I've recently had a right old de-clutter at home, I've an industrial designer to keep me on my toes and he talked me through the principles of space; how important it is for each piece of furniture in your home to hold its own so that it can breathe and hold its own in a room. For when we do this, the return on this investment is our hearts and minds also have space to breathe.
I hadn't realised the difference it could make by rearranging furniture ever so slightly, my home feels more peaceful and now I've become a little bit obsessed for it. My drawers have been royally Mary Kondo'd, and I have gifted so many things to a box for Charity. I usually leave things lying around as reminders for me to do things, bourne out of a poor memory and a undercurrent of fear of forgetfulness I cannot tell you how good it feels to put things away and simply write ONE list. You are probably laughing at me for this kink in my behaviour, but it's been an absolute lightbulb.
This sense of space is also important for us when we meditate, in fact it's the same for us in anything we do, if we feel tight, rigid of thought, narrowed – how skilfully do we interact with ourselves and others?
In meditation if we are trying to corral our wild and wilful mind to behave, or not give space to difficult emotions the mere act of attempting to control gives us no wiggle room to simply allow for a busy mind and work through the process to a space of peace.
'All effort and struggle comes from not being spacious' Sogyal Rinpoche
Spaciousness permeates the way we interact with others too if we lock one another down and pop people into automatic boxes we miss many aspects of a person's character. Take for example someone who may be mindlessly ambling around Tesco oblivious to the two metre social distance rules and sidle up to you in the confectionary aisle. Our natural instincts may be to get cross (look at what emotion is going on beneath and I wonder if it looks a lot more like fear), we may give them an icy dagger stare, a harrumph, or we may pointedly and noisily move unwillingly away.
By not giving space to our emotions, we narrow the moment - tightness, effort and struggle are in play, and we walk away rankled of mind, they leave bemused, shamed, angry or possibly oblivious! Which can serve to re-turn the cogs and circle us back into annoyance.
So, space, what space can you bring to you today, what space can you bring to your practice? How about simply allowing things to be as they are, allowing thoughts, allowing a wild mind, tension, how about acknowledging that our minds need space, and our physical body needs space to breathe.
When we practice in times of challenge, infuse it with kindness, we are not here to battle with difficult emotions and leave ourselves raw, but simply, kindly allowing things to arise. Giving space to our meditation practice also affords is a wider view of life, and its challenges. Whilst today may be rubbish, we may have a brighter tomorrow, we may have kindness from an unexpected source we could not foresee, or we may simply notice the warmth of the sun. Giving ourselves space is a real gift.
The Peace of Wild Things (excerpt)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
By Wendell Berry