Let's Organize Ourselves Around Spaciousness / by Ariel Carson

Sharon Salzberg quotes the Buddha as having once said, "Develop a mind so filled with love that it resembles space..."

What would it mean to organize our mind-body-selves around spaciousness and move from there? If there are an infinite number of points between any two points, then we can infer that there is an infinite amount of space between each of these points as well. It follows that between every atom in our bodies there is an infinite amount of space. We can therefore consider ourselves permeable, interconnected, affected by and affecting our environment near and far. We are not closed systems acting in isolation.

image by Veronica Balasyuk courtesy of Unsplash

image by Veronica Balasyuk courtesy of Unsplash

We have space. We are space. But we forget, or maybe no one ever told us. Maybe part of our job here is to figure that out. We interfere with this spaciousness and come to believe that there is no space in or around us at all. We believe that space is a commodity reserved for the elite. We jam ourselves into boxes defining who we are with the feeling that it's impossible to be anything other than what we've been labeled, the stories we've told ourselves, and the definitions by which we're abiding. We think we've been backed into a corner with no possible escape.  


In this claustrophobic state of being we're reacting to life as if there's no choice, as if it's all happening to us.  We harden ourselves, or we shrink and collapse to protect ourselves in an attempt to exert control over our circumstances.  We perpetuate this tightness and constriction because it becomes familiar, and what's familiar becomes comfortable. And in this closed space we lose sight of alternatives. We shut ourselves off from the possibilities of feeling safe, loved, joyful, curious, and inspired. These are not the conditions that foster growth and vitality. And the only person with the power to change those conditions is you.


Spaciousness is intangible. We cannot touch it. It is denoted by an "absence of", and it is uncovered through release. We cannot make spaciousness happen, and simply just releasing can result in flaccidness.  Rather we can intend and allow for release in oppositional directions. Allowing for release into opposition frees up space and feeds expansion.


An embodied example is, if you make your head release away from the bottom of your spine you feed inflexibility and rigidity. If you allow yourself to release your head but without the directionality of your head in oppositional relation to the bottom of your spine, you collapse. Alternatively, when you allow your head to release away from the bottom of your spine this unearths space through your whole torso and your hips, knees and ankles. It is the physical equivalent of "lightening up".


image by Patrick Fore courtesy of Unsplash

image by Patrick Fore courtesy of Unsplash

Consider for a moment the space between your computer and your spine; between the insides of your ribs and your heart and lungs; between your chin and your chest, the base of your skull and your upper back; between your fingers and between your toes. These are just a few examples of spatial relationships that are forever moving and changing. What about the space between you and your next door neighbor, or between your head and the sun, or your feet and the center of the earth?  Noticing these relational spaces contributes to our ongoing practice of contextualizing and "presencing" ourselves through the unfolding of time.  It's this fuller understanding of where we are now that can offer us choice over where we want to go next, and who we want to become. 


Our embodied spaciousness is created by, and simultaneously enriches, our capacity to dive in to the space between any given stimulus and our response, i.e. does what we encounter keep us locked in habit or does it free us to grow and move forward?  This is one of the most powerful tools for change. Within this space between stimulus and response we recognize that every moment contains infinite possibilities. May we all be lovingly spacious enough to recognize this limitlessness in ourselves and each other. 

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." Viktor E. Frankl