Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Threshold Pilgrimage - Part Five: More Musings on Thresholds

Threshold in the hutong district of Beijing, China
   My idea of "threshold" is evolving.  It is expanding and ripening as I continue to prepare for my trip.  Today, I will explore the concept from an Eastern perspective.

   On my trip to China in 2002 I was totally enthralled with the ancient culture.  It is where I developed my love of Taoist thought and walking on the Great Wall ranks right up there as one of my top 3 life experiences. (The other two are swimming with dolphins in Bermuda and visiting "ground zero" at Nagasaki, Japan)

    We spent an afternoon in the ancient hutong district in Beijing and it was there I learned about a new way of regarding the "threshold".

   In the entrances to the houses in the hutong, the threshold was a high stone.  The more important the personage dwelling there, the higher the stone.  It was a symbol of rank but even the least important had a stone of 8-10".  It was to keep the luck of the home from flowing out.

   You never, ever, stepped on a threshold.  You stepped over it.  Men stepped over left foot first, women right foot first.  The height of the stone and the stepping ritual was meant to slow a person down so that the passage over and into was done with deliberation and respect.

My hand painted noren cloth
    Five years later, in Japan, I learned about the noren.  The noren is a decorated cloth that hung in a doorway, both internal doors as well as external ones.  The outer ones designated shop names and could be quite long...keeping dust out of the shop.  I was told that it also served a much more subtle purpose.  A person had to bend their head to pass into a room...a sign of humbling oneself and showing respect, characteristics highly prized in traditional Japanese culture.

   Both of these threshold examples remind us that the experience of "crossing over" should be done deliberately and with respect.  Ritual and ceremony at life's crucial thresholds has diminished in our Western culture.  Rites of passage are less important now than in the past.  Perhaps, that is an unfortunate thing.  Some moments should be approached with thoughtful consideration.  Some passages deserve more than a Hallmark card.

   Preparing for this trip has taken on a ceremonial tenor for me.  Each part, from writing in my vade mecum, preparing my packing list, reading special books and musing on thresholds, has brought me slowly and respectfully  into the experience of this pilgrimage.  I want to approach this journey with a gradually maturing sense of awe and gratitude.  I am truly blessed to be able to make this journey at all and I'm well aware of this.  This series of posts prior to my departure are made to illustrate the need to make the departing as important as the journeying itself.  Each has its role to play.


foxysue said...

Thank you for these thoughts, they are something for me to mull over at this important time for me too... I like the idea of having respect... My daughter in law is Chinese she is now spending time with her mother in China who also is at the end of her journey. Maybe one day I might visit her homeland and experience for myself some of their traditions.

Thank you for posting, you encourage me no end with your very interesting perspectives. x

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you for your comment, Sue. I always value your thoughts. I'm glad you are finding some solace in my little musings...that makes it all worth while!

Mystic Meandering said...

Lovely post... Definitely giving me a new perspective on "thresholds" and "passages","crossing over", and the "journey of life." Doing it all with deliberation, consciously, purposefully with respect for the journey itself... I had never seen the symbolism before in stepping *over* the threshold - truly crossing over. Lots to ponder in what you have offered... Thank you.

Patricia Turner said...

Little did I know back in December when I chose 'thresholds' as my word for 2014 that I would have so much to say about the idea. It is certainly ripening in my mind!