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Creating space in our lives

Light and Shadow
Catherine Al-Meten

Aristotle is quoted as saying, “Horror vacui”—“Nature abhors a vacuum.”
Ever notice how you rush to fill in space whenever some time opens up or when space is created after you have cleaned out a room, the garage, a drawer or quit a job? We’re in a big hurry to fill up time and space, it seems. I listen to friends complain about being busy or not having time to reflect, meditate, or simply take care of themselves. Often after hearing this, I notice that something might happen to create space that wasn’t there before, and the first thing they seem to do is fill the space or the time up again.

Whenever I finish writing a big piece of work, I find myself motivated and energized. If I am not careful, I tend to set to work on a whole new project or series of projects. What I have learned is that it is important to build space in between the activities, the projects, the relationships, or the stages of life. If I give up one job or an aspect of a job, I have found it helps to let some time pass between completing one thing and beginning another.

The same thing goes with communication. Often when we are having conversations with someone, we are busily thinking of what to say next rather than listening to what the other person is saying. Even in the way we process information, we may tend to spend more time mulling over the past or contemplating the future than we do being engaged in what we are doing right now. How often during the day, do you allow yourself time to just be, without feeling the need to do something, worry about something, or engage in conversation that is unnecessary? How often do you fill in empty spaces, not allowing time for silence in between responses? Many of us are not comfortable with too much space. We might be better off if we created a little more space in a number of areas of our lives.

What excuses do you make for not creating more space in your life? One good one is “I don’t have enough time/money for a vacation”. Another might be, “when I get older/retire/learn French”, and the list goes on ad infinitum. Spend a little time considering what you might be able to do a little less often, or do without. Experiment, and notice how long you can sit quietly doing nothing. See if you can choose one afternoon, one day, or one weekend unscheduled, unplugged, and unplanned. Do just whatever strikes your fancy, and if that means a nap or reading magazines, or staring out the window, let it be what it will be. If you can do this, you may be on the road to recovering some space, some time, some room in your life for unstructured being. If you can allow yourself the freedom from a schedule, a list, completing everything, or having a plan that fills in every hour of every day, you might just bump into yourself. You might find a whole reservoir of ideas, feelings, sense, visions, and connections. You might get in touch with what really matters to you.

The challenge for us to create space in our lives is to give ourselves permission to stop the madness. If we have become the rat running through the maze, or feel pushed from all sides including from the inside (that inner tyrant), we may just benefit from creating some space in our lives to develop a deeper appreciation for the gift that life already is. We are so busy trying to become, to self actualize, to integrate, to succeed, or to get to the next level of something, that we fail to see what beauty lies within us, and what we have created in and around us.

If you must do something, make a list of 5 things you would like to do to help you create more space, and then begin letting those things become part of your life. For example, you might give up the idea of endlessly debating with yourself and others about whether or not you should move or go to school, or finish a project that is taking forever to finish. Get in touch with what it is that ties your mental and emotional energy up in knots. And then start untying the knots. Loosen up the hold that you have allowed some things to have over you. Set aside a specific, limited time to deal with finances, pay bills, and do your billings. Then relegate that part of your life to the boundaries of time and space you determine. Stop dragging the weight of things you cannot do anything about around with you. Either do something about it, or recognize you have to release the hold something takes of your time, space, energy, and life force. ‘’

Stop right now and do nothing for 5 minutes. Set a timer, and let the timer worry about how much time is passing. See how you feel about doing nothing for just 5 minutes. And then, if you can, do 5 more minutes. One of my favorite exercises is the slow walk. I set a destination for myself, and walk to, say the coffee shop or around the block or out to the end of the pier. Walk in one direction for 5 minutes. When you reach the end of 5 minutes, turn around and retrace your steps, only this time, slow down to half the pace. Walk slower, and simply notice the difference between walking at your normal pace, and slowing yourself down. Do this on different occasions, and notice how your respond differently each time. Sometimes, it could almost be aggravating to slow down, while other times it allows you to feel calmer and more observant and peaceful.

Simply notice how you are traveling through life, and what you are filling your life with. This is a bit like clearing clutter from your energy field. And clearing some of the clutter that has piled up in your life does release energy and allows more space, more room, more time for creativity to bubble up. Let there be spaces between the time you spend doing whatever you do. The way we choose to live our lives, to move from one part of our day to the next, reveals more about who we are than what we believe or proclaim. The way we allow our minds, thoughts, emotions, and feelings to settle down, may be more refreshing and renewing than a week’s vacation.

Creating a lifestyle where we maintain a lower level of tension, anxiety, and stress, or where we handle stress by moving more slowly, is one of the gifts of living life mindfully. See what you can accomplish today by slowing down, noticing the space between thoughts, and the lulls in conversations. Let there be space to let anxiety, anger, frustration, or stress defuse and settle. Use your quieting thoughts, your voice, your body to move more gracefully, more closely to the center of peace within you. And you will discover the gift within you—one worth cherishing.

Ponder the quotes of some writers who have conveyed their own experiences of creating space.

“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Use your breath to create space. With each breath you take in, you create space for something you need to be received, and you allow whatever it is that is used up or finished, to leave. Use your breath and your prayer, chanting, and singing to calm your heart, and lower your levels of stress. Strum your guitar, beat on your drum, or run your fingers over the keyboard, and let the music and you become one—healing and calming your heart.

“Letting go becomes easier when you see, not what you lose, but all that you gain in creating space for something new.” —Renate Vullings

As Aristotle said, nature does abhor a vacuum, but if you have no space, no room, no time, there is no room for new ideas, creativity, relationships, opportunities, jobs, to come into your life. This is one area of your life where you do have the choice to act or not. Create some space and see what happens. You might be presently surprised.

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