Well, maybe you can blame that on summer’s late start or the so-so weather, but then is it also possible that you haven’t managed to create enough SPACE in your days and life this summer?
These are supposed to be the lazy crazy hazy days of summer, yet I’m going to bet that many of you barely have room to breathe in your life right now, never mind be lazy and crazy.
And you would come by this life suffocation honestly… We live in a society that demands a lot of DOING but not a whole lot of BEING. We’re encouraged to cram our calendars to the brink, banish silence from our environments, and hold up multitasking as the ideal. (I’ll tell you a secret about multitasking: when you’re doing a bunch of things at once, you’re not really present for any of them.)
Also, modern technology, as useful as it can be, is seriously strangling any last vestiges of space in our lives. All the natural pauses and breaths we used to have built into our day like walking to work, waiting for the kettle to boil, or standing on an elevator are now filled with texting, mobile conversations, and checking email. We’ve gotten so addicted to constant stimulation and busyness that many of us actually feel deeply uncomfortable with space and silence, and we end up doing our damndest to fill it up any little space that comes our way.
Yet space is exactly what we need in order to truly reconnect to ourselves, the world around us, and tune into the richness of our life. Without it, we are robbing ourselves of much of life’s juice.
“I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened.” – May Sarton
So, let’s start tangibly creating more space TODAY.
First, see how you score in the short quiz below about space-filling habits. Then, if you find you need some work in this department, I follow up the quiz with 10 simple and immediate space-creating activities.
Before any of that though, do me/you a favor right now: STOP whatever you’re doing and take a big luxurious BREATH!………………(Remember, I can see if you don’t do it! ; ) Then, raise your arms up, clasp your hands and take a nice opening STRETCH – widen that diaphragm, open that chest, and give yourself a big sigh out. Doesn’t that spaciousness feel delicious? See, when you have breath, you have life.
Wishing you beautiful breathing room today, Dear Ones!
“You don’t even need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, simply wait. Don’t even wait, just be still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Kafka
How do you fill up space in your life? Here’s a look at the objects, habits, and thoughts with which we compulsively fill up space. Please count the ones that apply to you (count it if it is MOSTLY true).
1. My home environment is filled with a lot of knick-knacks and clutter.
2. I always tend to have the tv, radio, or music on in the background at home.
3. I am constantly checking texts or emails.
4. When someone else is in a space with me, I feel compelled to fill up the silence with chatter.
5. I tend to over-schedule my weekends.
6. I am constantly planning a few steps ahead in my mind.
7. I eat the majority of my meals in front of the tv or computer.
8. I am constantly “on the go” and use terms like “I don’t have a second to breathe”, “Life is insane”, “I’m so stressed!”
9. I spend a lot of time replaying past happenings in my mind.
10. I often catch myself with my shoulders clenched up towards my ears.
11. I rarely just sit and take in what is happening around me.
12. I find myself snacking a lot out of boredom or anxiety.
13. In conversations I often tune out of what the other is saying to figure out what I’ll say next.
14. I use drinks, cigarettes or drugs to deal with negative feelings or to make things more interesting.
15. I’m always reading, listening to music, or playing games when traveling via transit.
16. I have clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in more than two years.
17. I avoid meditating.
18. When I walk from point A to point B, I am often talking on the phone.
19. I can go for days before taking a deep breath.
20. When I’m alone or when it is quiet, I feel uneasy.
If you circled:
– 0-5 – You’re doing pretty damn well with cultivating some space in your life…yay!
– 6-10 – You are a product of our space-filling society, but still hanging on to some breathing room
– 11-15 – You’re in the “big squeeze” space-wise
– 16-20 – You’re starting to energetically asphyxiate!
10 INSTANT WAYS TO CREATE SPACE
1. Breath Breaks – Set an hourly alert on your smartphone, watch, or computer during your waking hours to remind you to take “breath breaks”. When the alert goes off, immediately stop, take in a deep breath, and savor the air and spaciousness being drawn into your body. Your breath is one of the most convenient but effective tools for connecting to yourself, the moment, and expanding your energy.
2. True Listening – Have a conversation each day in which you mostly listen and try your best not to let your mind wander, judge, or pre-plan what to say next (you KNOW what I’m talking about ; ). Really tune into the other person and try to breath out any discomfort around not filling the space with words.
3. Internet-Free Zone – With smartphones and tablets, going online has never been easier and more tempting. Try declaring an internet-free zone daily — perhaps after dinner or at least in the hour before bedtime.
4. Stretching – Take 2 minutes in the morning or during your work day to do some simple stretching to open up more space in your body. Doing a yoga class three times a week takes your body’s spaciousness to a whole other level!
5. Making a Meal Of It – Eat one meal per day at a table with no distractions. ie. no TV, reading, or surfing the net.
6. Space Clearing – Declutter a very small area… I’m talking a desk drawer, car glove compartment, bathroom medicine cabinet, purse or wallet. Choose something you can clear to completion within 15 minutes.
7. Take your Schedule Back – Look at your calendar and choose one commitment you could cancel to allow a little extra breathing room this week. If you feel resistant to this, ask yourself: Is it more important for me to show up to everything or for me to show up to select things feeling centered and present?
8. Space in the Ringtone – Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh uses answering the telephone as a way to create space. He teaches that when your phone rings, to just wait, breathe in and out and then slowly go to pick it up so that you are at ease when you answer. This energy may even help create space in the person on the other end of the line.
9. Snack Brakes – Before unconsciously grabbing a snack, take a deep breath and tune into what your body is truly yearning for.
10. Silence – Choose a few hours this week to have a morning, afternoon, or evening of silence — no talking, no television, no music, not even any texting or emailing. Put it in your calendar and honor that appointment like your sanity depended on it…because it kinda does.
“The Warrior is not afraid of space. The coward lives in constant terror of space: afraid of darkness because he can’t see anything, afraid of silence because he can’t hear anything. The setting-sun world teaches you to wear a suit of armor to protect yourself. But what are you protecting yourself from? Space. The challenge of warriorship is to step out of the cocoon, to step out into space, by being brave and at the same time gentle.” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche