I have just finished teaching a retreat in up state New York, and now find myself back in the city. The urban landscape – and none is more imposing than the Manhattan skyline – tends to assault the senses. Traffic noise, advertising, people and buildings all pull at the attention, and seem to fill all the space of consciousness.
Yet however complex and compelling the forms, there is always more space than content. Look around you right now. The various forms pull at your attention, but right here in the room, or the café, or the park where you are reading this, the space around the forms is way greater than the forms themselves.
This reflection can be helpful when we find ourselves getting overwhelmed by sensory and mental stimulation. What happens if you open your gaze a little, letting the context be more primary than the content?
When walking in the street, or waiting for a train, any time you feel your attention being squeezed into one or another compulsion or contraction, see if you can let your attention expand into at least a little of the infinite space around what is happening. And as with the visual field, so too with consciousness. Whatever the content of our mind, whatever ideas and images assault us, whatever doubts and dramas may be competing for our attention, the very fact that the forms appear in consciousness means that conscsiouness has room for them.
Our Mind is by its very nature, spacious. It accommodates whatever impinges on it. Sensing this and allowing the spaciousness to function naturally and receptively, we soften the pull. I wrote a few lines this afternoon about this, and for once, they actually rhyme.
Your body is the universe
your mind infinite space
Nowhere an edge nor centre
Unbound by time or place
This empty radiant display
So wide open and free
In which we live and die and play
The game of you and me
Receiving the blessings of your life
What neuroscience calls our ‘negativity bias’ shows us how we tend to focus on what is wrong, what is lacking, what is unsatisfactory. We can spend a lot of anxious energy on what we think is wrong with us, while all the while we are receiving the great blessings of being alive.
Perhaps there is much more right with you in this moment, than wrong. Perhaps it would be greatly relieving and nourishing to actively appreciate the blessings of your life. You will feel more buoyant, more trusting, more confident, and you will have more energy available to attend to those around you who are themselves caught in their own hard luck story.
The only thing
Wrong with you
Is your misguided belief
That there is something
Wrong with you
favourite notes: more space than form; nowhere an edge nor a centre, while all the while receiving the great blessings of being alive.