‘To live a conscious life, your life needs to be spacious.’ Marc Beuvain
‘I am in the space and the space is in me . . . The space is in the body and the body is in the space . . . When you change something in the body, the concrete body of somebody, you change his or her way of perceiving the space . . . Very often we keep working on the body and we forget to work on the space…Space, not place, is an imaginary space of action . . . The way I am building my imaginary space affects my body.’ Hubert Godard
Whenever I complete one of those spatial awareness personality tests, my results are virtually nil. If the scores could be negative, they probably would be. I have learned the hard way not to have faith when navigating my car in a tight space, because the results are always disastrous. My first experience of this was the day after I passed my driving test, when I had to pick up a colleague from a car repair workshop, and managed to scrape my own vehicle on the way out!
So it strikes me as ironic but also necessary that I find myself at this stage in my life so very interested in finding and exploring space. I would like to hear how others feel about space – maybe you are revisiting the way you spend time, maybe you have stopped working recently or changed the way you are using the space of your life – or maybe you are just reflecting.
When I was in my 20s, I became aware that my desire to be productive and busy in my work, and generally to fill my time, was at least partly a very human response to running away from space – what was at that time a scary void where I might discover I was, in fact, nothing. I remember discussing this with my friend Robert and we were both resigned to the business of filling the looming forward space of our lives. Years later when that space seems less open-ended, I have become fascinated with the challenges of re(dis)covering comfort in space. It is still at times a scary endeavour, and often easier to slip back to the deep-rooted habit of running away and meaninglessly filling the space with displacement activity.
A friend of mine was ill a few years ago and when she went to a homeopath, she was told that her outer life was so busy that this crowdedness had somehow invaded her inner life and her body – hence the illness. She needed to create space around and inside her to be cured. She followed this strategy and it worked.
My yoga practice is transforming my relationship with space – inside and out – and I’m very grateful to a number of teachers in helping me understand more about space, not all of whom can I name here without going into a litany of appreciation! Through working with the rolfer and yoga teacher Giovanni Felicioni, I am learning to give up the chase that can be yoga as well as the rest of life, and by accepting where I am now, to discover the space inside me as well as explore the space I’m inhabiting. I enjoy Giovanni’s way of teaching because it is so exploratory and so non-judgmental. He uses evocative abstract images, calling his workshops for example ‘time, water and accidents of perception’ which all makes sense during and after the experience though it would be hard to put into words before.
I recently attended a yoga seminar given by Marc Beuvain, where he talked about the need to create space for our inner being, our deeper, enduring true self without compromising our humanness and immediate experience. Our lives are so full of preoccupations with our identities, roles, interests, feelings etc – we crowd out our deeper selves and so we get lost in the more superficial aspects of living, distracted by drama and conflict. We create false identities where we adopt fixed positions and make judgments to define ourselves. A good clue as to whether we have a fixed or more permeable/adaptable identity is our ability to talk about many subjects without feeling compelled to judge them as good or bad. We become so attached to these positions that we mistake them for what is real and enduring in ourselves, and then we fear losing them. If I am no longer a …..then what and who am I? This fear of losing our (false) identity leads us to crave reinforcement and seek energy from others to feed our need. It can lead to hierarchical relationships where one person is drawing more energy than the other is receiving, rather than an equal exchange.
So how to create a sense of space inside that can be reflected in our outer lives, and start to clear the clutter? Yoga practice can develop our appreciation of space – inside and out – and give us the ability to be comfortable in and with space. Through such practice the real self can emerge. That happens when the practice takes the form of explorations – questions that are really excursions into space – rather than performances or answers. I see yoga practice as a ‘…’ or a ‘?’ – never a ‘.’
While I am talking about yoga practice, I really mean an attitude towards living. You might never have practised yoga on a mat – but if you are striving for any of this kind of attitude in your life, then you are in fact a lifelong student of yoga. (I appreciate this may be a surprise to you!)
I like this story though I’m not sure I’ve got all the facts right. Please correct them if you know better. Hubert Godard is a well-known rolfer who works with ballet dancers in France. As a young man he worked with gold, and then he achieved his own alchemical transformation. At the age of 22 he saw ballet dancers perform perhaps for the first time, his heart leapt, and he just knew he would be a dancer – this was a moment of deep heartfelt knowing who he was and would become. It was a moment of recognition of his inner self. He had the perception and the courage to act on it, and he created the space to follow his intuition.