The word “spaciousness” came up a lot this past week in my work with my coaching clients. There seemed to be an almost collective noticing (and that’s what coaching sessions can be great for, noticing!) that maybe some of us hadn’t quite taken the time or space to “just be.”
In my last post, I focused on the importance of processing and integrating the changes in our lives — in not being in such a hurry to move forward. When we force movement without “digesting” what’s happened for us (and within us), we often find that our lives lack both satisfaction and meaning.
In order to process change, we need to create space. When there’s been a lot of change, we will probably, at some point, find ourselves needing more space in which to process it.
Part of this means paying attention to inner signals that point us to the need for some spaciousness in our lives.
For me, this past weekend, that meant noticing that I was falling prey to the “use every spare moment to get stuff done” mentality that creeps up on me sometimes. It usually happens when I’ve been busy and my body has adjusted to the adrenaline shifts that come with “busy-ness.” When we have a lot to do, adrenaline will at some point kick in to help us get it done. Adrenaline is the “fight-or-flight” hormone, and it gives us energy.
But we need to recover from these surges of adrenaline. And part of that recovery is pausing long enough (and giving ourselves permission to pause!) in order for our nervous systems to come back into the “safe and social” zone, where we feel alert, calm, and open to supportive interaction with others (in other words, we’re no longer in “fight/flight”).
These pauses create spaciousness for us, and often signal us to move toward more spaciousness. I’ve been repeatedly amazed at how a “problem” can look and feel completely different to me when I’m approaching it from a more spacious place, a more regulated-nervous-system place.
For example, when I finish up my coaching work for the day, I usually feel the need to shift my energy, to let go of any energy I’ve picked up from my clients, and it’s helpful to do this by moving my body. I often go out for a walk at this point, during which I listen to music (right now it’s Tori Amos’s beautiful Ocean to Ocean).
It is very tempting sometimes to not attempt this walk. Even though it’s exactly what I need to create a spacious shift in my day, my mind will go, “You’re too tired, it won’t make a difference, it’s easier to just stay in.”
Now, there may be some days where my mind has a point. Maybe I’ve gotten poor sleep and I’m physically tired and taking a walk feels more like pushing than stretching. What’s important to lean into here is care for my whole being. What, I ask myself at this point, would feel most supportive to my whole self?
Something I’ve found over many years of trial and error is that when I care for the parts of me that are the most sensitive, the most vulnerable (however that may look), I am laying the foundation for caring for my whole being in the best possible way. If I trample over the parts of me that are sensitive and vulnerable, my whole self pays for it later on.
On most days, that spacious, energy-shifting walk is caring for my whole being. In fact, as I walk, I can feel the different parts of me with their different needs making themselves known, and the walk opens up the space for them to be heard and acknowledged.
And from this space, the “right next step” often reveals itself. And it’s always just one thing. Make the call. Send the email. Lie down. Make dinner. When we lack spaciousness in our lives, “to-do’s” tend to pile up until we feel like we can’t crawl our way out from under them. When we bring in some spaciousness, we often recognize that very little of that needs to be done right now. And that right now, nothing is wrong. Everything is okay in this moment.
And that is quite regulating to our nervous systems, the knowledge that in this particular moment, nothing is wrong.
There are so many ways to create spaciousness in our daily lives. There are small ways: staring out the window for a while; watching the deep, steady breathing of a cat or dog; lighting a candle; making some tea; stretching out on the floor and staring at the ceiling; clearing a small space of clutter.
There are bigger ways: going for a drive; taking half a day off; visiting a friend; roaming around an area that is new to you. You can probably think of dozens of others.
What’s important is to remind ourselves that we need this spaciousness in our lives. That if we feel like we’re up against a wall, like we don’t have any options or all the options are unworkable ones, very likely it’s because we haven’t created the space for our energy (and therefore, our emotions) to shift.
What helps you create spaciousness in your life? How do you remind yourself that you need it? I’d love to hear from you.
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Above photos by Rafa G. Bonilla and Hide Obara, respectively, on Unsplash