Embrace Space

By April Hadley, LLMSW

Looking in a mirror
“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 Frankl

Viktor Frankl’s wise words capture so much of the heart of mindfulness – SPACE. When we cultivate space in our lives, we step out of reactivity and gain the power to choose wiser and more discerning responses to the circumstances of our lives. And then, as Frankl so aptly observed, we are able to grow and feel more free.

What is SPACE?
When Frankl uses the word space, he is referring to mental and emotional space. This kind of space does not mean our mind and emotions are always calm and clear. Rather, it means when we have an experience, we are able to step back and observe the thoughts and emotions that are triggered by the experience.

The process of cultivating space is akin to looking in a mirror. I cannot see my own face. But when I hold up a mirror, my face is reflected back and I can begin to study it objectively. I can notice the color, shape and contours of my face. The longer I look at my face in a mirror, the more intimate I become with how my face is always changing and also the ways it essentially stays the same. When we cultivate mental and emotional space in our lives, we begin to study and observe our own thoughts and emotions with the same intimacy. Paradoxically, this intimacy and knowing is where we begin to experience space.

How do we cultivate space?
The practice of mindfulness is one of the most helpful ways to cultivate mental and emotional space in our lives. When we stop and focus our attention on a simple anchor, such as the breath, we are able to steady our attention (much like looking in a mirror) and we can ask, “What am I thinking right now? What am I feeling right now?” When we become more intimate with our thoughts and feelings, we begin to respond to the events of our lives in ways that help us grow and heal. It truly is the work of a lifetime.

What is a barrier to space?
One of the primary reasons we do not regularly cultivate space in our lives is because we tend to think we need to practice for extended periods of time. However, the ability to create space around our thoughts and emotions does not need to take long for us to feel its benefits.

I recently signed up for a program in which I have committed myself to doing yoga every single day for 365 days. I do not normally commit myself to these kinds of challenges because I feel like I am setting myself up for failure but this program got my attention because my daily practice can be anywhere from 2 minutes to 90 minutes a day. Although my life feels very full, I know I can practice for a few minutes every day.

It is the same with learning to cultivate space in our lives. Just as it only takes a moment to look in the mirror, it also only takes a moment to pause and notice how we are feeling and thinking. The daily practice of a few moments of space creates the foundation we need to respond to life with wisdom and grace.

Join us!
Join us on Facebook for our first annual, EMBRACE SPACE event. Each day we share a quote or an article about learning to cultivate space. Comment and share how you are learning to EMBRACE SPACE once a day in the month of January. Each time you comment, you will be entered to win an EMBRACE SPACE care-package!