Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
In the London underground, there are reminders on the platform to “Mind the Gap.” In American, that means don’t fall and get squished by a train. Our practice is actually to Find the Gap: even in the midst of a harried season, to find the spaces of peace that are always available.
At this time of year particularly, I need this reminder. When I find myself wrapping presents while watching basketball with my husband and preparing for my classes while working in the kitchen and squeezing one more errand in on the way home, I can forget that peace and stillness really are right there with me.
In Nia, we call it Living Meditation: the ability to notice what is still in the midst of movement, what is silent in the midst of noise, what is resting in the midst of effort. It’s part of why mindfulness is a super power and here are 5 ways to practice finding the gaps that are all around us.
Take a handful of deliberate pauses during the day. In the midst of whatever you are doing, stop and take three deep breaths. See if you can simply be present to what is happening internally and externally. Maybe as you stand at the sink or wait at a red light or while you are walking: pause, breathe, feel the sensation of the gap.
2. Labeling meditation – Sensation, Image, Thought…
One of my meditation sisters taught me a labeling meditation that is particularly helpful when my mind and life is over-busy or stressful. Simply sit quietly and when something comes into your awareness, make gentle mental labels of Sensations, Images and Thoughts. If your feet are cold or you knee is sore, gently say to yourself “Sensation.” If you see visions of sugar plums or maybe piles of laundry, quietly note, “Image.” If you start planning how to attack your to-do list or worrying how the holiday dinner is going to go, make a mental note of “Thought.” Sometimes, you might also notice when none of the three are happening … and that is the gap.
3. Listen to the Music
Put on a piece of music that features multiple musicians – a band or orchestra or chorus – and listen for when a musician is playing and when she isn’t. This is also fun to do while watching musicians play (even better when live!): watch the one that isn’t playing. Listen for the gap.
4. Watch the Non-Speaker
Similarly while watching movies or plays, pay careful attention to the actors who are not speaking. Notice that it’s not that they are doing nothing, but they are leaving a gap for another player’s words to be spoken. You can do this in your own conversations, too, by dropping into the listening gap when someone else is speaking and being aware of the other person when they are in the gap.
5. Zone out
Give yourself a few minutes to do nothing. Crazy as it may sound, just stop and zone out. Watch a bird fly or a cat watch a bird fly. Gaze at the fire. Let the warm water of a shower flow over you. Slide into the gap.
What are other ways you find the gap? Share them in the comments below or at the Focus Pocus Facebook page!