Spaciousness - May 2020

Spaciousness: The vast sky of your mind.

What is spaciousness?The mind is a wonderful thing. We can apply our thinking to solving problems. But, at other times, maybe when we are still or even performing an activity, we find our minds offering up thoughts we’ve not sought or chosen. We all experience our minds leaping from one thought to another or spiralling into over-thinking. Before we know it - the mind is too busy and completely consumed by thought. The outcome is often anxious thinking and negativity. We all feel this overwhelm at one time or another, but it’s possible to free ourselves from it.  

If you have felt the need to retreat from overwhelm, and sensed the strong desire for calm and peace, then spaciousness is your quest. It shouldn’t be radical to seek some mental breathing space – a gap between your thoughts - or indeed to create it. When we stop and release ourselves from thoughts; we can find an unchanging and uncontaminated awareness is revealed. We are reminded that it’s always there, available for us to access. However, it seems that today we are so far removed from this awareness that now, more than ever, we need to practice activities that nurture spaciousness. Creating or finding this space provides a gap and sanctuary between incessant thoughts and so enables us to become centred. Spaciousness helps us return to a state of freedom from the wandering mind. We are once again calm and present. We learn to recognise that we are not our thoughts or our emotions. We don’t need to identify with unwanted thinking, instead we can free ourselves from it.  

Why might we need spaciousness?Our thoughts are often churned out on automatic and our minds become overactive, our mental states are frequently characterised by overwhelm as we experience never ending to-do lists, constant distraction, information overload whilst our media reports stress and anxiety on the rise. In times long past our day to day existence was punctuated with physical danger and the consequent need to keep safe and stay alive. Any fear that arose suddenly and meant that we sensed danger, was very quickly dropped once that danger was averted. But in modern times the very same fear response has migrated to attach to our thoughts. And now the tap of anxiety (with release of stress hormones) no longer knows when to turn off. We are then, unable to be quickly returned to a steady state. Increasingly we find ourselves in an age where levels of tension and anxiety run high. Society is structured by deadlines and targets that focus minds on chasing and managing an imagined future. Constant news feeds and social media bring us the worries of a world in crisis and a constant feed of information. These contribute greatly to the mind being over-loaded. Anyone who has suffered enough seeks tools to ease their mind with the peace desired, enabled by a sense of spaciousness.

How could spaciousness benefit us? Spaciousness of mind allows us to be more relaxed, more open and enables greater flexibility in our attitudes and behaviour. ‘'Without spaciousness there is immediate reaction to the experience. If it is not part of our script then we contract against it'' says Eckhart Tolle. A spacious mind brings us personal resilience: as opening ourselves to the space of mind available allows and accommodates the thoughts and emotions that come up, without fuelling them by judgements or by resistance and defensiveness. Non-judgemental alertness and acceptance characterise a mind that is spacious. Other qualities spaciousness lets surface include those of clarity, perspective, humour and compassion.  

How can we find spaciousness?  

Mindfulness in nature: By learning not to be drawn in by our thoughts and not to follow them, then we can instead choose to rest our minds in the present moment. As human beings we will naturally find our attention wandering back to our thoughts, but the art is in remaining alert and notice when this happens. Then we can name the thoughts and gently let them go; and once more kindly lead the attention back to noticing the present moment. Taking time to be in nature through walking, gardening, foraging or even fishing can all allow us to come away from ‘being lost in thought’ and instead bring our absorbed focus to the natural world and beauty of the nature. This allows perspective, freedom from churning thought. It centres us back in the cycle of a wider universe than the one in our heads. We can sense a relaxing and an opening. Bringing focused attention to each of our senses – sight or smell especially, can open our hearts and minds and provide the room we need to quell the mind-chatter. Whilst our sense of touch can add another dimension and further sharpens our focus – be it in noticing the rough ridges of tree bark or soft smooth flexibility of a new leaf. Listening to our surroundings can really lift the heart – especially in Spring when rediscovering the bright immediacy of birdsong or the buzz and hum of an insect.

Meditation practice: By adopting a mindful approach and becoming alert to the present, we become observer of our own thoughts. In meditation we choose to stop and step back. We become aware of our breathing, noticing our bodily sensations. We bring the intention to become observer of our chattering minds and to notice our thoughts, name each one - non-judgementally, and then to simply let them go. Our chattering minds are often focused on replaying times already passed or events yet to happen. And, with our attention on past or future - then we fail to relish the present moment and miss focus on actual living. If we do not pay full attention to daily experiences no matter what the circumstances or bring an attentive presence to our children and loved ones, we fail to be fully present.

Visualisations:Following a guided visualisation (or creating your own) allows us each to widen our view outside ourselves and to bring to mind the space around us…. even to, say, our nearby towns, to the country, the wider world and beyond. A visualisation may move from an external natural image to an internal one. This tool allows context to our thoughts and a by-product might be a sense of perspective.

Impermanence: When minds are on material possessions then stepping back and bringing our attention to the present moment can help us recognise the impermanence of these – knowing that one day they will be gone. Such recognition in awareness can support the intention to align with your inner space in favour of what is temporary and superficial.  

Recognition, routes and resolve: So spotting our busy minds, and in turn knowing we can uncover a spaciousness within is vital knowledge. We simply need to recognise our desire for it, focus on our intention to achieve it and to gradually allow ourselves to discover our own best route to nurture our inner spaciousness – be it through visualisation, meditation, perhaps mindful walking or presence in nature. In so doing and through nurturing regular practice, then your sense of ease and opening to this new-found room in your mind - this spaciousness - will soon grow, as in parallel your sense of overwhelm diminishes.

To find out moreabout meditation or to book a meditation session contact KindtomyMind.  

’(Meditation) Practice is about allowing a lot of space. It’s about learning how to connect with that spaciousness that’s inside, and the spaciousness that’s outside. It’s about learning to relax, soften, and open — to connect with the sense that there’s actually a lot of room.’’ - Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother.

© 2020