(by Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP)
A few weeks ago I attended the Science and Non-duality Conference. It was a great gift, because usually I am the one running the ACEP conference. I can never sit still and go to a workshop. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the take home messages for me was the need to “create space”. I struggle with this all the time – the need to “do” and to produce versus the need to open up space and rest and restore. Clearly, I am not alone in this problem. Many people at the conference picked up on this theme.
Part of creating space is slowing down and creating presence with ourselves and with others. I attended a workshop with Dr. Richard Miller , a psychologist who blends Yoga Nidre with psychological principles. He is the developer of Irest.
He led us through this very simple exercise that had a profound impact. We were asked to close our eyes and focus our attention on our left hand. After a few minutes we were asked to focus on our right hand and then notice the difference. I was amazed at how different they felt. Then we were asked to spread the awareness to the left side of the body and then after awhile to the right. Then we were asked to move between the two sides.
I bring this up here because we slowed down and created space to do this. I think I’m fairly aware of my body. But this was an entirely different level. As I shifted awareness between the two sides, I became very aware of the midline. Then Dr. Miller began talking about the midline. We played with other dualities; for instance, the front versus the back of our bodies. We also shifted our awareness from being a separate being with definite boundaries at the body line to a field that extended outward into the room.
I am not clear about how long this took. I think it was about 20-30 minutes. I can tell you that I was in a very altered state for the next several hours. The quality of that state was spacious, peaceful and quiet. I went to lunch and people were chatting away. I had nothing to say.
Later that afternoon I attended a workshop Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. He talked about the importance of three things: rest, illumination and caring. For him “rest” was not the western version of sitting down and watching TV. It was about creating space, deeply resting and allowing, meditating. Rest created an opening – an opening for what? Illumination. He took a clear glass and held it up. Since it was clear glass, it was not that easy to see. Then he took a flashlight and held it above the glass and turned it on. The light made it easier to see the glass.
Rest creates the space so that illumination can enter. Sometimes, if I allow myself, I will practice with my guitar for awhile and then I just relax and let my hands rest on the strings. There is space. Not always, but often enough, my hands start to play music – illumination.
The final aspect of the trilogy is caring. This can be thought of as non-judgment, welcoming, kindness and love. In the example of the music, I have a recorder going in case there is something I might want to keep. But if there isn’t I’m good with it. I don’t beat up myself with a harsh inner voice, saying things like, “You always play the same damn four chords.”
So, what’s the point? Most of us (well at least me) need to create some space and rest to let illumination in. We need to allow ourselves to slow down and open up some time to focus our awareness on even small things like our left and your right hand. You can do this with meditative practices, yoga or qigong. Maybe you allow yourself something that feeds you rather than you “producing”. Perhaps if you do this not only will you actually end up being more productive, but you will feel more spacious, more peaceful and content.
Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
ACEP Executive Director