Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Morning Sky with Trees

Are You Afraid of Stillness and Space? Part 2

Modern life conditions us to busyness and a breakneck pace.  So much so that we almost become afraid of stillness and space.

Morning Sky with TreesIn my last post, I suggested nourishing yourself with space.  I explained how space is a vital element that brings balance into our lives, helping to keep stress, distress, and illness at bay.

But, with a strong habit of busyness in place, it can seem almost impossible to nourish yourself with space. Life has sped up dramatically in just the past decade alone.  It seems like everything and everyone is pulling us in the opposite direction from space.

Is Your Self Esteem Enmeshed in Doing?

One of the biggest problems is the way our self-esteem becomes so enmeshed in doing and accomplishing. 

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche highlights how we identify so strongly with our external situations – work, study, relationships, body, blogs, and so on.  He says, “This is identifying with the contents of space, the experience rather than the experiencer.”

But the content of space –  the experiences – are transitory.  Identifying with them so strongly will only bring suffering sooner or later.  The more we can loosen our attachment to experiences, the more happiness we will find.  Space can help us loosen our firm grip on the ungraspable if we give it a chance.

But often, when our identity is so embroiled in activity, we allow very little time for space.

Busyness:  A Protection from Feeling

On the other hand, space may intimidate due to a fear of looking honestly within.

Busyness protects us from feeling pain, anger, despair, sadness, depression, and other turbulent emotions that seem better locked away.  Space threatens the fragile identity we have constructed as it dares us to discover our true self that is beyond all this coming and going of thoughts and emotions.

The very willingness to gently open to our sore, difficult places provides the rocket fuel for transformation.  But, for this we need space.

Try Small Doses of Space

So, often we first need to chip away at our entrenched habits and deepest fears before we can open – even briefly – to the nourishment of space.

We need to ask, “What makes it difficult for me to take space?”  Then we need to listen and begin to slowly break free of our self-imposed cocoon.

With all these strong habits and fear running amuck, the best medicine will most likely be to start with small, less threatening doses of space.

If you have trouble giving yourself the gift of space, you are not alone.  Busyness is the pandemic of the 21st century.  Happily, there are pioneers paving the way, showing us how to imbibe the great sustenance of space.

In Confessions of a Chronic Over-Doer at The New Pursuit, Bill Gerlach tells us how he recently arrived at his own critical juncture between busyness and space.  He shares the lessons he’s learned from being a chronic over-doer as he re-calibrates his balance meter.  He says:

“But there comes a point where even doing good comes with a price to you as a person. A point where you’ve spread yourself so thin that in your zeal to accomplish those things in life that are most important to you, you cannibalize your own ability to thrive in a balanced way. You are unable to enjoy all the things that fuel your spirit and put your — as I like to call it — MoJo Meter in high gear.”

Ali Luke has confronted this busyness demon too.  In Finding an Oasis of Stillness in a Fast-Moving World at The Bridgemaker, she shares bite-size remedies for creating more stillness and, thus, more space in your life.  She asks:

“Do you often feel like you can’t keep up? Do you find yourself rushing from moment to moment, rarely slowing down, barely considering switching off?  It is possible to find stillness, even when the world is rushing on around us.”

Does that sound like you?  As a former workaholic, I know for myself the dangers of neglecting to take space.

Though old habits die hard, they are not impossible to change.  Remember, space is not a luxury.  It is a vital nutrient for a healthy and happy life.

Is there something keeping you from taking space?

You might also like:

Resource:  Healing with Form, Energy, and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 

Image:  www.publicdomainpictures.net

If you liked this article, please share the link by using the share button below.  And, I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Thanks so much for your support!  Sandra

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Nourish Yourself with Space – Part 1

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Hope and Fear in Blogging and Life

19 Comments

  1. Hey Sandra.

    Great post, great ideas – and very true.

    Even as a makeshift spiritual practitioner and meditator guy I am … no so much scared but extremely bored with space and peace, both inside and out. My mind craves ACTION and I have to go out of my way and comfortable habits to give it a dose of the room and peace it needs to rest and recharge.

    It IS a conscious effort, one I appreciate the more I make it.

    Your post is a great reminder to keep consciously seeking peace.

    I’m organising a trip to Papua New Guinea after Easter. I hope I will really be able to reconnect my human being with earth and slow down for a month or two. In peace and stillness comes much needed perspective.

    • Hi Ali,

      I tend to have an active mind too, so I really resonate with what you are saying. Trungpa Rinpoche has said that boredom (in meditation) is the first sign of egolessness. It seems an automatic tendency for most of us to want to keep filling space back up. All those thoughts and ideas are our identity after all.

      We do have to make a conscious effort, as you point out, and, when we do, mind slows down of its own accord. At first, it might seem to speed up because we are paying attention, but eventually it slows down. Allowing for peace and stability of mind is the first practice of meditation and it’s very important as a basis.

      I wish you a fabulous time Papua New Guinea. Our disconnection with the earth element is one reason the environment is going awry.

      I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this topic.

  2. Hi Sandra,

    I’m trying to balance space and activity, and you’ve given me some things to really think about. As a former corporate employee, I was used to accomplishing a lot and always being busy. Now I’m unemployed and sometimes have too much space… I miss feeling useful and connected. I have a lot to learn, and just accepting and being present in the moment is my daily goal. Thanks for the inspiration :~)

    Sue

    • Hi Sue,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It really illustrates how being busy becomes habitual and then it’s uncomfortable when there’s more space in our life. When I was busy, I craved for space. Ironically, when space came, I wanted to push it away. I really understand.

      I also understand the sense of loneliness that you feel. That can certainly come about when we are on our own and I’ve felt that too when I’ve done meditation retreats. It can help sometimes if we foster our sense of connection with all beings in the world. Then – eventually – we never feel disconnected. Just being is being useful, but that’s not a notion that’s widely validated in our culture.

      You seem to be working with this beautiful by shining your light of awareness on it, learning to accept, and being present in the moment. That’s supreme medicine!

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. It certainly is interesting to see what bubbles up once we’ve stopped talking, working, socializing, and being so busy doing that we don’t realize there could be any benefit in simply being. For all the conveniences of modern life, we’ve paid dearly for them with our connection with ourselves and the natural world.

    I don’t — right now, anyway — have difficulty taking space for myself. It will be interesting to see how going back to a full time job and a commute will change the way I deal with my life and make room for myself.

    • I’m so glad you don’t have trouble taking space for yourself, Jennifer. In fact, it seems to help you flourish. I agree – there’s another whole inner world that bubbles up when we bask in space that’s beyond words and beyond description.

      Good luck with your transition back to a full time job and commute. I hope it goes well for you.

  4. Hi Sandra,
    When I allow my space to be cluttered, I am unable to access clarity…usually this is because I Know the Answer but in those moments, fear is stronger than faith. To me clutter is physical “junk” but also old thoughts, ideas, patterns, habits..layers between my heart and the world. When I clear clutter and honor space, amazing abundance may be (and is) perfectly placed.

    • So beautifully spoken, Joy! It’s so easy for our inner space to be cluttered by all these old thoughts and habits. Fear can definitely be overwhelming at times. But I see your know the way to clear the clutter and experience the abundance that is naturally yours.

  5. Great info. Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. Funny how that happens, eh? Thanks for always providing positive inspiration!

  6. Sandra, I love all your posts, but this one is one to print out and read repeatedly! What a great distinction between space itself and the contents of space. That is a concept that will stick with me and help me identify more easily and quickly those times when I get hooked into the contents. This is such an empowering post, helping us move from victims of our own making to spiritual victors. Wow. Really. Wow.

    • Galen,

      I’m glad this post resonated for you so strongly. It’s so freeing when we come to understand that we are not the contents of our experience. We will have to thank the Buddha and all the subsequent teachers for that one, though the theme is also consistent with other great traditions too. I love the idea of being a “spiritual victor”. It reminds me that those who are enlightened are referred to as “victorious ones”. Not because they’ve conquered others but because they’ve tamed their own mind. Thanks for sharing your excitement.

  7. Hi Sandra,

    I usually read your posts by email, so haven’t visited your blog in a while. So many changes! What an innovative design.

    This is such an important topic you are addressing – and in a very practical way. We live in a speedy culture that doesn’t support taking space. So coming up with small ways to incorporate space is a very important beginning.

    And looking at our resistance to letting ourselves be quiet is essential, too.

    You are a voice of sanity in an overwrought world.

    • Hi Gail,

      I like the way you are honing in on the way that we need to take responsibility and not go with the flow. It seems resistance is the normal course of affairs when we try to change a habit, but, as you write about all the time, it’s not insurmountable by any means! The joy of living is growing.

      Thanks for your feedback on the design. I decided to try something very different that provides more simplicity and space. I’m a bit mixed on the dark tones, but I’m still trying it on to see how it feels. It’s interesting that in yin/yang theory, the dark relates to the feminine principle.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. It certainly took me long enough to understand the need to “do” (work) less in order to “be” more, but I’m finally getting it. There’s so much reinforcement offered for running the rat race, but I kind of knew all along that’s all it was. If only I had “retired” from that view 40 years ago…lol Each day when I do nothing (on purpose), I feel more refreshed and attuned. It improves the clarity of my perceptions and actions.

  9. Mike,

    “Rat race” really hits the point. It’s funny that we spend so much of our lives figuring out that we don’t want to be a part of it! But the great thing is that you know now and are able to enjoy space. It’s wonderful to hear the benefits you find – feeling more refreshed and attuned. I’m happy that there’s a “less is more” movement happening these days…more support for people wanting to follow a different tune.

  10. Don’t you think Sandra that at its core life loves balance and is always seeking balance. Sometimes busyness is thrust upon us, it would seem, and sometimes there is space and peace as far as the eye can see. To stay true to our own truth and honor the balance of life is surely one of the most important lessons we can ever learn. Thanks for your lovely insights here and blessings to you.

    • Absolutely, Christopher! I think we intuitively seek balance. I appreciate how you celebrate staying true to your own truth and honoring the balance of life. It’s a beautiful message.

  11. Sandra,

    Case Exhibit A of my thinly spread bandwidth is the backlog of reading I am working through. This post being a prime example. But, alas, it is the perfect start to my Monday, especially since I’m forcing myself to take a vacation day out of the office to clear up some things on my plate.

    Space. Stillness. Silence. I agree 100% with your premise that so many people fill the space as a way to avoid inner emotions and conflict — if you don’t stop the train, you never have to get off and face the world one-on-one.

    As Christopher says, our innate nature is one of balance — and the peace that it begets. But as Joy points out, our culture has brought upon us this unspoken clutter — both physical and mental — that has shifted the balance.

    As I look upon my own life, I’ve done so much to embrace this voluntary simplicity — to slow down and eliminate all that clutter — to create that space and time to maximize experiences and help the world change in small ways. Yet, in that zeal, I’ve kind of filled that precious emptiness — that innate sacred space where balance and peace thrive — with a different kind of clutter. It’s complicated, indeed.

    Thankfully, your words are grounding and like a map and compass, help point me (and so many others) in the right direction.

    Be well,
    Bill

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