Space, or ether, is the first and most subtle of the five elements (earth, fire, water, air, ether). It is the essence of emptiness; the space in which other elements can exist. Lacking the element of fire, space alone is cold, without water it is dry, without air it is still, and without earth it is light. Space exists without form, boundless, without a beginning or an end. It is ever-present.
So how can we make sense of something so intangible? On a physical level, space is the container that allows everything else to become. It is a part of all the other elements. Space in the lungs the container for the breath, space in vessels & veins makes way for the pulsation of life. Where else do you experience space in your body? Notice where you feel constricted. Now notice where you feel open, expansive, free. That's space.
Whereas air is the movement of the mind, space (or ether) is the canvas upon which thoughts come and go. Space is quiet, still, & abiding. Space is the pause before action; the silence between thoughts; the ability to act from a place of honesty, kindness, and authenticity rather than habit.
We spend so much (all?) of our time identifying with thought that rarely do we allow ourselves the experience of space. We have become habituated to fill space with distraction, reaction, & contraction. To experience space is to remain still long enough to feel. it. all, and collectively we've become profoundly skilled at avoiding that.
We live in a time when colonizing "outer space" is easier to fathom than the creation of space in our own bodies, minds, and hearts. Without giving ourselves the stillness and quiet of space, we are operating at a level of reactivity that serves only to deepen our divisions and widen the space between hearts, when what we desperately need is the opposite.
What if we created enough space in our hearts- space in our awareness- to feel our sadness, anger, frustration, fear, overwhelm, and pain without calling upon our fiercely cultivated reactivity to further separate, divide, and isolate?
Tantra teaches that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm. What happens within us so too happens outside of us, and vice-versa. If we want to change the world, we have to start with ourselves. So how do we create a more spacious relationship with ourselves?
Move slowly. Start to get curious about the element of space in your body. As you move throughout your day, where does constriction arise? Where do you experience spaciousness? On your mat, how can you move in a way that elicits openness, freedom, and expansion? Set aside the neatly choreographed yoga sequence and try moving your body without any direction. Notice what arises when you slow down and allow.
Breathe. Notice the space your breath moves to occupy. Notice places of constriction that prevent its freedom of movement. Explore the spaces between inhale and exhale. Use the guided breath practice below to deepen this exploration and work to create openness, freedom, and space in the breath.
Pause. Take a moment to reflect on the nature of habit. Without judgment, start to notice your habituated thoughts & actions. What precedes your habits? Familiarize yourself with the feelings, sensations, & emotions that precede habitual reactivity. As you become more aware of these sensations, use them as a reminder to pause, breathe, and create space for a different response.
Move. Breathe. Pause. Explore. Notice. Notice the ways in which these practices begin to color the way you interact with the world. I truly believe that the way we begin to heal our division is by healing our relationships with ourselves.