Monk in the World Guest Post: John Spiesman

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for John Spiesman’s reflection “A Threshold Journey.”

I have been thinking a lot about thresholds in this challenging and uncertain time of global pandemic. A threshold is the space between — something old and new, between an end and a beginning, between something known and unknown.  This time for me has been a time between old and new, between an end and a beginning, and between something known and unknown. This time has encouraged me to wonder what happens when I approach a threshold, what and who will I be as I approach the threshold, as I walk through the threshold, and on the other side of the threshold.   I know I have generally resisted not only these thoughts but accepting this as a threshold time for me because of the unknown.  In my humanness I definitely (many times) approach the unknown with reluctance, even though I well know that one of the constants of my humanity is CHANGE. I have come to believe that this time I am experiencing is truly a thin time and am reminded that something new and beautiful is unfolding in me and throughout the Earth. I am filled with awe, wonder, and gratitude.  This is truly a time of death and resurrection –AND all its opportunities for soul work. 

Picture: Dream a New Day. November 20, 2020 ©John Spiesman

During this time of global pandemic, I have been drawn to Christine’s book, The Soul’s Slow Ripening, in which she states that thresholds demand that we step into the in-between place of letting go of what has been while awaiting what it still to come (p. 3). What a unique call this is for a man entering life’s fourth quarter, pondering and reflecting on all that has come before. What could possibly be left to ripen in a fourth quarter soul, I’ve wondered. Then I remind myself that eternal time of the soul is not linear, and the pandemic the Earth has experienced is a mere blink of the eye in the non-linear time of the Universe.  I have worked extremely hard to do as Christine suggests – to release my need to control the outcome of this time, and to allow this time to be a threshold time for me just as it is for our beloved Earth. 

This threshold time has become a time of discernment for me. I ponder who I was before March of 2020, and anticipate who I can be in the last months of 2021, or in 2022. I have learned to savor this time between to think about possible next steps in my earthly journey – a season has perhaps come to an end – and just what might that mean – Just what is a liminal time, and how has this past 19 months been liminal?  I think the most difficult part is being in a time between and knowing that there are things that must be let go so that I can continue to grow and evolve in my own consciousness, depth, and life journey. This letting go, I know, leads to rebirth.

I wonder what could happen if, during this time of uncertainty, confusion, and fear, I (and we collectively) could allow a time of rich and graced transformation to enter the picture?  Would some of our anxiety and fear disappear if we were able to look at this time as an in-between time, and let go?   What might happen if we stayed grounded, centered, connected to the Earth and Universe while searching for a sign of something new to begin to come forth?  

Jungian Analyst Angeles Arrien reminds us that throughout time, thresholds and gates have been symbolic of passageways into new worlds. She notes that these symbols are imprinted in our psyches and announce the possibility of new life or even a new identity. Arrien says that gates and thresholds offer “an opportunity for communion between different worlds: the sacred and profane, the internal and external, the subjective and objective, the visible and invisible, and the waking and dreaming.” (p. 9*) This has certainly caught my curiosity as these months have continued to linger on – and just about each of Arrien’s examples hold true for me – I am clearly passing from a pre-pandemic to post-post pandemic world whether I like it or not, and there is definitely a new identity on the horizon as I begin to emerge – one in which I am so much more aware of the sacred, the internal, the invisible and the dreaming – filled with gratitude for having that opportunity for communion between these two worlds in which we find ourselves. I have been able to discern perhaps for the very first time just what communion is – with the universe and with all creation – and find myself holding space for myself, for others, and for the Earth as something new is being birthed. Arrien suggests that a threshold is the place or moment where transformation, learning, and integration occurs, while a gate is the place of protection and testing, essential before the entry to the threshold – so perhaps part of this Covid-19 experience has been the gate, and part the threshold – definitely something to continue to ponder as I process the test and protection, the learning and the transformation with gratitude and hope. 

Christine’s discussion of Seasons of a Lifetime (Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life) makes me yearn for that rhythm of life that has been true. I am reminded that For Everything there is a Season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and have learned that within and between seasons there can be tension – perhaps the tension of being at a gate….. or perhaps the tension of approaching a threshold…. Or even a tension of living between. I feel strongly that collectively these past months have brought us all into this tension – definitely grief and joy together, and for me, the tension of old and new – of cleaning my personal house and discerning what my interior self might look like when the Earth is borne anew in its post-pandemic form, and most essentially, ponder as Christine suggests, “What is it the season for?” (p.87). What a gift this has been, an opportunity of and for slow discernment. My prayer is (for myself and all the Earth) that this practice will be ours together.

 I spent many, many days dreaming a new day, and in closing, offer this poem.

Dream a New Day

Dream a New Day
Joy, Sorrow, Hope?
Dancing together at sunrise
The Universe awakens

Joy, Sorrow, Hope?
The Dream Maker knows
The Universe awakens
A gift revealed

The Dream Maker knows
Connection with Divine
A gift revealed
Isolation, Despair or Hope?

Connection with Divine
Dancing together at sunrise
Isolation, Despair or Hope?
Dream a New Day


Some of my favorite books:
Arrien, A. (2007). The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom. Sounds True. Louisville, CO.
Valters Paintner, C. (2021). Sacred time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life. Sorin Books. Notre Dame, IN.
Valters Paintner, C. (2018). The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred. Sorin Books. Notre Dame, IN.


John Spiesman has journeyed in formation as a spiritual director, and in dream work through The Haden Institute. Formed in the Jungian Mystical Christian tradition, he welcomes and accompanies journeyers who long for a deeper relationship with the Divine.  John’s interests include spiritual symbols and ritual, church wounds, vocational calls, the Celtic Anam Cara and Celtic Spirituality, the sacred masculine journey, the empath’s journey, as well as intuitive dream work, and dream work in psychotherapy.  John has been a career educator, and currently serves as a Licensed Independent Social Worker, pastoral counselor, spiritual companion and dream worker in Ohio, USA. He can be reached through his website: www.spsj.care

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