Liminal experiences—Finding Beauty at the Threshold

 Endings, beginnings, and transitions span the spectrum of experiences — they are often a combination of rich, full, challenging, exciting, exhausting, and daunting. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a project that is rather different—at least for me. I’d like to invite you to peek into that experience as it may be something that you want to create for yourself.

As part of my studies, I was asked to create my lineage chart. Here are a few of the questions that I mused about as I began work on this project:

  • How did I get here/How do I come to be where I am now (literally where I live and more importantly, perhaps intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually)? 
  • Who and what influenced me/my development (the people and experiences)? 
  • How did this path unfold (what was the combination of rhyme and reason and serendipity)? 

If you make time to pause and ponder these questions about your life, what surfaces for you? 

What does it feel like to explore your memories of your personal and professional development—your foundation? 

I chose to sift to sort through photos from my life to form the basis for my chart. This was fun, challenging, and time-consuming. I loved making time to sit with photographs and linger over memories of times with my immediate, extended, and adopted* families and friends. I also realized that I either couldn’t easily  access some photos (of my camp days) or I lacked photos of some essential experiences (particularly my college and graduate school years).

While it was wonderful to have so many to choose from, and my initial batch was over 100 photos, I needed to create a piece that shared the people and experiences most meaningful to me. I needed to develop criteria for who and what would be included… It was an important step in my process.

What would be the criteria you would use to show the through-line(s) of the story of your life?

Ultimately, I have organized my photos both chronologically and conceptually. And, I purposefully chose a generative (if often-used) image, seeking to play with its design.

My visual represents, in essence:

  •  The people and experiences that have been my foundation are represented in the roots of the tree. They supported me early in life. These are the people who have had a hand in the co-creation of who I am today.
  • The trunk of the tree holds experiences that further strengthened and broadened my life my schooling and my marriage. 
  • The left side of the trees/the branches hold family experiencesvolunteering and close friends. The center of the branches and leaves are my educational experiences (in part) and my chaplaincy work/CPE experience. On the right are collaborative experiences in my work life that have been particularly meaningful.  

In the future, I plan to write short notes and attach them to this tree (so to speak). I will also be reaching out to the people in this chart to tell them about it and its special meaning.

I would love to know your thoughts on creating such a visual of your lineage. Even more, I would love to see what you create.

Just a little later today I will record a guided visualization to support you in beginning the journey of designing and developing your lineage chart. It will provide the time and space to remember and reflect. (I was tempted to make notes during the visualization, which is definitely not part of the experience. Instead, I trusted in my memory, that I would recall what was most important.) I would be delighted to learn what you think of this guided visualization. I hope you share your thoughts and feelings with me in an email. I have posted the recording below.

*high school foreign exchange experience living in/with a family 

Collaboration— it’s an adventure!

What was your most recent STELLAR collaborative experience?

What made it so fabulous? 

Here’s a different yet related question: When was the last time you worked with someone new or with whom you had never worked before? (Knowing someone and working with them are two different things, no?) And, when I say “work”, I mean, co-created an experience or a project.

I’m about to step into the fourth stage of such an endeavor. The first stage was the idea, the second was the agreement, the third was the conversation about the dance that we could do together and today we will step onto the dance floor together.*A pre-training coffee together!

What factors do you consider before engaging in collaboration—whether that collaboration is by your design or the result of someone else’s suggestion or direction?

I reflect on my foundation, literally what I bring to the experience—my background, experience, goals, energy, and personal style of communication. Of course, I also consider all of the same about my colleague(s), looking for areas of similarity, easy alignment, and possible friction. It is always my intention to step into a situation with eyes wide open, understanding, and leveraging our respective strengths. Being aware of our differences (philosophical and/or practical) enables me to plan ahead, to mitigate areas of turbulence in the flow of the experience.

Assessments are a passion of mine. I rely most heavily on the VIA Character Strengths survey and Platinum Rule. The former focuses my attention on the strengths of all involved in the collaboration while the latter points to areas of easy connection and potential challenges. It’s not so much that these instruments give me answers, it’s that they increase my awareness of my interactions. (I think, very concretely, about how to remain emotionally intelligent through the experience.) (If you’re interested in learning more about these resources, please reach out to me.)

The foundation for all this work is an approach to the process of collaboration and change (because training is all about change). The five D’s of Appreciative Inquiry (Definition, Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny) guide my planning and work. Sometimes I share the essence of the approach with my colleagues and other times I keep it close to the vest, knowing that I am working with it. 

What are your frameworks for understanding yourself and others, collaborative relationships, and planning for experiences/change? How do you integrate your knowledge to create unparalleled experiences?

 I LOVED sharing the training experience with my colleague—seeing how we were both similar and different—and how that benefitted the participants. Of course, it made us better trainers too.

Now that I am back home, with time to reflect, I realize that I would have liked even more time talking with my colleague—processing each day’s events and the entire adventure. In this particular instance, that couldn’t happen though I made time to reflect on my own, and of course, we talked throughout our days together.

I hope you will share your approach to collaboration and the framework and practices that support such events’ planning, implementation, and evaluation. 

*written last week on the way to Belgium