by Julia Febiger
Tis the season for transition, as they say. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life…but are we feeling good? (If I could soundtrack my blogposts, I would cue the wind instruments and Nina Simone’s sonorous voice…)
As I made my own, annual transition from two thousand and twelve to two thousand and thirteen, I found myself contemplating the idea of space. Somewhere, at some point, I heard someone say that “the nice thing about space is that it keeps going”. Was it in yoga class? On a TED talk? From a friend? With space on my mind, I’ve been wondering how to preserve it there — gently, mindfully, and with appreciation. Now this is starting to feel good.
Earlier this winter, I played a rousing game of Sunday evening Balderdash with some friends. As part of the game, players make up and write down definitions for an unfamiliar but legitimate word; meanwhile, the balder writes down the real definition. The balder then reads off all of the submitted definitions, and the players guess which one is correct. The word “koomkie,” which actually has something to do with decoy elephants, was defined by someone as “the space between two snowdrifts”.
The poetry of this definition has stayed with me like an extra layer of warmth. Truth be told, I find that when seeking the space that wise yogis and meditators speak of, I sometimes get bogged down in trying to find said space all at once. As if I could simply find and then flip a switch in my mind and suddenly be surrounded by all of the spaciousness I am seeking. And maybe that is possible for some people or someday, but for now I find myself cultivating space in my mind incrementally.
In other words, I am trying to find the spaces between the snowdrifts. I love how this made-up definition illuminated something that was previously dark in my mind, even if only by virtue of having been unnamed.
Since my birthday falls just after the new year, I tend to double up on reflection and resolution in deep winter. It’s kind of like having your cake and eating it too, only, slightly harder to swallow. This year was no exception. In addition to thinking about space, I have also been watching my habits. I realized that when openings arise in my life (as they are wont to do), historically my instinct has been to fill them up — immediately, and without reservation. I used to think that I was at my best when I was so busy that I was spread a bit thin. But the thing about being flat out is there is no place to find the space between the snowdrifts.
However, by learning how to identify and breathe into the spaces that I do find, these flakes may accumulate into drifts. Perhaps I will eventually find myself in a border-less snow-globe of sorts. The analogy might end there, but the point is that, with practice, I am learning how to cultivate the space(s) between.
If it is true what they say, then the universe is continuously expanding. So if outer space is limitless, then perhaps so is our inner space. Yoga facilitates my tapping into what space exists within and outside of me by providing an intentional and guided practice that incorporates both mind and body.
Through asanas and meditation, I can learn how to locate those pockets of space, even when they are playing hide and seek. This may start with a moment between two thoughts during savasana, or taking one more breath in crow pose before collapsing into a heap on the ground. Off the mat, this may translate into taking a moment to pause before reacting impulsively, or defaulting to a habitual decision.
Ultimately, I am finding that this sacred pause is the window and the doorway to more spaciousness, and that spaciousness is inextricably tied to stillness and ease. Meanwhile, here’s to letting it snow.