The Art of Discovering the Space In-Between

trapeze“There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
~Leonard Cohen

Even if we don’t notice, there are spaces in-between everything. There is space between thoughts, between breaths, between all things.

See how the environment you are in right now is filled with space? Your attention is undoubtedly drawn to the objects in it – a table, a pen. But notice how much space there is between the objects. Focus on it for a moment. There is so much space. Quiet, silent, existing, huge, not needing anything.

If you sit in meditation, you might first notice a flurry of thoughts, and no space. But eventually, the thoughts settle, and you recognize space, the ground of being from which everything else arises.

Relaxing

Space is at the core of relaxation. We move our attention away from the busyness of our lives, we pause from all the efforting, we move from doing to being.

It takes effort to engage with the objects that draw our attention. Physical forms and thought forms pull us away from our center, away from the stillness, the ground of being.

Several years ago, I was lying on a chaise lounge, enjoying the sun. My mind was so quiet. As a thought arose, I moved my attention into it and felt tension in my body. This made me curious. I switched back and forth a few times, between thought and no-thought. I saw that the effort of thinking created tension and effortlessness was relaxing.

It was a lightbulb moment, as I saw that even positive thoughts were subtly stressful. I discovered the power of the space in-between to open the door to so much happiness.

Experimenting

No matter how much we are filled with forms, space is always present.

What forms fill your awareness? Can you notice the space in-between?

Try relaxing your attention away from the forms, just for a moment. See what it’s like to experience space. It’s not about the past or future. The space is here, in this right-now moment. Can you feel it?

Allowing

Of course, it’s fear that keeps us clinging to our treasured objects. Whether thoughts or people, money or stuff, we have the illusion that if we keep our attention on these, then we can control them. We are scared to let them go because the known feels so much safer than the unknown.

But staying in the known is ultimately confining. It’s not enlivening or liberating. We live in the boxes (cages?) we have constructed and avoid the possibility of wide open space. We choose tension over relaxation, habit over potential. We accept “good enough,” while turning away from everything we truly long for.

As Eckhart Tolle says, we are constantly chasing forms by thinking, doing, and reacting against.

And in every moment, there is space – breathing space, quiet and clear. Right now.

I recently spoke with a friend who is cracking open so beautifully. He cannot contain the love that is emerging. He is seeing through the objects of his mind and discovering space overflowing with love. He is surprised at how he is naturally kinder – in his interactions, while driving. These changes are coming effortlessly.

The fear is that space is empty. Yes, it is empty of forms. But it is filled with formless intangibles – joy, love, freedom, generosity, kindness.

It takes surrender to relax into space. Letting go of what we know, allowing ourselves to hang between the trapeze bars.

But how else to open to wonder, creativity, life?

The spaces in-between hold all the possibility.

What have you discovered about the spaces in-between? What keeps you from going there? Let’s talk…

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36 Comments

  1. avatar Graham Dawson
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Loved this post! It inspired a deep look into my own thought process during meditation, and where the effort lay. It seemed that although thoughts sometimes seemed to arise spontaneously and without any apparent effort, it was when I engaged with the thought (ie. when I did more than simply just notice the thought as a passing though) that effortlessness seemed to disappear. Why don’t they teach us this kind of stuff at school – it is so basic and yet so profound. ;-) Much gratitude for your insights.

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      HI Graham,

      Welcome…so great to have you stop by and comment.

      I love your idea – teaching silence at school! That would revolutionize the world.

      Yes, we can allow thoughts to arise or we can engage with them. It’s beautiful to see the effort that thinking entails.

      Hope things are going well Down Under. Sending love…

  2. Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Gail: Wow. What a great article. I think I was directed to read this exact post today after one of the most challenging days where my focus was pulled only to those areas that are confining. Ahhhh, what a refresher to see this and be reminded of what truly matters. I can’t thank you enough for this one.

    Sibyl

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      I’m so happy that you found the right post at the right time, Sibyl. It’s grace, the fruits of your intention to live true, which is so evident.

  3. Posted November 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I love this post, Gail. It can be very difficult to relax and just BE instead of doing, thinking, planning to do. But I’m getting better at it. These days I’m learning to let go more than I ever have. I continue to focus on my goals, but unlike in my past, I don’t do so at the expense of making time for spiritual development.
    .-= Nea´s last blog ..Inspirational Words- Living Life =-.

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Great, Nea. Sounds like your priorities are rearranging. May you find exactly what you are looking for in your spiritual investigation.

  4. avatar Rand
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    “It was a lightbulb moment, as I saw that even positive thoughts were subtly stressful. I discovered the power of the space in-between to open the door to so much happiness.”

    This is the power that I used when I competed for first place against the best during 50 miles of running.

    Last Saturday when my fellow stagehands and I took out the five Big Rig event at the Sports Arena our navigating with and around objects was really something…a 20+ Big Rig concert like U2 …well yes the “empty space in between” does really come into play there.

    “But it is filled with formless intangibles – joy, love, freedom, generosity, kindness.”

    When we work in concert with these intangibles the job gets done and no one gets hurt…this is not “being in the flow”…that will get someone hurt…just like “have no fear” will.

    I completely understand your Glass Menagerie message. It is a delicate balance to determine on which objects with meaningful symbolism to hold onto:

    The theater muse ring that I found that day of your post with the actor?

    I cannot help but remember taking off my dead sister’s wedding ring from her finger.

    I cannot help but understand the significance of Daigo finding the smooth stone in his dead father’s hand in the movie Departures.

    The objects and their symbols.

    But, once I’m gone let it be said “He lived with Passion.”

    Thank you so much for such a meaniful message Gail…I know I can be a handful.

    Peaceful Space,
    Rand

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      I have no doubt you are living with passion, Rand. May we all find peaceful space everywhere…

      • avatar Rand
        Posted November 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        It only took you “one sentence” to give me a good laugh for the day. Thanks…>

        <…look there is even space here!

        • avatar Rand
          Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

          …it is the endless space within my heart.

          • avatar Rand
            Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

            Mary Carmody I feel you inside my heart this one year aniversary of your death on that bus in Algeria…I feel your passion my dear.

          • Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

            I appreciate your presence here, Rand.

          • avatar Rand
            Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            Gail, I find myself really beginning to open up, but my “presense” is much to strong.
            I am very sorry…I just long for The Peace of Wild Things right now and to leave this place for a bit.
            Thank you dear…

          • Posted November 22, 2010 at 6:23 am | Permalink

            No apologies necessary at all, Rand. Be yourself…enjoy yourself. There are many kinds of fish in the sea, and they all belong there.

            Sending love…

  5. Posted November 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful post. “Can you feel it?” you ask at one point, and I was thinking what a crucial piece it is, our ability to feel.

    It’s a wondrous capacity we have and if we enjoy feeling the beauty of stillness what is included in this equation is we must also be willing to feel what comes up in us at times that is not so sweet, not so comfortable.

    Uiltimately it’s all good though isn’t it Gail, who we truly are isn’t changed by any of it.
    Such a lovely post.
    .-= Christopher Foster´s last blog ..A buoyant heart is a happy heart =-.

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris,

      The space is fulfilling in itself – and provides a backdrop for all the objects to be seen – some not so comfortable and sweet, as you mention. Uncomfortable? Maybe that is just another concept. When we truly allow ourselves to be with things as they are with no story, there’s just sensation, energy.

      I have had a first-hand reminder of this recently: resisting painful feelings, which only added to the pain. The ease that came with welcoming was like a huge sigh of relief. And as you so beautifully say, who we truly are isn’t changed by any of it.

      I love that we are kindred spirits.

  6. Posted November 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    There is so much wisdom in this post. Resting in openness naturally gives rise to more kindness and happiness just as your friend discovered. It’s really just our habits that keep us so embroiled with following after thoughts. At the same time, I find it’s important not to become attached to “space”!

    I love how you explore the deepest and most profound ways we can find true happiness.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..How I Focus – 10 Practical Tips =-.

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      You make a great point, Sandra, about not becoming attached to space. If we are, we have turned space into an object, a mental conception that is not reality. This feels flat and effortful.

      Your comment makes it so clear – that we habitually follow thoughts – and that resting in openness is possible. I appreciate your clarity.

  7. Posted November 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This post really helped me understand the concept of the space in-between and really clarified and conceptualized it for me. This has eluded me for the longest time.

    The prospect of even positive thoughts causing some tension is interesting. I am going to do my own experimentation tomorrow. Thank you.
    .-= Debbie Hampton´s last blog ..In a cage…with the door wide open =-.

    • Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Hi Debbie,

      I think you just had a lightbulb moment! I love when clarity comes. All of a sudden, the clouds part, and things are often never the same again. I feel your excitement.

      Would love to hear about your experiment with positive thought vs. no-thought. And I love your recent blog post. The name attracted me, In a cage…with the door wide open. Beautiful.

  8. Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post. I’ve often found that when life around me seems to spiral out of control, that by finding my Stillness, I’m best able to commune with God and receive my answers. I’ve had quite a few “lightbulb moments” as you so eloquently described in those moments. Thanks for the reminder!
    .-= Phil D. Malmstrom´s last blog ..Thanks Dad… =-.

    • Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience here, Phil. Stillness is the doorway to God, life, being whatever you want to call it, and grounds us in what is true – as you well know.

      May all beings know the space in-between…

      • Posted November 17, 2010 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Thank you Gail, I completely agree. I hope you don’t mind, but your posting here inspired my “Email to God” on my Blog this morning, so I linked to your article as a reference. Take care!
        .-= Phil D. Malmstrom´s last blog ..Stillness by Any Other Name… =-.

  9. Posted November 18, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    My favorite time to be inb.tween trapeze bars is anytime I’m waiting in line for something. It’s the no.1 thing people complain about. It’s crazy. We forget how blessed we are…when we remember it allows us to let go and relax in the space.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Life Changing- The Rule of 5 =-.

    • Posted November 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      This is such a great reminder, Tess. It’s so simple – turning the simple experience of waiting in line into an opportunity to realize space. Thanks so much for mentioning it.

  10. Posted November 20, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    What an amazing post. I must have been driven to your article.. The song “Wide Open Spaces” was written about Montana…where I live….
    Funny how meaningful that song will be next time I hear it:)

    Your post had so many rich tidbits I can’t decide which ones were my favorite.One that really resonated with me, though, was ” we chose habit over potential.” So very true! One that I have been trying to move away from.
    So happy to have found your blog. I will enjoy coming back to read more!
    Jen @ Little Lessons Under the Big Sky
    .-= Jen ´s last blog ..Trash Talk Thursday- Ego =-.

    • Posted November 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      A warm welcome to you, Jen! How fortunate you are to live in Big Sky country – what a beautiful, and ever-present, reminder of the space in-between.

      I love the tidbit you mentioned. When we choose habit, we stay in the realm of the known. Choosing space instead offers the possibility of experiences unknown that are so fresh and alive.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I look forward to getting to know you…

      Love, Gail

  11. Posted November 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail! What a gorgeous post! I often try to find the space between my thoughts. It’s beautiful to find such quietness and peace in this small space. As I practice, the spaces gets wider.
    Thanks for this wonderful reminder. Loving blessings!
    .-= Andrea DeBell´s last blog ..Top Four Belief Hacks to Transform Your Life =-.

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      I love seeing your shining face, Andrea!

      I love to write about these things to help others, but they are also reminders for me. And, yes, as you are experiencing, the more we are aware of space, the more we notice that it is always here…vast, open, alive…

  12. Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Experimenting is music to my mind, and sings to my heart.

    I learned long ago that life is not static, and the key is to keep finding my way forward, a story, experience, or experiment at a time.

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Hi J.D., and welcome to you.

      I like the idea of experimenting also. With an experiment, nothing is set in stone. We stay alive to everything in the moment.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  13. Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    I never thought of spaces between thoughts and other things but you have opened up my mind to a new possibility just by reading and being open to see.

    Let’s see if this comments shows up.
    Hope you are having a great day
    .-= Preeti ´s last blog ..Giving Thanks- How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life =-.

    • Posted November 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Hi Preeti,

      Being open to see, opening the mind…that’s all it takes to notice the space.

  14. Posted February 2, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail… ahh so “allowing” is speaking to me right now- as I, recently, have made the decision to allow myself time to myself and reduce my participation in committee-based activities. I have found that practicing letting go and “be” is one thing. However, it is another thing when one practices letting go and being while on-lookers are either trying to figure out if you are for real, figuring that you are checking out, suspecting that there is covert (good or bad) occurring, etc… As a result, I have found that “letting-go” of something (or someone) is a process… it is far from absolute… I believe that it is because the things or persons in our lives are neither static nor residents of a vacuum; they are dynamic in their existence. I see why it is suggested that one must practice “letting go and being”.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Posted February 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      A warm welcome to you, Ajen. And thank you for such an astute comment.

      When we begin to make the choice to shift, to stand in our own truth, to allow rather than do and control, we are going against the grain. And not everyone around us is going to like it.

      I honor your courage to take time to yourself and to allow the reactions of others. I imagine that some of them are envious of your capacity to stay true.

      And I’m so glad you see that letting go is a practice. The only time that letting go can happen is in the moment, so the opportunity is always present as the moments come and go.

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