making space in spring
The last of the autumn leaves are clinging and the spring buds are about to burst. I’m definitely ready to fling open the windows and welcome spring.
Spring is, naturally, a busy time of year. And while I have promised myself to get many a task completed in the next few months, I’m also conscious of not over-using that b word.
Yes, we are all busy and the diary is only going to get crazier over the next few months. Alas, this feature suggests that perhaps we’re not so much busy, but full. The house is full, the washing machine is full, the demands are overflowing and we’re at capacity.
I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment – our days are brimming with requests, food preparation and tending to our little ones.
But what if we chose to use different language when it came to describing our everyday overwhelm?
I’ve just finished reading first, we make the beast beautiful – a new story about anxiety by Sarah Wilson. I’ve had it on the shelf since it was released a few months ago but for some reason I hadn’t picked it up. Recently, when I found myself looking at my phone too often, I walked to the bookshelf and started reading (I do this every few months and I always find, when I leave the screen and opt for the paper page, that my mind is clearer and slower, I’m less likely to feel inadequate and I don’t find myself wanting – just a thought…in case it resonates).
Regardless of your opinions on Sarah, I urge you to read this book. Yes, it’s about her personal journey with anxiety but it’s also a profound, heavily-researched look at the anxious state of the world – discussed in an engaging, conversational tone.
There were countless paragraphs that begged for a highlighter and margin note but one sparkling concept that stayed with me was this: consciously create space and resist the urge to fill it.
“If you’re anxious, part of the healing journey is to create space. To soften and expand and back off from this drive to ‘fill’ the space (in our guts, our diaries, our weekends, our wardrobes).
“…and this is the beauty of space. It’s a nothingness that surrounds and sits between all the somethingness in our lives. It might be a little stint in a dark room. A walk around the block between chapters. A quiet moment on the loo when the kids are watching Play School. A visit to an empty church on a lunchbreak. It’s only in the nothingness that we can see the somethingness. Without space, it’s like watching a movie a metre from the cinema screen. We can’t see the whole picture. And we lose ourselves in the noise and the fuzzy pixilation.”
One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from years of yoga practice is the correlation between physical and mental space. Generally, yoga studios and ashrams (and churches too) are humble places. They are intentionally void of clutter and stuff. Why? Because stuff and clutter are mere distractions. When you visit a studio you are there to focus on your body and breath. Likewise, when you’re at an ashram or church, you’re there to do the spiritual work; to look inward instead of being consumed with what’s out there.
Over the next few months, as I grapple with the stuff and clutter, I’m creating a new intention; I’ll be making space in spring as opposed to the traditional spring cleaning. And because my days are erring on the ‘full’ side (four kids will do that), I’m going to consciously create physical space which, subsequently, becomes breathing space.
But more importantly (or most importantly) I’m going to intentionally create mental space. Because is that not what we mums crave most? Five minutes without having to answer a question, cut-up fruit, find the shoe or wipe the bum?
Those minutes are there. They are there as we drink coffee and read a magazine (even if it’s only one page), they are there as we sit under the washing line…taking a few extra minutes to ponder instead of racing back inside, they are there as the kids play trains and don’t notice that you’re doing a starfish impression on the unmade bed.
Choose those moments, be in the space and take the opportunity to step back from the screen and see the big, wonderful picture – dirty fingerprints ‘n all.
Find the Space Between Breaths
This was one of my favourite breathing practices to teach my yoga students so I was delighted to see it in Sarah’s book, too. A few rounds practiced with your eyes closed can enhance your day (and shift your mindset).
Breathe in for a count of four.
At the top of your breath, hold for a count of three.
Gently, evenly, breathe out for four.
At the bottom, hold for three.
“When I hold for three, I don’t so much hold as pause gently in the space between breaths. I don’t force the hold. I just suspend my breath. Try it.
Then let the energy swirl around in this space, filling it, expanding.”