Ordinary life presents countless small opportunities to brighten up our mind.
Even the most humdrum days will benefit from a mindfulness practice called ‘mind the gap’, tweaking life for the better.
We can brighten our mind by making the most of the many in-between spaces in daily life, the moments of doing nothing in particular, such as the tiny moments between tasks. These moments present a wonderful opportunity for presence, for coming alive in our own life. For coming back into the body while refreshing and enlivening our mind.
It’s really simple. We don’t have to do anything major. We simply need to come into the fullness of the very moment. How bad is that?
It means simply noticing where you are and seeing your surroundings. Do it after emerging from a spate of being engrossed in thought. Pause for a few seconds or longer, before hopping back on the treadmill of the thinking mind.
And hey, it’s not as if we consciously hop back on. The treadmill turns, and before we know it, we’re back on, riding. Immersed in another train of thought.
NO MAN’S LAND
The alternative to gap-awareness is landing in a blank “no man's land” between thoughts. Here, the residue- of thought continues (like the aroma lingering after a feisty fart). We miss the opportunity for moments of aliveness when we fail to notice and rest in the gap.
Look, it‘s no big deal: I'm sure I spend most of my uncluttered moments in no-man's land. However if I can bring 20%, 5%, - hell, if I can bring awareness and brightness into even 1% of my gaps overall- then life is going to be more enjoyable and satisfying.
A LONG WAY AWAY
I'm amazed at the distance I am from my body when caught up in my head. Bla bla bla, babbles my mind, "when i go to the markets on Sunday I'm going to xyz... ". On it goes, then whoosh! Suddenly I'm back in my body at the sink, rinsing my cup.
On the really good days when I’m not tired or harassed, the gap between thought-streams has the quality of a sparkling champagne glass fresh from a clean dishwasher. Ting!
Even on normal days, the gap is welcome. This practice works for all manifestations of our mood and experience: tired, depressed, irritated. However it’s going to be easier- all mindfulness comes easier- when we’re not rushed or exhausted. All the more reason to do whatever we can to minimise over-obligation.
To make space a priority in our life.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
For example, say you’re catching a plane/train/ bus, or maybe you're driving, caught in some story in your head, distracted, miles away... and suddenly you're back in the moment, seeing out the window, noticing you're ‘back’ in the car. Wham bam, you’ve arrived. This gap is a precious golden moment- let it be noticed! Honour it by coaxing yourself to appreciate and allow its unadulterated presence. Even if it just lasts milliseconds.
And aren’t we always being told that mindfulness, or being in our moments, is the gateway to graciousness, the secret to happiness, the key to success?
For all I know, this gap might be something completely obvious to you. I might be the bunny, the last girl standing, to appreciate gaps. It wasn’t until I started meditating regularly that I began to notice the gaps between thoughts in daily life. Not only that, but the practice of meditation made the presence of the gaps more glaringly obvious.
The activity of meditation involves breaking out of our inner raves and bringing the mind back again and again to the present moment. Therefore, the mind develops the muscle, habit and natural capacity for breaking through distraction .
Moreover, brain research shows that areas of grey matter responsible for attention actually get larger through regular meditation practice. No wonder meditators notice improved creativity and heightened mental faculties as soon as six to eight weeks after beginning a daily 20-minute meditation practice.
I love the gaps. Sometimes weeks go by and I’ve forgotten about them. It’s always a joy restarting the practice. I can vouch from experience, from experimentation, that resting briefly in the gaps brightens my day. It seems the radiance of these brief awareness-filled moments, between mind’s meanderings, spills over into my general mood.
Minding the gaps helps a person feel more buoyant, satisfied, content, creative and more daring. In short, more dynamically alive.
There’s really nothing to do except remind yourself to notice when a particular thought-chain has ended. You were thinking ahead to tonight’s dinner and now, before the next thought starts (‘what’s on telly/Netflix/) isn’t there a teeny tiny gap?
Sure, you might be thinking ‘I wonder if this is the gap…’ and doubting ‘but isn’t this thinking too?’… If it’s thought that you can be aware of, as opposed to thought-stream you are distractedly immersed in (not even truly seeing what’s in front of you), then it’s the gap.
It is the gap.
Stay there. Don’t strain. Just rest.
There’s nothing to achieve; you’re already there.
Allow the mind to be as it is.
Resist the impulse to start up another thought-fest.
Stay in the moment for a few seconds, seeing clearly what is in front of you.
(No effort will be required for the next thought-story to whisk you away.)
copyright Shakti Burke 2017
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20/7/2017 07:16:46 am
Thanks for the describing the practice of mind the gap. I look forward to trying it.
20/7/2017 05:15:25 pm
And I look forward to hearing how you go with it Julia B. ☺
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