I am very lucky: my life is quite full. Full of activities, full of fun, full of love. I rarely have nothing on my schedule, my little black book which follows me everywhere and contains my whole life is always telling me what I need to do next.
That one sentence is not true. I am the one who fills my Moleskine agenda with to-do lists, who make sure to organize every day to make it “productive”, productive meaning not only getting work done , but also making sure I get to enjoy life , see friends, spend time with my family, do some inversions and all other important stuff I need to take care about.
Organizing one self to get closer to achieving your dreams is great , but at one point, we have to be careful about the tyranny of the to-do list. If we always stick to the plan, then when will the magic happens?
This is why we need to create space. Space in our body, space in our mind, space in our heart, to live our lives to the fullest.
Create space in your body: let the breath do the work
This whole idea of creating space popped into my mind in yoga class. Over the years, my practice evolved a lot. First a physical practice, it has now become one of the foundations in my life. Downward-dog is now my home base, shoulderstand my remedy to find stability when I feel off-balance.
Everyday on the mat is different, and even if I have been practicing for more than 10 years, it’s only recently that I realized the true power of breath to deepen my practice. But in order to do so, I had to let go: letting go of my perfectionism, letting go of my anxiety, confronting my deepest fears, having to stay still and simply be with what was there.
Letting go led me to create space within, a space where I can now find comfort instead of having to rely on external things. Creating space on the inhale, then moving into that space on the exhale to deepen the pose. Nowadays, it’s not anymore about imposing the pose to my body, but much more about letting the breath do the work, letting it create the space for me to get further, and deeper, without the risk of hurting myself. The breath becomes the guide, the friend, telling you to go on, or to stop where you are for today. My teachers were often telling me that as soon as the breath is off, the pose is over, but it is only recently that I realized how true that was.
Who cares if you get your hand down on the floor in Trikonasana, or if you do the full version of Hanumanasana (split pose)? As famous yoga teacher Ramanan Patel used to remind us about getting to accomplish the full expression of poses, “I’ve been there, and there’s nothing there.” There is much more to learn from your breath than from any other pose, and isn’t what’s fun and interesting about yoga: having the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our body, mind and human experience?
Create space in your mind: let your brain do the work
Creating space into your body is one way I found to create space into my mind. Having to focus on my breath and the poses I practice, I reconnect with the present moment. Through meditation, I can let go of unnecessary thoughts. I use this simple trick to clear my mind of the fogginess I often find myself in. I visualise my mind as the sky, and my thoughts as clouds, simply passing by. This allows me to take a step back from these thoughts, and acknowledge the reactions that each bring to me without acting/reacting.
You can use this simple trick whenever you want to de-clutter your mind. I firmly believe that when our mind is full of thoughts, to-dos, full of the memories from the past and the anxiety of the future, we cannot think sharply, and bring creative solutions to the task we are supposed to be accomplishing in the present moment. When we feel like we are saturated from whatever we are doing, writing a paper, doing an analysis of a case, solving a problem, that’s when we need to create space into our mind. Just as we need to let the breath do the work to get deeper into a yoga pose, we need to let the brain do the work to get to this creative idea that will solve our problem.
“The second stage of creativity begins when we walk away from a problem, typically because our left hemisphere can’t seem to solve it. Incubation involves mulling over information, often unconsciously. Intense exercise can be a great way to shift into right hemisphere in order to access new ideas and solutions. After writing for 90 minutes, for example, the best thing I can do to jog my brain, is take a run.” – Tony Schwartz, How To Think Creatively
Create space in your heart: let compassion do the work
Then we move on to what matters the most in the end: the heart. When our body is open with breath flowing freely, when our mind is clear from thoughts from the past or the future, and creatively engaged in the present moment, that’s when our hearts can truly be open to whatever life has to offer.
Creating space in our hearts require from us to let go of resentment and anger. We need to learn to be patient, and to not respond to aggression with aggression, to stop the escalation of anger and suffering.
“Patience has a lot to do with getting smart at that point and just waiting: not speaking or doing anything. On the other hand, it also means being completely and totally honest with yourself about the fact that you’re furious. You’re not suppressing anything—patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself.” – Pema Chödron, The Answer to Anger and Agression Is Patience
When we open ourselves to the energy brought up by life experiences, without getting caught into reaction mode right away, acknowledging our experience of anger, sadness, without trying to repress it either, that’s when we create space into our hearts, space we can move in just like when we are creating space with our breath into our body. In fact, breathing into my heart is one of the ways I like to think about creating space into it.
Once the space is there, we can move on through life with the wisdom of our heart. We stop being stuck with the stories from the past, so we can be present to what we are now, in this very moment. We can connect, share, and be there for who we care. That’s when we can feel compassion towards ourselves, and towards others. That’s when it feels great to be alive.
Create space in your life today
I am inviting you to start now: declutter your life, create space for whatever life has to offer you. Through breath, open your body, mind, heart. Be there for yourself, for your loved ones, for all beings. As Graham Hill says, let’s make room for the good stuff.