Mind the Gap

+ Mind the Gap Feb 11 Muse 29981978_sVisiting in London several years ago, my family and I noticed signs in the subways telling us to “Mind the Gap.” The signs were reinforced by automated voice announcements cautioning us, in a charming British accent, to do the same. These reminders were warning us to step carefully over the space between the train and the platforms.

We do need to “mind” the gaps, holes, and spaces that we encounter when walking, but it may not be good to avoid all of the gaps in our lives. In fact, it is beneficial to look for spaces and gaps in our schedules, and step right into them. The gaps, the “spaces between,” can be rich and important places to focus our attention. Spiritual teacher Eckhardt Tolle refers to the space between the words as being the place where the real meaning lies. Musicians and composers acknowledge the significance of the rests between notes in defining the music. The gap of silence is a space that meditation teacher Jon Kabatt-Zinn describes as the center of our creativity.

Gaps, spaces, holes – all were in my thoughts recently when I listened to British physicist and theologian Jonathan Polkinghorne speak about Dark Matter. While Dark Matter appears to be a space or hole that we assume is emptiness, it is apparently “not nothing.” Polkinghorne described this “space” in the universe as critical to our being. According to him, Dark Matter is actually what holds everything else together. Quite a significant role for what seems like an empty gap!

Perhaps it is the space between, then, rather than what feels “real” and tangible to us (our activities, our bodies, our thoughts) that contains and defines us. If we allow that possibility, then we need to consider whether or not we are making sure that there are enough spaces in our lives – spaces to pause, stop, be silent and rest. Are we running our days at a non-stop pace, only coming to rest when we crash into bed at night? We assume our night time sleep will be a gap of rest, but how restful is it if we are so tightly wound that it is hard to fall asleep or experience deep sleep?

Culturally, we’ve been told that busyness is better than stillness, that something is preferable to nothing. “Dark Matter” may sound a little formidable and scary. We sometimes fear gaps, spaces, and darkness – and therefore avoid them. But, stillness isn’t bad, it’s just not activity. And darkness is simply a contrast to the light.

At a Solstice Ritual I led in December, we celebrated the dark and the light. We affirmed our willingness to embrace the dark. One participant told a story about having experienced total darkness during a sweat lodge ceremony. While the dark was so complete that she couldn’t see anything at all – not even her hand in front of her face – she found it an amazing experience to settle into the dark and experience all of her usual boundaries fall away. Ultimately, she overcame her discomfort with the darkness, and began to feel it as an entity that held and supported her. She experienced an exhilarating sense of freedom and oneness with everything and everyone.

I’ve had glimpses of this experience in meditation and during healing work. Turning inward, connecting with Spirit, the boundaries and borders, as I perceive them, go away. I feel a sense of Spirit energy, of life force. It is everything and nothing. I feel the sense of my body dissolve. My thoughts go quiet. What remains is a sense of gentle but vibrant energy.

It is hard to find the words to describe this experience, and perhaps that is the best indicator of how exceptional it is. Have you noticed that the most wonderful things that happen to us are often described as, “Indescribable!” This place of “no words” is found in the energetic gaps, spaces, and darkness. It’s the place of no-thing-ness. We risk missing these profound moments if we don’t mind the spaces and gaps in our lives, really let them in and fully experience them.

If you’re on a subway platform, please do “Mind the Gap”! But if you’re on the train, or at home, or anywhere else (we need to cultivate this wherever we are), try mindfully noticing a gap, or creating one. Set aside your agenda for a moment and fall into the gap between activities, between thoughts. Be mindful of the gap and relish it, hang out in it for awhile. It’s a restful, creative, profound place to be.

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