The Practice of Creating Space

Our modern lives have very little space. Space for quiet. Space for stillness. Space for just being. Space is time away from work, chores, social media, entertainment, and any other kind of “doing.” It is time spent with ourselves, in the present moment with our body, our emotions, and our mind. We say we’ll do it on the weekend, on vacation, or once the kids have graduated, or once we retire. But there always seems to be an excuse to avoid the experience of space.

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Kayaking up to an eagle’s nest.

Even when we find a quite moment in the midst of the din of our daily lives, there is the ever-present voice of the mind. It is always working to fix and to figure out, to question, to judge, to compare, to blame, to worry, to plan, and to dream. It is often our mind that is our biggest challenge to creating space. Now the mind is not the enemy, something we must overcome or quiet. But it is important to know the true role of the mind, implementation. The mind is very skilled at taking a goal or destination and knowing what to do to make it happen. However, it is the heart that decides the goal or destination. In the modern world, especially in the western culture, we have made the mind the implementer and at the “decider,” and we often leave the heart out all together.

The work I do has led me to understand that the heart is where direction, answers, clarity, peace, and freedom lie. In order to find these things however, space is needed. The heart cannot be heard over all the noise and busyness in our lives. Our challenge is then to create that space for ourselves.

I too have a very busy mind, and was having trouble creating space for myself. And yet I knew that doing so was vitally important not only for the line of work I’m in, but also as an entrepreneur in general. I need that space to be able to connect to myself, which allows me to connect better with others and the world around me. Space also allows the creativity and new ideas to come through. I tried going off social media and not watching TV for a while, but my mind is too skilled at finding busywork if I eliminate the distractions. I would clean, organize, or take care of all the little small tasks and errands that I’d been putting off. I’d do anything but just be.

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Close up of eagle parent and eaglet.

I needed to take a big step in order to create space for myself. So I recently spent a week in a cabin at Lake Darling State Park in SW Iowa. There I’d be alone (except for my dog Molly) with nature, away from all the things in my life that require doing.

I had planned to be outside a lot, hiking, kayking, swimming, sitting by the fire, etc. However, as we all know, things rarely go as planned. It was very hot for late May in Iowa. This didn’t seem to bother the bugs. They were out in full force requiring a lot of hand waving and swatting for any outdoor activity. And finally, Molly became a challenge for me. She’s quite old and didn’t want to go outside at all, and if I left her in the cabin she became quite anxious.

In the moment this all felt like a burden, but it forced me into complete non-doing. I could not busy myself with technology because I had no cell service, nor could I busy myself with the activities I’d planned on. This was a gift I now realize. The one hike I went on I was completely in my head navigating with the map on the trails, and entirely focused on the destination and not completely present with the moment. Being stuck at the cabin for most of the week ensured that space would be created.

At first I did feel like I was going a little crazy, but it was just my mind desperately trying to find something to do. That’s its job, but I don’t have to always cater to it. So instead when I felt frustrated or bored I just did nothing. After a while I began to feel the space around me. The ideas began to flow and along with it an excitement for my work that I haven’t felt in a long time. And then I’d be bored and frustrated again, and sometimes I gave in and found something to do. But I’d eventually come back to just being, and the creativity and excitement would return.

Space is always there, always available, and it’s a practice to feel it. Often we give up on things because either we can’t do it right the first time, or because we did it right once, but then lost it. That’s not what creating space is about. Just like me, you will feel it sometimes, and other times you won’t. And that’s okay because we do need to “do” things from time to time. The important thing is to be in the practice of creating space for yourself, to make time to listen to your heart, to live in the present moment.

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Cooking dinner over the fire with my sous chef.

Not all of us can just up and go for week in the woods (however I would content that it’s possible for more of us than we think). So we need tofind things we can do each day to help us connect to ourselves, to move into the body and let the mind rest. It doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to be frequent. Remember, we are creating a practice. Here are a few ideas:

  • Before getting out of bed, rest one hand on your heart and one on your solar plexus. Just breathe and pay attention to your body, noticing anything you feel.
  • Do 10 minutes of stretching in the morning. It can be yoga, Qi Gong, or just whatever feels good to your body.
  • Find a quiet space to drink your coffee and eat your breakfast in the morning. Don’t turn on the news.
  • Drive without the radio on or talking on the phone.
  • Set a reminder for several times a day and when it goes off take 5 conscious breaths.
  • Start a meditation practice, just 5 minutes a day is all you need to start. There are many meditation styles. Pick one that feels good to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Go to a park.
  • Take a long bath.

These are just a few ideas, but there are endless possibilities. Choose something(s) that feels good to you. At first your mind may seem like it’s fighting you. It can complain all it wants, but you do not have to act on it or try to make the mind stop. Just observe and stay with your body as best you can. Over time it will get easier and easier and you can increase the amount of time as it does. Always be gentle and patient with yourself. Some days it may feel easy, and other days it will feel horrible. Both are fine. I meditate an hour a day and this is still true for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not doing it right, or I’m not good at it. It just means that every moment is different. We are not seeking a destination in creating space, we are seeking the journey, the experience of space, the voice of our heart.IMG_1472