Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Growing Tree: The Importance of Connecting with Space

So, I have to laugh at myself, yet again, for, although I have lots of space/time in my life, I always seem to fill it with fun, relaxing, or spiritual activities, like yoga, meditation, and writing, and suddenly, my life doesn't feel so spacious anymore.  Then I hear myself frequently saying to others "I just need more space!" and then I have to ask myself, just what is space anyway? If I had more space in my life, what would it look like? Would it be literal, like a bigger house or a bigger living room? Would it be mental, like more space in my head? And even if I had more space, whatever that looks like, what would stop me from filling it with clutter, both mentally and physically?

So, practically speaking, why would we want more space anyway? Why not cram our day, our minds, our houses, our lives full of more stuff, more clutter: more things to do, more things to eat, more things to read, more things to clean, more toys and gadgets and movies and friends and information and furniture, fashion magazines here, cookbooks there, swimming lessons over here, laundry and ironing over there – why not have our lives as full as this sentence?

Because, like trees, all things need space to grow, need space to deal with change, need space to deal with the unexpected. Just as trees need room to spread their branches and move with the ever-changing winds and unpredictable weather conditions, so do we. If there's literally no room in our lives, then dealing with that unexpected phone call, that unexpected sewer problem, that unexpected death will be very stressful, indeed.

Let's start with the first question: what is space? Just as the space of outer space is necessary to hold the matter of the universe, the planets, the stars, and so forth, space is necessary for anything to be at all; it is the intelligent, place holder that gives all of existence an opportunity to arise and manifest as it is, whether it be a large, green sofa or a brilliant epiphany. If you've got a small living room filled with old newspapers and out-dated encyclopedias, a room with no space at all, then there literally isn't any space for a large, green sofa.

Likewise, if you've got a small mind full of all the content of all those old newspapers and outdated encyclopedias, as well as worries and to-do lists, a mind with no space at all, then there isn't any space for a brilliant epiphany to arise.

So as far as I can tell, space is both literal, physical space, as well as emotional, mental space. And as you might imagine, the two have a positive relationship: that more physical space facilitates more mental space and more mental space inspires one to connect with more physical space.

So how do we do it, how do we connect with space? As we have seen, space is always there; we don't need to create it, we just need to find it under all that clutter and rubble and connect with it in a real, direct way. Here are some ways to find it, that elusive experience of space:

    • Be Present: Come back to one of the five senses to connect with space: See the green needles on the baby pine tree, smell the Christmas tree smell, feel the prickly sensation on your fingers as you touch the pointy pine needles.
    • Create More Unscheduled Time:  Create more unscheduled time in between scheduled things, no back-to-back appointments, meetings, or the like, making sure there's more time in your day than your lists of things to do require, giving you room to deal with whatever surprises the day may bring.
    • Do Nothing: Yes, that's right, sit down and do nothing: no TV or computer or phone or even a book. Sit down and give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing.
    • De-clutter your House: Get rid of stuff: furniture, books, clothes, and clutter, remembering that increasing physical space also increases mental space.
    • Go Out into Wide Open Spaces:  Wander around in a farmer's field or a forest meadow. Experience the space a football field or the expanse of an ocean view.
    • Meditate, or practice yoga or any other mind/body practice, for their very purpose to connect with space.
    • Look Up at the Sky: the biggest space of all.