Do you ever feel like you need space? Space to grow, space to think, and space to create? There’s a reason why so many artists and writers escape the city to find quiet when they embark upon a new project. They’re finding a peaceful environment in which they can carve out space in their mind for creative thoughts. There’s something to that, but you don’t necessarily have to go on a solo retreat in the woods to find that space.
Shortly after bringing our new roommate home from the hospital, our 600 square foot NYC apartment started to feel a little too cozy. The walls of shelves were closing in on me and I needed space.
The biggest challenge during that first year was not so much the physical space, though - in fact, it was nice to be able to see our active and very curious son from almost every corner of our home. The difficulty was that I didn’t have any space to think. As an introvert, I cherish my alone time. As a new mom, you get zero alone time.
My solution was three-fold. These three simple practices helped me immensely. So now, I offer them to you:
1. De-clutter your space
Your space has a direct effect on your brain. You’ve heard the adage: “get rid of the old to make room for the new”. Let’s consider “the old” to be “stuff”, and “the new” to be “creations”. Forgive me for being morbid, but you’ve never seen a Hearst dragging a Uhaul. Just a reminder. There are countless experts in the organizing / de-cluttering arena - so whether you apply feng shui, read Marie Kondo’s magical book, or just introduce your stuff to the garage bin (or, even better, the donation bin), tidying up your space can have a dramatic impact on your ability to think.
2. Free write
My brother told me about a morning routine he recently adopted - one that’s popular with many writers. It’s actually something my first grade teacher had us do frequently (thanks, Ms. Krause!). In the morning, ideally after a workout session and some nutrition, you spend 5 minutes free writing. In longhand. With a pen and a piece of paper. This serves as a brain dump for whatever is on your mind. Think of it as a way to clear out the nonsense, so you can have a blank slate as you move through your day. One important note: Don’t read it for at least 5 years (or, at all). You need to be free to write anything that’s on your mind. As a screenwriter, creativity is critical for my brother’s livelihood. But, I’d argue that it’s important for all of us - whether you’re an entrepreneur, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a stay-at-home parent, a fitness/wellness professional, or anything else. Just put pen to paper and let the stream of consciousness flow.
3. Go within
If you do Steps 1 and 2 first, this third step will be much easier. The most direct way to clear space in your brain is to, well, clear space in your brain. We spend the majority of our day looking outward, so our brain is bombarded with stimuli. It’s no wonder we have 70,000 thoughts each day. To create a bit more space in your mind, try this simple, 2 minute meditation:
"Notice the space" Meditation
Sit on the floor or in a chair with your spine straight. Consider sitting up on a pillow, to allow your knees to be lower than your hips and your back to be tall. Rest your hands on your knees with your palms down, to promote a grounding energy. Close your eyes and start to observe your breath flowing in and out. Don’t control it, just watch it. Fully focus on 3 cycles of breath (1 inhale + 1 exhale = 1 cycle). If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your next inhale. Then begin the count to 3 breaths again. For the next 3 breaths, bring your attention to the PAUSE at the top of the inhale - and the PAUSE at the bottom of the exhale. Notice it. Notice the gap. Notice the momentary breathlessness. Finally, let go of the counting and take one more deep, cleansing breath. Slowly open your eyes, smile, and take on your day.
NOTE: As you practice this meditation more, try to extend each segment to 5 breaths, then 10 breaths. Over time, you’ll notice the space between the breaths extending. You’ll be able to hover in breathlessness for longer periods of time, and that’s when you’ll connect to your Self (capital S) - and feel expansive.
Now, what will you build with this freed mental real estate? Go find out - and report back.