When we get stressed or overwhelmed there is a natural sequence of events that happens. Our Qi channels contract and our heart closes. In this state, any ﬂow within us gets restricted and it becomes diﬃcult to hear or sense the support and guidance that is available to us. An antidote to reverse this impoverished state of being is to gift ourselves spaciousness. Orienting to spaciousness allows our Qi channels to open back up to ﬂow and our hearts to naturally expand and open. Once these changes occur, we are able to reconnect with our support and hear the voice of guidance in our lives that comes from both inner and outer sources. Understanding this, I have decided that an important and eﬀective aspect of my selfcare is to cultivate spaciousness. In addition to ﬁnding ways that my thinking can support this intention, I have been playing with all the ways I can embody the frequency to bring it more fully into my lived experience.
The dictionary deﬁnes spaciousness as having enough, or abundant room or space; being amply large. Spaciousness is a state of being that brings with it a sense of ease and its abundance delivers a feeling of connectedness with resources. It is a state of being where we automatically begin to spread out and relax, to breathe deeper, to feel less squeezed. Cultivating spaciousness is helping me deal with and take care of my experiences of stress. Inevitably, once we can ﬁnd our way to having more space to hold it, a very intense experience or a big feeling will become more manageable. Things do not necessarily become easier to navigate, but spaciousness can provide a sense of possibility where before we felt only impossibility. In addition, spaciousness has a directionality of opening and expanding; in any moment that I choose to give it to myself, I am gifting myself with capacity and reconnection to the inﬁnite of which I am a part.
There are many ways that spaciousness can show up in our lives. For example, we have the opportunity to cultivate spaciousness by working with our perspective. We can invite ourselves to be open to seeing other options of what is also true beyond the current feeling or challenge that is taking up our whole screen and is the the only thing we are perceiving.
Spaciousness can also come from the dimensions of time and space. Working in the dimension of time, we can have more spaciousness by slowing things down or by allowing ourselves to focus on just one thing at a time. It may manifest as allowing enough time for doing the task at hand, or giving ourselves unstructured time between our commitments. Acknowledging that an experience or feeling isn’t permanent is another way of giving myself spaciousness in the dimension of time. Within the dimension of space we can create abundant room within our physical bodies. We can also create spaciousness in our relationships with others and our external environment by having healthy boundaries.
Within my body, there are many levels on which I can intend and give myself spaciousness. I can connect to the energy body that I am in addition to my physical body and instantly have dozens more feet of being-ness to inhabit. I can invite more room around the physical structures of my bones, organs, or connective tissue wrapping and this spaciousness will open me to more ﬂow, circulation and often a greater sense of comfort and ease within. On the microscopic level, I can imagine that there is a little more space between each of the cells in my body and can feel how this gives me more room. We have all had the awareness on a macro level of how being stressed or trying to protect ourselves causes us to constrict and curl inward. While contracting and guarding may keep our most vulnerable parts safe in the event of an attack, it does not give them room to breathe or allow space for exchange to take place. Our cells need space around them to allow the process of releasing waste and taking up nourishment. If they are too tightly packed, there is no room for fresh supplies to make their way in, and no room for the garbage trucks to come through and pick up waste. In the fastpaced, stressful lives that we are living it is especially important that we consciously ﬁnd opportunities to direct our attention to uncurling, opening up, and giving ourselves more space. In this space is the permission to resume the functions of exchange, ﬂow and stretching out into full expression.
In my mind, ﬁnding more space could mean clearing away some of the stories I’m telling myself about my current events. Our minds are programmed as meaning-making machines; they are always seeking to make sense of what is happening to us. While this function certainly has value, it may also be operating at a cost. When we make up a story to make sense of events, we might be moving into conclusions that end up denying us the spaciousness of what else is possible. In the same way that a child will decide that negative attention (i.e. being scolded) is preferable to not getting any attention at all, I believe that to avoid being in a place of no meaning or explanation, our minds often choose to make up stories that hurt us or make us feel insecure. Not understanding why things are happening, being in the place of not knowing, feels so threatening that a story that squashes our spirit, suﬀocates our inspiration or cramps our being is judged by our mind to be our best option. But I am coming to recognize that even as our mind makes this assessment and tries to force us to choose these conclusions, the enlightened part of us sees that not knowing is far preferable to an erroneous understanding. This deeper wisdom within ourselves sees the value of preserving our access to spaciousness because with enough space we can always ﬁnd our way back into balanced and harmonious expression; can ﬁnd our way back home.
As I have explored with the idea of spaciousness, I have come to recognize it as a gift that I can choose to give myself. Like forgiveness, or acceptance, when I choose to be in spaciousness, it liberates me from a state of contraction and the subsequent stuck, stagnant energy. I have been able to witness this change taking place during my daily sitting practice. At times I go through periods where there is no experience of peace while I sit in meditation. For days at a time my meditation will be characterized by a busy mind, and an unsettled body. I admit, these are days when I begin to question why I devote my time to what feels like a useless practice. However, at some point there is always a shift and I begin to experience my time in meditation as a respite and refuge again. I believe that this shift correlates with my stress decreasing enough to allow my body to move from contraction back towards an expansion, allowing space for renewed ﬂow and movement toward a more peaceful state. Knowing this is possible, I can now appreciate the unsettled experience in sitting as a bell of mindfulness inviting me to turn my intention to creating spaciousness for myself. I can use any number of practices to carry out this intention, such as those described below, and when I do, I help my body dissipate and neutralize the stress it has accumulated and experience the shift to more peace.
To some extent, all that is required to achieve more spaciousness is to have the sincere intention to bring it in for ourselves. Our breath is an easily accessed and very eﬀective container for this intention. Breathing out, I let go of what I no longer need to hold onto. Breathing in, I stretch out in this increased spaciousness. Or, Breathing in, I create spaciousness inside me. Breathing out, I relax into this spaciousness.
In meditation, an exercise I use to carry out this intention is to imagine that I have come to a stone wall and I am being invited to add anything I’m carrying to this wall before continuing on into my meditation. To lower the stakes (and side step resistance), I let myself know that I am free to pick any stone back up again as I leave the mediation; that I am just putting down my heavy baggage to free myself up for this moment. As I breathe out and place all of these energies, emotions, concerns, struggles, or stories onto the wall, I feel myself becoming lighter and discover a capacity that I didn’t have before to carry or hold something new. This is a form of spaciousness. The empty cup that allows us to take something in.
Sometimes it is helpful to use movements to support the intention to give ourselves a little more space. Yoga and Qigong contain lots of these movements. I ﬁnd that ﬂowing through the set of postures in a sun salutation, or playing through the 18 qigong movements in Shibashi will open my physical body to more spaciousness. I can also use these practices to invite my emotional and spiritual bodies to open up into the extra room for fuller expression. Without fail, I ﬁnd that after this 15 minute investment I am breathing deeper and feeling less pressured and squashed by my circumstances.
In the midst of a busy day, there are also isolated movements that I can call upon to remember the spaciousness that is my truth. Here are two examples… In Separating Heaven and Earth from the 8 Pieces of Brocade, pushing one hand up over my head while the other is pushing down at my waist, I stretch my spine up and down, inviting each of the bony vertebral bodies to move a little bit away from its neighbor. This extra millimeter of space creates a potential. I imagine that the cushioning pillows between each vertebrae (the discs) plump up into this spaciousness. Now when I come back down out of this stretch, I settle into this experience of more space for my spinal cord and nervous system. In the Sun style Tai Chi movement of Open and Close our hands are held in front of our heart with palms facing each other and pull apart on our inspiration and then push together with our exhale. With each inhale, we can imagine stretching ourselves open a bit wider. With each exhale we can invite all of our being to ﬂow into and stretch out within this increased space.
I invite you to play with the intention of choosing spaciousness for yourself in the coming weeks. Whether you ﬁnd your way there through your breath, your movement practice or just imagining the feel of it as you read these words, may it help you open to a greater perspective that allows you more expansiveness and ease.
Best Good Care,
Susan Lucas, M.D.