“To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering, or loss. Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly. Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced.”
A threshold is an entrance to something significant, something new, something challenging, and often mysterious. In one sense, we are always standing at a threshold, always on the cusp of the unknown, for at any time our life could change in ways we never imagined – for better or for worse.
John O’Donohue, the author of the above quote references the worse when he states that crossing a threshold could mean having to face harsh realities like “illness, suffering, or loss.” Certainly these and other misfortunes call us to enter and embrace new territory both within and without, challenging us to develop coping skills we didn’t know we had.
But the fragility and vulnerability O’Donohue speaks of is not just in relation to the stark and random nature of life, the fact that something hurtful can happen to anyone at any time, but to our susceptibility to the sacred. Whether we know it or not, and usually we do not, there is an underlying hallowedness to life. This may be easier to sense in “magical moments” of beauty, joy, and peace, but even when life is difficult or merely uneventful, there lurks a spiritual presence beneath the surface of the ordinary. Psychologist James Finley refers to this as the “transcendent dimension of the concrete immediacy of the present moment.” In other words, everything and everyone is both down-to-earth and out-of-this-world at the same time; it is possible to wake-up to the felt sense of this life altering truth anytime, anywhere.
Although we may have tread upon it often, we “stand on completely strange ground” when we realize that everyday tasks, common places, and familiar people, are a threshold to what is ultimate and infinite. At home, at work, or wherever we are, there is a spiritual presence to engage, and “a new course of life” to be embraced.