The Spaces Between

photo by: Julie

One of the categories of GOforChange is "Inspiration." I’ve always been fascinated by the etymology of words that we tend to throw around unconsciously. "Inspiration" comes from the Latin, inspiratus , or inspirare : "inspire, inflame, blow into," from in -"in" + spirare "to breathe." Breathing is such a part of life that we often are completely unaware of it. When we take a bit of time to notice our breath, we become more open and expansive. This stillness helps us navigate the challenges of life.

I’ve been listening to Wayne Dyer’s "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life," which is his exploration of the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching , as applied to our modern world. Each day, I listen to a verse of the Tao, along with his musings on what it means to us today and how to apply it in simple, practical terms. For example:

11th Verse of the Tao Te Ching

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub.
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.

Shape clay into a vessel.
It is the space within that makes it useful.

Carve fine doors and windows,
but the room is useful in its emptiness.

The usefulness of what is
depends on what is not.

As an architect, I have always been attracted to this verse, with its embrace of the void, of the spaces between. Musicians also know the power of silence: the spaces between the notes determine our emotional response to and understanding of the sounds made by their instruments.

In our modern world, we tend to focus mostly on what IS, rather than taking the time to see what is NOT. There is a classic exercise in drawing class, where you have to draw a chair by only drawing the spaces you see in between the edges formed by the legs, seat, or back of the chair. It’s so liberating to try to "see" the spaces, rather than to look at the object itself.

We can try this as we go about our lives, whether in a literally visual way – look at the spaces formed between the leaves on a tree, for instance – or as we approach our work and interactions with others. What are the spaces between in a discussion or an argument? Can we take a moment to pause and just breathe in and out a few times, to see what we notice when we quiet our mind?

Years ago, I read an article by the author Shirley Hazzard , called "We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think." This phrase has been repeating itself in my head a lot lately. Our lives are so full, so busy, so stimulated. Yet, if we can find a bit of silence, we can tap into a boundless wellspring of creativity, knowing, and calm confidence. Or, as Lao Tzu says, "the usefulness of what is depends on what is not."

Related Posts

Post a Response