Mirabai Starr taught philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico and is a speaker, teacher and the author of many books on the mystics. Her very personal memoir, Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation, dealt with the life-shattering and changing loss of her daughter. And her latest book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, has just been published, and we are pleased to share some excerpts from it here at The Liminality Project. You may follow Mirabai at her website.
The very boundaries that we often cling to, establish for ourselves, are the ones that trap us, keep us away from where we need to go. Especially in the spiritual life, our many artificial boundaries of mind and heart are the thresholds we must cross to enter the open, empty liminal space of transformation:
“Boundaries can shut out the Holy One and trap us inside an illusory experience of separation. What about this? Let the margins melt. The way of the mystic is the way of surrender, of dying to the false self to be reborn as the true Self, the God Self, the radiant, divine being we actually are. It’s not that the old self — the personality, the ego, the stories we tell about our lives — is bad or wrong. It’s that when we recognize the essential emptiness of our individual identity in light of the glorious gift of our interconnectedness with the One, independence becomes much less compelling. And that’s the path of the feminine: the path of connection.” (67)
If we must cross the many boundaries of mind and body in a life-long pilgrimage of the spirit, the same is true, in the ultimate sense, as we each face the final passage, crossing the threshold beyond this form of existence. Mirabai faced the unspeakable loss of her daughter, a loss that shattered and remade her. Out of that transformation she became a presence for others also dealing with deep grief, as well as those facing the final journey into the great mystery:
“From the ancient Maya to Vajrayana Buddhism, from Celtic Christianity to Greek mythology, many of the world’s great spiritual traditions suggest that when we die we must navigate the challenges of a liminal terrain on our way to everlasting peace …The way of the feminine is to soften into the arms of the unknown. Death is the ultimate mystery, charged with awe, weighted by trepidation, redeemed by promises of deep rest and true seeing. All we really know is that we do not know. And knowing is not required. Striking deals with gods is not required. What we can do is meet what is with tenderness and curiosity.” (212)