This exercise was to focus on the empty space around objects, rather than looking at the objects themselves. I really loved this exercise. Noticing the empty space was intriguing – it made me feel that I was seeing something I’d never noticed before. The objects themselves became brighter, more vivid and more definite when I looked at the space around them. Everything seemed to have it’s place and a purpose.
At the same time, looking at the empty space made me feel more connected with everything. Paying attention to the space gave it substance. Because, in fact, it’s not empty: it is as full of molecules and atoms as the “objects” that we pay attention to everyday. It is the air that we breathe in. It sustains us. And between me and the tree five feet away from me there is not one bit of empty space. I am connected to the tree by an unbroken expanse of air, dancing with oxygen, carbon, pollen, dust, and a thousand other things. I breathe it in and breathe it out, and so does the tree, in its own way. How beautiful.
In the book, Jan also encourages us to use this exercise to consider the empty spaces in our minds. Over the past couple weeks I tried to notice when my mind naturally became quiet. Not when I was intentionally practicing mindfulness, but when my mind settled on it’s own. When I was sitting at a stoplight and the thoughts shut down; when I was watching Adeline play and I stayed in the moment easily and instinctively. Of course, the act of noticing started the thoughts again. But I tried to stay with it.
Sometimes, especially when just starting a mindfulness practice, it can seem impossible to stop the thoughts. It can feel like the mind is packed full to the brim with ideas, emotions, memories and plans. It can be overwhelming. This exercise allows you to find the quiet, empty space at your own pace. And when you see that it does actually exist, it can be easier to find when you seek it out mindfully.
This week’s exercise is: “One Bite at a Time.” Whenever you’re eating, take a bite, then put down the spoon or fork and become fully aware of that bite. Only take another bite when the first bite is finished.
And to close, here are some photos of empty space that I took last week. Continue reading »