for me – that the ritual leads to something unexpected and actually more aligned than what I thought I needed.) 🙂
ps. I especially appreciate the piece on ‘extra spaciness and clumsiness.’ This is another TG that is especially difficult to navigate.
I am happy to report that in all cases, each ritual (several group and several individual) returned MORE than I ever expected. I think the key is to just keep stumbling/moving toward that threshold. *Of course* there are going to be times when you simply CANNOT make it, and times you feel like a big dork for even trying, but you do what you can when you can and everything will work out so that if you’re paying attention, a threshold will indeed be crossed. I really appreciate your mentoring in this area! xoxo -case
Larisa Koehn says
Beautiful! Thank you, Casey. 🙂