Cultivating emptiness through practicing connection
The meeting of the heart and consciousness
Creating space to allow experience to flow fully and naturally without constriction or contraction.
What it feels like
- Mind as a big, clear, wide-open sky that any weather can move through
- A self that can hold all of the parts of you
- The entirety of nature being both the source and container of your experience
One of the most important aspects of spaciousness is that you are being equally spacious about the light and the shadows. You are creating room for the full range of experience, which can be both more challenging than you’d like and more beautiful than you imagine, to move through you.
Your thoughts, feelings, emotions and body sensations all arise within the container of your experience. When that container is small and tight, you are more likely to contract when you encounter experiences you don’t like. You may be reactive or impulsive, or struggle to remain present to the full spectrum of what is happening. This reactivity originates from an underlying desire to keep you safe from pain, or try to make experience arise in a more desirable way.
In contrast, when the container is open, it creates a vast and bright sense of spaciousness. If you imagine experience as arising within a big, clear, wide-open container, your thoughts, feelings, emotions, impressions and energies can all come and go without resistance. This can include ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experiences; nothing needs to be repressed or controlled, since there is enough space for everything.
Spaciousness is not something that you build from scratch, it already exists outside of your contracted perspective. You only have to remember that it is there, and learn how to connect with it. It’s not the same as nothingness; it has an open, vivid and gently loving quality that creates a backdrop of general well-being, like the light at golden hour. It welcomes you as you are.
Benefits of practice
- Creating more spaciousness in experience and feeling your shoulders relax
- Connecting with emptiness and space, flowing out into more emptiness and space, like a waterfall pouring through the present moment
- Opening a heart-portal to an interconnected mycorrhizal network of love that exists underneath everything
- The feeling of safety that emerges within a friendship or group, where every part of you is welcome, and you can share your fullness
Stages of Development
Feeling confused or overrun by emotions, not noticing your perspectives or feeling your emotions. You are fused with everything that is happening with little or no space to be aware of or to respond to what is occurring.
Deep and challenging emotions arise but you can stay more present with them, you have a view on how ideas and perspectives are something that you hold rather than a fixed reality, you can notice more subtle movements in the mind and the heart, you can stay interested in things that you wanted to grasp or run away from. You have space in between receiving something and your response arising. You are able to take the position of a non-judgemental witness. Through practice, you can contact a sense of void or lightness that is infused in all experience.
Emotions are more like energetic textures, you can remain curious and awake in the middle of emotional storms and take the stories with a grain of salt, you can express things that feel confronting or difficult, you can spend significant periods of time in equanimity. Awareness isn’t experienced as a separate part of you, everything is experienced as unfolding naturally into open space. You can easily get in touch with the vastness of life, the cosmos or experience.
Dissociation, distance, seeing too many perspectives, unlocatability, grasping to feeling spacious all the time rather than making space for what is actually present
Constriction, rigidity, being attached to specific states or perspectives, closedness, not caring, idealism around circumstances and environment
Vipassana, Emptiness, Tonglen, Radical Open-Hearted Acceptance, Alexander Technique, talk therapies
“How can I create more space in my experience?”
Connecting with a base level of spaciousness, so that you can come from a resourced and resilient place
- Start by taking 2 – 3 deep slow breaths into the belly and out through the nose. Allow yourself to arrive where you are.
- Notice where your attention is located, for example, behind the eyes, inside the head, floating above you.
- Expand your sense of awareness to include the space around you with a kind of open, soft focus.
- Allow everything within the space around you to relax itself. For example, if you are in a room, allow the furniture to relax, allow the walls to let go of their tension, allow the floor to soften. If you are outside do this with the ground, the trees or whatever is around you.
- Play with expanding this space of relaxed awareness to different sizes. Can it grow as large as the room? Larger?
- Settle into an awareness that feels like a pleasant, comfortable size and stay here. If you notice you are back to contracted awareness at any stage, just open up to a more spacious perspective and allow things to relax from there.
- Once you have a felt-sense of this, you can either continue practicing this or go onto the next phase of practice.
“What experiences don’t I want to feel spacious around?”
Connecting with the full spectrum of experience from a more spacious place.
- Notice something in experience that feels particularly contracted or sticky – a thought, emotion or sensation.
- Focus onto the difficult part of experience and allow it to expand as large as it needs into the open spaciousness you have cultivated. It can become your whole Universe if it needs to.
- Make space for it to be as it is, without you trying to judge, control or run away from it. It may want to move or express something, for example, feelings may need to be felt, or it may just want to be acknowledged and recognised.
- When you are ready to end the meditation, connect back into that sense of spaciousness before coming back.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and start by taking a couple of deep breaths.
When you start the playlist, pay attention to how the music inspires feelings, thoughts and energies in your inner world and creates the shape of your experience as you journey with it.
As a concentration object, feel how your body, heart, mind and imagination are creating an artwork or story in your inner world that is inspired by the connection with the music.