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thresh*old|  n. An entrance or a doorway. The place or point of beginning; the outset. The point that must be exceeded to begin producing a given effect or result or to elicit a response.

Straightforward and simple you say? It basically sounds like a door step. That is, until you let the various definitions breathe a little.

On the surface, a threshold does not appear to have a lot to do with martial arts, Buddhism, watercolors, or our existence.

Thresholds are a place of emotional transition, where there are no guarantees of any richness or payoff.  Just the actual experience. Transitions are typically places from which we initially pull back and are overly cautious. Certain temples are designed with extra-tall threshold to trip up the bad spirits.

I recall the very first time I was the starting second baseman for my college team, getting off the bus in the middle of the night at Paris Island and the first time I walked on to the mat in an aikido class.

I can vividly recall all those situations and I really don’t remember lots of feelings of  self-confidence.  Wonderment, maybe.  But mostly fear  of what exactly is going to take place next.  Will it be humiliating, uncomfortable, or out of my control?  Or will I simply be the foolish butt of some cosmic inside joke?

More than any of that I remember just not knowing and not being sure how to do that.  “Beginner’s Mind.”

The worst and best elements of being a beginner are the same.  The situation offers really only one sensible choice.  It is to be profoundly present in that moment and afterward to embrace the new experiences and the fingerprints they form on your identity when the experience has passed and you rejoin your day-to-day life as a slightly older person.

Possibly at that point it’s beneficial to merely find a place to sit down with a mug of coffee and think about that transition. Daido Roshi said, “If you miss the moment, you miss your life. We don’t need a grand plan: I’ll live my life as a threshold. It’s enough to practice now. It’s enough to practice this.”

Sometimes we don’t notice thresholds until we have passed through them but asking “what did I learn about my true self” can define them.  And us.


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