The concept of space can be a little controversial. Allow me to explain. There are, for example, positive connotations when we talk about having more breathing space in our daily lives, yet should a partner tell us that they need some space, panic is more than likely to set in. Why is this?
In the first example, freedom to stop for a while and take a break is more than welcome. In the latter example, we are likely to assume that something is wrong, that the other person feels less for us than they once did when in actual fact the person is merely stating their need for space. A need that, whether we admit it or not, we all have. It is my belief that space is essential to our wellbeing and growth. So why is it that the idea of space can feel so confronting?
When we have more space in our lives we get an opportunity to uncover how we are really feeling, what is true for us. When I gave up my job and went traveling I suddenly had the space to decide how my life could be, how I might fill my days, what my preferences were. Often when we have no space to choose, when our lives are filled with things that seem imposed upon us, such as our obligations, an unfulfilling job or what our partner needs from us, then we lose touch with what is truly possible for us. Realising this has led me to create space in all areas of my life.
Giving our creativity space
Back in 2012 I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote the first draft of a novel I’d been carrying around in my head for close to a decade. When people ask me what the status of that book is now, I tell them that it needs a serious edit and for that, I joke, I need to lock myself away in a cabin in the mountains for at least six months in order to get it into a fit state to be shared with anyone else.
“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” ~ Pablo Picasso
I’m half joking when I say this but, in actual fact, I know that I won’t get to a second draft of my novel unless I do carve out some serious space to do so. Writing the first draft saw me lock myself away for a few weeks as I created the space in my inner world for characters and plot lines to unfold and emerge. Writing a novel for me needs space but the same can be said of any kind of creative endeavour. My current commitment is to publish a post every Wednesday and I know that if I don’t keep space on Monday and Tuesday for the necessary thought, writing and research, then the post simply won’t get done.
I know it sounds obvious but I think that so many of us fail to achieve our creative goals because we don’t get strict about protecting the space in which they can be realised.
“We need space to be productive, we need places to go to be free.” ~ Laure Lacornette
Creating space in our relationships
When talking to people about love and relationships, often the heralded sign of a deep connection is the intensity of the experience, most often measured in terms of time spent together. I used to view love in this way and for sure if I got involved with someone, I took it as a positive sign if we couldn’t get enough of each other and spent hours and days in each other’s company without needing a break.
These days, I see things differently. As I said to a friend recently, who called me for relationship advice when his intense love affair had abruptly fizzled out, think of the way things burn – if something burns intensely, it burns out quicker than if it gently smolders. These days I like my love smoldering rather than ablaze and for that to happen the connection needs space.
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~ Joseph Campbell
I know that if I don’t get space within my relationships, that it harms not only the relationship but also my relationship to myself. I need space to recharge, to nourish myself, to cultivate my connection to self, to meditate, to rest and recalibrate and if I need those things then the chances are the other person will also need space for something. Two people sacrificing their needs for the sake of being together does not end well, believe me.
Seemingly pointless arguments are often attempts by our sub-conscious mind to create the space that we need but have failed to create consciously.
In the early stages of a romantic relationship it’s even more important for me to protect my space so that I don’t lose myself in the relationship or get too attached. I know from bitter experience that both of these ultimately cause suffering and can cause irrevocable damage to a fledgling relationship.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” ~ Max de Pree
When I hear the words ‘breathing space’, my shoulders relax, my chest expands and I remember to breathe deeply. I don’t have a great relationship with time and often feel like I am running from one thing to the next. Ironically, when I feel like this, my tendency is to speed up, do more and do it faster but in actual fact I know that what I need to do is slow down, do less, create some breathing space and by that for me, I literally mean some space in my schedule to sit and breath.
I try to find time every day to mediate, to light a candle, burn some incense and sit on a cushion and simply follow my breath. It doesn’t have to be for long, more often than not I sit for only ten minutes but this practice creates the space for me to re-connect to myself, to feel centred and grounded which helps me to stay more mindful throughout the day.
Space from worry
Unlike traditional meditation, where the aim is to observe our thoughts, let them go and bring our focus gently back to the breath, I also have a daily morning practice that allows me to create much-needed space in my mind. Each day on waking, before I do anything else, I open up my laptop, disable wi-fi (if I am feeling particularly disciplined) and free write 1000 words. I don’t edit or judge what comes up, I simply write down whatever thoughts and feelings arise. Over time this has become a practice of emptying my mind of all the little worries and niggles that would otherwise bother me throughout the day, giving me the space to get on with my day and focus on what matters.
Our fear of space
In today’s society we seem so scared of space that we attempt to fill every waking moment with some distraction. So what is it that we are so afraid of? If we create space what is it that we think we’ll find there?
I go into a silent meditation retreat for 10 days next month and it will see the removal of all things that currently occupy my space. These include talking, social media, my phone, my emails, my work, my social life, TV, music and books. That feels scary to me. I find myself asking if I take away all of these things, what will I be left with? When I think of it, I have the same feeling I did as a child queuing up for a ride at a theme park – a dizzying mixture of fear and excitement. Fear of the unknown and excitement at the prospect of all that wide open space.
Creating more space in your life allows you to make more conscious decisions about what your life entails. If you can, keep some space totally free for you every day. Not once a week but every single day. If you are scared of being alone, look at that. Ask yourself what it is that you are afraid of? Consider facing the fear. Sit with the loneliness without rushing to fill the space, without picking up the phone, checking emails, watching television or reaching for a glass of wine. Be in your space and breathe.
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