Image by Satsuki Shibuya
Before I left for vacation, my friend, Colin (an excellent coach for those who are looking), was coaching me as I was lamenting my inability to create more structure for writing & creativity . He was guiding me in an inquiry process and the statement “the space IS the structure” came out of my mouth. I realized, once again *sigh*, how I crowd all the space in my life and how, get this, even my meditation practice becomes a way to fill the space.These days, it feels so difficult to make space. Anyone else feel like this?
But the ridiculous part coming from me — all my programs use the phrase make space: make space for transformation, make space for inspiration, make space for change… make space for all of you. Duh.
Of course, it’s not my or your fault (hardly anything is — because modernity). So much of our world now is specifically designed to take space. Our gadgets as a whole, yes. But also the embedded processes of technology… the scrolling function of social media (someone designed that precisely so that you would not have to bother with the extra micro-moment it takes to click “next”), the autoplay function on streaming video that doesn’t allow any break between episodes (advice: turn that shit off!), the ubiquitous red–colored notifications on apps which immediately draw your attention when it might wander or wonder (red is also the sign for danger for a reason), all the content, content, content, content.
But also, the general trend of our society towards time scarcity and the state of constantly being over scheduled. It’s even affecting children.
Personally, I have also been overwhelmed with life circumstances, so I could maybe give myself a break, right? But that would mean making space in my heart for something different than the self–flagellating voice of comparison & criticism. I look at all the people producing weekly newsletters and writing books and I beat myself up for feeling depleted and uninspired.
After my intuitive declaration about space & structure, I learned of the Japanese word ma, which is often translated as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts”
This is the Kanji character below. It graphically combines “door” and “sun” and symbolizes light entering through space (originally it was “moon” — which is a whole other post about patriarchy and masculine symbols replacing feminine ones) .
[Ma] is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision. Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore, ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval. (Thank you Wikipedia!)
Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modelled space. Giacometti sculpted by “taking the fat off space”. Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses… Isaac Stern described music as “that little bit between each note – silences which give the form.” —The Art of Looking Sideways, by Alan Fletcher
I realize now that I was trying to stoke the fire of creativity without giving enough air to the flames. Anyone who has tried to build a fire knows that it needs three things: heat, fuel, and oxygen. I barely had the heat (inspiration) and the fuel (energy) let alone the oxygen (space). When I did carve out some time, I used up the little oxygen there was almost immediately — I could get no farther than writing a few sentences before losing the light. My imagination could not experience the consciousness of place, the interval necessary for creation.
Sometimes I notice something similar in my meditation practice itself. Life gets busy and I only make time for the minimum, usually a 15 or 20 minute sit in the morning. My mind, racing with that momentum, has no space for the silences which give the form…
If space is the breath of art, maybe breath is the art of space.
I CAN choose differently, plan more carefully, open up space in my daily schedule (by fiercely protecting it from filling up!). Doing so allows me to dedicate more time to my practice, rather than cramming it into the crack in my morning. When I let go of the rushing, sit for 45 or even 75(!!) minutes, and maybe even create spaciousness before and after the meditation it’s like a waterway that has been replenished and undammed. Things are able to flow.
So, I am (re)committing to making space in my calendar for writing, for longer practice periods, as well as for ma or what I’m calling free(dom) time (scheduled time for no–thing). To do this I must (re)connect to my sense of inner no–ing and not revert to crowding the door and blocking the moonlight.
AND I am going to NOT beat myself up when the space inevitable fills up again and I have to start over (just like with my mind in meditation).
Tell me, how will you make more space?