“Nothingness is the sister of possibility.”
I said to a friend last week that one of the greatest gifts I have given myself in recent years is the ability to recognize and appreciate a sense of internal space. It is in this space that peace resides, possibilities are born and a sense of gratitude for nothing and everything begins to make itself known. It is the place where we meet our inner self, and where our authenticity comes. It is the place from which we are able to fill our own well, from the bottom up.
Journaling is a great way to clear our minds and intentionally cultivate this inner space, beginning with the mind. This exercise is designed to help you do just that.
The Empty Room
Get out your pen and your journal and find a comfortable place to write.
We are going to do a stream of consciousness writing. This is essentially the process of dumping the contents of your mind onto the paper by simply writing down what comes into your head. Try to keep your pen flowing. If you can’t think of what to write simply write, “I don’t know what to write” until something else pops in. If you find yourself repeating thoughts, worries, whatever, just let that be. Write what it is in your mind at this moment. Anything and everything. Don’t censor yourself, just let the thoughts come and record them. Your thoughts may sound hopeful one moment, and then mean, petty or whiny the next. It doesn’t matter. Set your timer for 20 minutes, keep your pen moving and write them down.
When time is up, set your pen down, close your eyes and place your hands on top of your open journal. Let your breathing slow and just notice what you are feeling. Notice how it feels to have everything that was in your head down on paper, right beneath your hands. Let what you have written stay there for now…there is no need to pick it up again, it’s all right there on paper in front of you. It’s not going anywhere. For now, just let it all go and enjoy the spaciousness you’ve cultivated in your mind.
Now, in your minds eye, picture an empty room. It’s a large room with high ceilings and arched windows on all four sides. Slowly begin to walk around the room. Notice the clean, white walls. Notice the way the sunlight streams through the oversized windows. Listen to the sound of your footsteps on the wood floor as they echo in all of that empty space. This room is your blank canvas. It represents your thoughts, your time and your energy. Right now it is empty. Spacious. Filled with nothing but possibility. Sit down on the floor of your room and just breathe for a moment or two, soaking in the deliciousness of all of that spaciousness and freedom. John O’Donohue says, “Nothingness is the sister of possibility. It makes an urgent space for that which is new, surprising, and unexpected.” Let yourself feel the truth of that. Know that it is up to you to fill or not fill this space as you see fit. You get to choose what goes in here. You always have a choice. This sacred space that represents your thoughts, energy and time is yours and yours alone. How will you fill it? What will you put here? What will you not put here? What is worthy of occupying this space? When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
Return your attention to your journal and read through what you just wrote. Underline anything that represents something that you want to keep, something that lights you up, speaks to you, feels like it is worthy of occupying space in your room. If your experience with stream of consciousness writing was more of a letting go and you are not finding much that you want to pick up again, that’s great too. Don’t pick up anything that doesn’t feel like it belongs in that delicious room filled with light, spaciousness, freedom and possibility. It can stay as empty as it needs to right now.
Open to a new page in your journal.This blank page represents your empty room, your sacred space. Write down, possibly in boxes or circles, what you choose to keep. If you aren’t finding much to transfer over ask yourself, what, in an ideal world, would I want to dedicate my time, my energy, my thoughts to? In an ideal world, what would I want in my sacred space? Write these here.
Look at what you have chosen and notice how much lighter you feel. Notice the clarity and focus that comes from letting go of that chatter that doesn’t serve us and deliberately choosing how we will dedicate our thoughts, time and energy.
How to use what you uncovered this week:
*Plan your day from this sacred space: Annie Dillard famously said,“how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” When you are planning your day or making a to-do list, have your sacred space page in front of you. Let it be there as a reminder of how you choose to prioritize your time and energy.
*Take inspired action: If a creative project or larger action item revealed itself to you in the course of the exercise, take at least one baby step in its direction this week. You may find yourself with more energy and motivation to do so as you have let go of a lot of what was bogging you down and are clearer on where you want to invest yourself.
*Keep writing: Use one or more of the thoughts or phrases you’ve chosen to put in your sacred space as a jumping off point for more writing. See what comes up.
*Do it again: Stream of consciousness writing is always here for you as tool to help you clear your mind and sort and sift through what is there. Use it whenever you feel overwhelmed, distracted, or uncertain of where to go next. What goes in your sacred space may shift and change as time goes on. That’s perfect. Let it be yours. Let it evolve.
**Bonus exercise: As it is on the inside, so it is on the outside. And vice versa. As we clear out our inner world, let’s clear out our physical realm to reflect our newfound appreciation of spaciousness and possibility. Take everything out of at least one space in your home this week. It can be a drawer, a closet, an entire room. Revel in the beauty of its spaciousness and then only put back what you really want there.