The Gift of Space

Outside ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.  - Rumi

About two years ago, I spent four days at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I didn't attend any workshop in particular but instead just planned to spend some time doing yoga, meditating, and re-centering - what they call an R&R Retreat. 

I was ambivalent about going. It was November - I had graduated from law school in May and wouldn't start my big law job until January. I was working a few hours a week for an old boss and volunteering at a local yoga studio, stitching away on a bunch of craft projects, making yummy dinners, and watching a lot of Little House on the Prairie. What did I need R&R from? 

But both Navah and my mom kept suggesting that I go, and something in me kept listening to them. I finally called and made a reservation, figured out my transportation, and stepped onto the first of two buses and one shuttle that would take me to the center in the middle of the Berkshires. 

The ride from New York City, where I had spent the night after taking a bus from DC, was long and quiet. I was one of only a few people traveling in the big Peter Pan bus. The ground outside was covered in a thin layer of snow as we drove through the tiny New England towns, one after another. I wrote in my journal and crocheted and looked out the window. I leaned back against the seat and stared off into space. 

For me, the retreat had begun.

And I continued it in much the same way once I arrived. Somewhere in the moments of walking around the main building getting oriented, I made the simple decision to be with myself while I was there, to listen to what I needed and wanted. 

There would be no striving.

Instead I turned my focus inward. I didn't seek to make friends in the dining hall or with the person lying on a yoga mat next to me. I wasn't rude to anyone - I smiled when necessary, and I was friendly with my roommate (I stayed in a two-person dorm room), but I wasn't seeking affirmation or approval. I wasn't trying to connect with anyone except myself. During the four days I was there, I talked perhaps a total of about 20 minutes. 

I sat a lot. I napped. I did yoga. I wrote pages and pages and pages and pages. I wrote about everything I was feeling and everything that was happening. I cried. I lounged in a rocking chair and looked out the huge picture windows, and I wrote about what I saw. I portioned food onto my plate, ate quietly, and went to find a cozy couch for reading. I wrote about what I read. 

My last morning there, I found the meditation room empty and sat for 25 of some of the most peaceful minutes of my life. 

As I rode away, heading back to New York City, I wondered what had just happened to me. 

I felt completely alive and creative and filled with love.

One word kept cycling through my brain.


Like lying on your back in a huge field with nowhere to be except right there looking up at the sky.  

I had just spent four days filled with space. Not filled with projects or to-do lists or meal preparations or worries about whether I was making the right choices. When I didn't want to do something anymore, I stopped and thought about what I'd like to do next. I didn't think about anyone's expectations of me or whether anyone liked me or thought I was interesting or anything except what felt good to my soul at that moment. 

Just space for me, for my thoughts, for ideas and words and silence.

And then I got to New York to spend a few days with my sister, and I meditated in the mornings. And then it was the holidays. And then I started my job. And then and then and then.

I structure my life so there is no emptiness. Saturday's activities are planned by Tuesday. My purse is filled with to-do lists and schedules (sometimes afternoons planned out in 15 minutes increments) scribbled on any sheet of paper in my grasp. Some of it is ambition - to be as productive as possible. Some of it is fear - of silence, emptiness, laziness, wastefulness - of all those words that I've internalized as somehow bad. 

And there's another fear - of being selfish. Of consciously spending time that is only my own. I do it sometimes, but it's often surreptitiously, as if I'm afraid of getting caught. And those moments aren't refreshing. They don't fuel me or my creativity - they're stolen moments on Pinterest when I've told myself I should be responding to emails; they're television shows that I half watch while I write blog posts and fold clothes.

Fostering creativity requires some selfishness - the good kind, the kind that leaves you refreshed and open and with plenty of love to share.

My creativity needs open fields where my mind can run around unencumbered. It cannot always be searching for snippets of time in between all the "important" things. It needs time alone - away from even those people (and dogs!) that I love the most because when I have that time, I love them better.

Those four days were an incredible gift. When I went to Kripalu two years ago, I didn't need a retreat from a job. I needed a retreat from myself - from my own ambition, my own sense that every day must be filled with productiveness, with rules and doing it all perfectly. 

But I can't spend my life at Kripalu. I may never go again. So how do I create that space in the life I'm living every day? 

I'm not sure about the answer, but I have a plan. If I just say I'm going to create more space, we know what will happen. Nothing. 

So I'm going to make a commitment to my creative self - for now, a 2-hour date, once a week. A mini-retreat, if you will. 

Me, my journal, and my camera. We go wherever I want, which might be nowhere at all. I write or I don't. I take pictures or I don't. Maybe I just lie in a field and stare up at the sky. There are no rules. Except that I do it.


Tell me, do you have space for creativity in your life? Where do you find it? Or make it?