In our modern world, we often feel like we are in a constant state of busyness and doing. Such feelings result in moving quickly from task to task, responding immediately in communication, and not having a moment to stop, breath, and notice. Creating space is a simple yet elusive concept in our current society. However, when we give ourselves permission to stop and create space between our thoughts and our actions, we are able to prevent reactive responses and instead engage in life feeling grounded and aware.
My partner and I are spending the month of August living and working in upstate New York. We both have family nearby and are attempting to explore the possibilities of bicoastal living. In the process of navigating the details of our summer experiment, it has become apparent how different our intentions are for this trip.
My partner is excited to spend time with his family, visit old childhood friends, and network for new job opportunities in Brooklyn and Manhattan. His agenda feels social and connected to others. I, on the other hand, desire to use this time to get quiet, create a more regular writing routine, be in nature, and slow down to observe all of the new things around me.
Having wildly different expectations of an upcoming experience with your partner (or friends and family) sound familiar at all?
Upon openly discussing our thoughts for our time away, I felt immediately contracted, defensive, and closed down while my partner was sharing. Rather than being present to his feelings, my mind was running through a steady stream of internal rumination: How can he not understand what this time is for? Why would he want to travel across the country for a month that is just as busy as our normal day-to-day lives? Why isn’t he able to see that my way is the right way?
See what’s happening here? This experience is just one example of what can unfold when we aren’t creating enough space to observe ourselves and separate our thoughts from what may easily become a reactive response.
Cultivating a foundation of presence in our lives requires that we begin to notice the moments that we are allowing our thoughts to rule and overtake our interactions. Rather than actively and empathetically listening to what our partner, boss, friend, parent, or child is trying to share with us, we are running through our own internal dialogue while exuding an energetic expression of “when is it my turn to talk?”
When this happens, we miss out on the beautiful and complicated details of the now. We aren’t present and we aren’t hearing what the other person is saying, which inherently means that we are missing out on the unique opportunity to connect with someone else from a deep, heart-centered, and open space. As American author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said,
“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
Having a handle on the first two cornerstones of presence, Grounding in the Now and Observing the Mind, I want to introduce to you the five simple actions we learned from our friends over at Search Inside Yourself on how to create space:
- Stop: That’s right, I said STOP! Stop what you are doing, saying, thinking, and feeling…simply stop.
- Breathe: Breathing allows you to become grounded and gain clarity.
- Notice: Pay attention to your senses, physical sensations, and whether you have stopped paying attention to someone else while they are talking.
- Reflect: Dig deep. What is coming up for you in this moment? Why are you having a reaction? What do you think the other person’s experience may be?
- Respond: Take enough space (minutes, hours, days, even a week) to be able to come back and respond from a grounded, aware, and open place. If you still feel highly tied to your emotional experience, you probably need more time.
So now I turn toward you. Are you willing to take the risk of pressing the pause button amidst the chaos and overwhelm of everyday life? Are you willing to create space, get quiet, and really listen to your truth and the truth of whatever is happening around you? Are you willing to SBNRR?
Don’t worry, I’ll be right there with you.
Message from the Editor:
Wanting to learn more about these concepts from the comfort of your own home? Feel free to check out our 5 week online Mindful Living Essentials Program.
If you are looking for more opportunity to create space and engage in empathetic listening, come to our free and open-to-all Mindfulness Community event July 27th here in San Francisco. Check out our Facebook event page here.