Creating Space holds a (usually) monthly group chat session centered around a particular topic. This month we ventured into discussing what exactly “creating space” means for us as individuals and as a group. As usual when we come together like this, I found myself putting words to things that we were only cognitively understood but not fully realized. Here are some things I learned about Creating Space:
First of all you have to decide what you are creating space for in your life. Our group focuses mainly on spirituality and spiritual goals but the way I see it (and the way I explain it as often as possible) once you step foot on a spiritual path, there is no separation from spiritual and worldly pursuits. Any attempt to separate the two will only lead to failure in one or most likely both areas. But that’s another topic for another day. Define what you are creating space for…spirituality? Self-love? Creativity? Once you know what you want more of, understand you will need to create space both externally (in your physical world) and internally (mentally and emotionally).
Creating external space means making time for your pursuit and establishing an environment in which your goals can be achieved. Creating external space for spiritual practice means setting aside time for meditation/prayer/contemplation, reading and studying, etc. You are best served by dividing that time into three categories: Continuous, Scheduled, and Intermittent.
a) Continuous — this is a practice that is almost always going on. Usually a simple reminder like wearing a crystal around your neck, or a mala, or even a visible tattoo on your wrist that says “Right Now It’s Like This.” Anything that serves as a gentle reminder throughout your day of your goal and the behaviors you intend on engaging in pursuit of that goal.
b) Scheduled — this is the practice you commit to engaging in regularly. Some people can study scriptures every day, others once a week, others can’t do it at all so they find some other tool. How often and how much does not matter as much as how consistent you can be. If you know Monday night is “meditation and study” night and commit to making that your schedule, then you are far better off than “well I’ll try to get to it sometime this week.” Let’s be honest, most likely you won’t. I know because I wouldn’t either. Schedule as much or as little of your practice as you can, and play around with it. If Monday night isn’t working, don’t jump down your own throat and give up altogether, try another day, another time, another practice.
c) Intermittent — this is a practice you sprinkle in throughout your day, never really knowing what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be when it comes to you. This is your chance to be creative with your practice. Set an alarm on your phone to go off in the middle of the day with an inspirational message, take a deep breath and center yourself every time the phone rings, do the same at stop signs, or before walking into/out of an establishment. Put a couple of hymns, kirtans, or gospel songs in your playlist. Anything goes here!
Creating internal space is not as straightforward as the external because time and environment can be measured and manipulated but you can’t reliably schedule thoughts or feelings. This mode of practice involves more self-monitoring and experimentation than the other. Here are a couple of things to look for:
a) Your willingness to “Let Go” — the word “open” came up a lot during the discussion yesterday and I believe it is a good barometer for spiritual practice. It is good to take inventory of what things and people and experiences you have closed yourself off to in life; then honestly inquire as to whether or not being closed is serving your higher good. You can start with very little things like, being cut off in traffic. You don’t like that, you’re not here for that, fuck that dude. That’s what being closed to the event and to the other person involved looks like. Does it help to be closed there? Does it harm you, at all, to be open to the experience *gasp* of being cut off in traffic from time to time? “Oh, this dude cut me off. That happens sometimes. I hope he stays safe cuz I know I am.” The more you can let go of trivial rules and expectations, the more internal space you create for peace, love, happiness, joy, patience, goodwill, etc., etc.
b) How often you can move away from “I Can’t” towards “I don’t want to” — try saying these two phrases out loud and I bet you will feel the difference in space between them. “I can’t” is final, constricting and limiting. Whereas “I don’t want to” is optional, and gives wiggle room for the choice you always have in life.
c) Your ability to set aside thoughts — be clear in understanding that I am not saying “stop thinking” or “set aside thinking” which is a monumental task that is best pursued by monks and exceptionally blessed people. Nope, for you and me, us regular folk, we just have to work on letting individual thoughts fall off to the wayside. This means you do not buy into the importance of each mental nudge, but rather watch it happen in your mind, like a picture, until it moves on and another thought takes its place. Yesterday, a group member put it like this, “It’s like taking a mental sigh. Thoughts take up space in your mind, like air in your lungs, so you create space there by just gathering it up and *siggghhhhhhh* letting it out.”
Many good things happened during yesterday’s chat but that’s all I will bother you with today…what about you? What did you learn this weekend? Or how do you create space for what matters most in your life?