For most of my life I’ve avoided empty space like the plague. If I wasn’t working or spending time with friends I’d fill up my time with television, video games, pot, or any number of other distractions.
On the rare occasion when I did find myself with space, like when I couldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d find myself thinking about all the things in my life that didn’t make me happy or I wished I could change about myself.
All that changed, when I lived at the monastery. Instead of avoiding these empty spaces, I embraced them. I sat in empty space everyday for hours. I sat still, eyes fixed, staring at the floor but looking at myself and my life. And although I didn’t always like what I found, I needed to see it.
The No Space Age
When people describe empty space, they usually call it wasted time or the source of boredom. And if you watch the people around you it’s pretty clear that as a society we’ve gotten very, very good at filling up empty space. Anytime you see people waiting for the bus or a movie, you’ll find them nose deep in their phones trying to fill up these in between moments.
One of the reasons most of us don’t like space is the discomfort we feel when we’re confronted with it. When allow for space, everything you’ve been longing for and everything you’ve been avoiding begins to arise.
Instead of letting this stuff come up, you fill up the space. You distract yourself to you avoid letting it in. And while this is ok some of the time, if you do this most or all of the time, you’re setting yourself up for pain.
Your hidden feelings, thoughts, and fears always find a way to the surface. And it’s up to you whether they do that through conscious action or unconscious and unhealthy behavior.
That’s what happened to me before I learned to embrace space. Despite all of the distractions, I never really avoided my heartache and self loathing. I just expressed it through destructive behavior and empty relationships.
There is no secret way to avoid pain, sadness, grief, and anger in life. But if you create space around these emotions, to feel them, and learn from them, they will no longer control you or prevent you from being happy.
How to Create Space
Here are some simple methods I’ve used to create the space I need to work better, fully experience my life, and increase my capacity for wisdom and compassion.
1. Find Tiny Moments of Silence. When I left the monastery a wise lay person advised me to find tiny moments of silence throughout the day. It could be on your walk home, in the shower, or before you go to bed.
So much of your life will be filled with activity and conversation. That is why it’s important to remember that these little moments of silence are truly precious.
2. Schedule Space. It’s a good idea to not let your calendar be totally full by leaving tiny blocks of space between appointments. But an even better idea is to schedule big blocks of free time whenever you.
You can use these times for walks or just free form creativity. The key is to honor your need to be spontaneous and open to new possibilities.
3. Create physical space in your home. Whenever possible make sure to create some open space in your home. Instead of stacking things on top of each other, give objects room to breathe. Not only will this make things easier to find, but the space you see outside yourself can help you feel the space you long for inside yourself.
4. Allow space in conversations. When you’re talking with someone else, there is no need to fill every moment. Instead say things and then pause. Let them speak and then pause.
These moments of space in communication can help you respond with more compassion and can help other people absorb what you’re saying more fully.
5. Give your life space. Planning for the coming 1 – 5 years of your life is not a bad idea, but make sure you give yourself some wiggle room. Things happen differently than we plan and sometimes you need extra space to grow.
Don’t be in such a hurry. Your life will change in ways you can’t imagine. Instead just keep investing yourself fully into what you love and let everything else take care of itself.
Ok now for the Challenge.
Challenge #22 – Space
- Choose one of the ways of creating space listed above and try it for a day or a week.
- As you do notice what’s different when you have more space.
- Notice any resistance or discomfort you feel.
- Notice what arises when you give your life the space it needs.
- Reflect – Once you’ve tried the practice, reflect on your experience:
- What did you learn about yourself when you had more space?
- What fears did you have to face?
- When you felt uncomfortable, what did you do?
- Was it harder or easier than you thought it would be?
- Is this something you want to do more of the time?
- How could you make this part of your life in a real way?
- Finally share in one of all of the following ways.
- Blog – Write a post about what creating space in your life means to you. Or write about what you did for the practice part of this challenge.
- Post – using #30dayhappy and/or posting in our facebook group share what practice you chose and how it worked for you.
- Comment – Share anything you learned or any challenge you faced in the comments below.