Friday, August 26, 2011
Space: Why we're always trying to fill it
When I think back to a meditation training I participated in at the Shambhala Center in Chicago, I remember why space can be scary. Everyone there had the same question: "Why can't I stop thinking?" The meditation instructor answered the question by sharing with us the words of Chogyam Trungpa, founder of Shambhala. He said, "thinking is what we do when we're afraid of space". This made a lot of sense to me. Instead of opening ourselves up or letting go, it's much easier to try to fill the gaps. And when we're sitting there with nothing else to do, we fill the gaps with thoughts. Thinking is normal and we're not trying to stomp it out, but it can be quieted. The spaces that open when the mind quiets for a moment can be sweet and beautiful and sometimes scary. I remember one particular time in meditation when my thinking completely dropped away for a few minutes and this tremendous vastness opened up (this is something that's really hard to explain and I understand if it makes absolutely no sense unless you have experienced something similar yourself). At first, it was so sweet and new and amazing. And then, I panicked. I freaked out and felt like I didn't exist anymore and immediately returned to the safety of my mind and my thoughts. I thought, "What the hell was that?" From then on, I understood why space was scary and why we're always trying to fill it. Space gives you an opportunity to experience your real nature, your basic goodness, your truest heart. That sounds good, right? However, going into this space requires letting go of many other things, the scariest of which is letting go of your own ego (your identity that you've created for yourself and maybe even hide behind). When there is a space in time, I have to remind myself to turn to the sky rather than to my cell phone or computer. When I have 4 hours free on a Sunday afternoon, I have to remind myself not to schedule anything and see what opens up for me in that precious time. When my yoga teacher is silent for a moment, I have to remind myself to enjoy my breath and enjoy my pose so that I can connect to my heart (instead of filling those precious open moments with mental chatter).
Instead of panic, let space bring beauty to your day, your mind and even your home. According to Vastu Shastra, a traditional Hindu system of design based on directional alignments, the center of any building or home should be kept clear, a revered open space. The center is the interface between the seen and the unseen, the manifest and the unmanifest. By keeping spaces open, we connect to all there is. The next time you come across space, see what it's like NOT to fill it and enjoy!