The sun danced in and out of my living room as the clouds moved through the sky. I sat on two of my purple yoga blocks, having scooped my buttock flesh outwards to feel my sitting bones in just the way my dear Iyengar teacher had always told us to do.
Hands in prayer, I blundered my way through what I could remember of the invocation to Lord Patanjali, something I’d heard and fallen in love with over the seven days of a yoga retreat in Turkey last year.
Later I’d take a shower, cook my morning porridge and play around with ink colours and a sketch pad for a while. Later still, I’d wander the twenty minutes into town through the cemetery full of Spring greens, red-barked trees, squirrels chasing one another in quick circles round tree trunks and blackbirds picking through the undergrowth.
I’d pause for a moment at the top of the mighty hill that descends to the town centre and wish that there were someone by my side that I might share out loud the impossible wonder I’d feel as I looked out towards the bay and the ethereal outline of the Lake District mountains beyond.
I’d buy olives from the farmers’ market where the stall holder would ask me a little about my work and give me 20p off for bringing back my last tub. I’d browse a while in the library, picking out an anthology of Scottish Islands poetry. I’d pick up some strawberries, a loaf of bread to go with lunch and have a conversation with a man on the street corner about my cropped hair.
And after all of that, I’d set off back up the mighty hill towards home, full of these moments that whilst seemingly small and insignificant, would fill me to the brim with all the wonders of life and what it means to be human.
And when I got home, I’d sit and finish writing this and with a little luck it would reach just a little deeper into your hearts than it might have done otherwise.
Even as I write these words and admit to you the vast amount of space some of my days contain, there’s that slight, lingering sense of laziness. But it is only slight now. Because deep inside and from endless personal experience I know that the world’s got it wrong.
We were taught that “good” was being busy and doing more; working hard and putting in the hours. And we were taught that taking time out, playing, creating, sitting doing nothing at all was selfish and self-indulgent. “Are you keeping busy?” is one of the questions I’m most frequently asked, as if keeping busy were a badge of honour. Success, certainly, required a great amount of doing.
Many of us have learned that leaving lots of space in our lives for things outside “work” is somehow wrong and when we begin to transition from a life of constant doing to a life of doing less, there’s often an enormous amount of guilt that bubbles up from inside about that.
We’ve learned to equate white space with laziness, a lack of useful contribution to the world and a lack of ambition to really do anything at all in life.
And yet I’ve ridden that roller coaster from constant doing to a life filled with more and more white space and the truth of experience never lies:
In the white space answers to problems that have been troubling us are revealed, as if by magic.
In the white space a spark of an idea surfaces that would have otherwise remained buried.
In the white space art rises up inside us and insists on being brought into form in the world where it might touch people with its light and love and change more than we dare realise.
In the white space we begin to notice that what we want isn’t “out there” but “in here” and consequently our constant materialistic obsessions begin to wane.
In the white space we face the things we’d rather not face and as we resolve those things inside ourselves, our outward expression in the world becomes more kind, more loving and more compassionate.
In the white space we begin to question our motives for doing what we do and wanting what we want and perhaps somewhere along the way we realise we’ve been chasing something that will never fill the emptiness we feel inside.
In the white space we might even discover the truth of the only thing that will ever truly fill us up, which is to say, a seeing of our true nature. Because yes and yes and a thousand times yes, you really are what you seek. You are the beginning, the middle and the end of everything you’ve ever wanted.
And there, there in that treasure as we see who we are for the very first time, a fire of action begins to burn. An action rooted not in the guilt of non-action but in a pure, sweet and honest desire to serve our planet and our fellow beings, in whatever way it expresses itself through you. And this kind of action doesn’t lead us to burnout but to burning brightly, love pouring forth from everything we do.
So please, my dear, dear soul, if life is gracing you with the opportunity to create more white space, don’t feel guilty taking time out to play, create or be elsewhere. In the end, this white space might just be the most powerful thing you can do to help change the world.
Love and courage,