The Beautiful & Creative Genius of Empty Space in Your Day | Blog
The Beautiful & Creative Genius of Empty Space in Your Day
If you know me then you know that I can be a workaholic. While it has significantly improved over the last five years or so, I still have these tendencies. I can get pretty preoccupied with my work and it can become the central theme in my life. I am a “doer” and my days and thoughts are full of the things I should be doing or need to do, and I often worry that I’m not doing enough. I can spend a lot of time thinking about projects, clients, and potential ideas.
The good news is, I love what I do, and it offers me lots of opportunity for connection and meaning. The bad news is, it can rob me of energy and a deeper connection to my true self, to the intimate relationships in my life and ultimately it creates an internal busyness and revved up state that, without doubt, has diminishing returns and keeps me from accessing fresh thinking and creativity.
While thinking about my business can be exciting and stimulating, I have also experienced what happens when I don’t allow time for the empty space(s) in my day, in my mind, and in my life.
I have a good friend that will sometimes say to me, “Remember why you gave up your executive position and went out on your own…you wanted to create a business that allowed you to have a rich and meaningful work-life AND personal life.” This is her way of helping me see that I might be working too hard. I might be leaning too far towards those workaholic tendencies.
Sometimes my initial reaction is defensive, and I start justifying myself by saying, “I’ll slow down when this project is over” or “This is the most important thing I need to be doing right now.” Yet, once that initial reactivity passes, I can hear the truth. You see, I know that there are always “important” things to do. I know that when one project ends there is always another important or urgent one waiting for me. Years can literally go by where I go from one thing to the next justifying my drive, my preoccupation, and workaholic tendencies.
Before I go any further, I just want to say, I’m not saying that at times we don’t work hard. Or that there is this elusive work/life balance we need to find. I don’t believe in that. I think productivity, energy, focus, discipline and how many hours we work ebbs and flows. There is no one right way. When we have a deadline or are in a creative flow, working longer hours and a singular focus over a period of time, may make sense.
I’m simply inviting you to consider, “What could more empty space give me?” And perhaps to ask yourself the question, “Am I following the natural momentum or am I pushing out of habit, fear, or insecurity?”
After years of believing that my drive, strive and ability to ignore stress or do well under pressure was the source of success, it has been humbling and surprising to see that often those states kept me locked in an exhaustive cycle that was robbing me of depth, intimacy, fresh ideas and access to more well-being and creativity.
The richness of life, the creative genius of our minds, intimacy and connection to ourselves and others, is in the opposite direction of doing. It is in the simple and profound moments when we show up fully with our presence. It is in the space – not the action. It is the feeling not the doing.
Not too long ago, I was working on a new event. I was super excited about it, but I also had a lot riding on it. I wanted it to be a success. I wanted people to be inspired and impacted and I wanted everyone involved to benefit. All sounds good – right? I was working very long hours and seven days a week over a long period of time. To be honest, I didn’t mind. However, I had lost sight of diminishing returns. Meaning, I had lost sight of the fact that my energy was too low, that my stress levels were high and that I was taking things too seriously. So much so, my back froze, and I could not move my neck.
This was a wake-up call. I knew immediately I had not been listening to my body, to my intuition or my deeper intelligence. I had been overriding it all and letting push and urgency take over. I was too full; my schedule and my time were too full. I hadn’t noticed that the well was dry from all my pushing and striving. Once I saw it, I knew what was needed. I had to stop. Plain and simple. It was time for empty space.
I had forgotten the value of empty space. I had forgotten the value of free time, of letting my mind wander, and of connection. Connection to my deeper nature, to others and to the present moment.
It was time to surrender to the need for space and take this project off my mind.
Empty space and time allow us to rest, renew and replenish. We slow down and find that inner stillness; the internal spaciousness that allows us to stop all the doing and simply be. From this space, this place within, we tap into a reservoir of renewal, creativity and fresh perspective. We are touched by life and experience the magic of being alive.
This inner stillness, this space within, is the source of all creative endeavors. This is the source of life, of love, of intimacy and impact.
Too often our days are filled with obligatory tasks, our schedules are filled with meetings, activities, to do’s and they lack the opportunity or the spaciousness of empty time. They are filled with mindless time on all of our devices; constant consumption of news, texts, social media and surfing the web. We lack time to wander, to find the stillness and space that fuels us and fills us.
Fresh ideas, aha moments, shifts in consciousness, insights all come from this space. Our ability to connect powerfully, to influence, to experience more intimacy is enriched via this space within.
And yet, if I’m being honest, I still struggle to be uncompromising when it comes to ensuring there is regular empty time in my day or in my week. I can fill those voids with mindless tv or being on my computer. Thankfully, I am learning to respect the space more and more and respect less my tendency to do or to consume.
There is something about letting go of the grind, of consuming or figuring things out, that opens us up. When we let go of the noise, the inner chatter or the preoccupation with work or a project, our minds begin to slow down. We become available to the present moment, to the unknown; to the creative potential that resides within.
For those of us who know how to work hard, push, and have a high tolerance for a busy mind and schedule, the process of letting go and dropping into empty space and stillness within is a process. Speaking from my own experience, it may require some humility and trust. However, I can promise the return is worth it.
The return on empty space and allowing your mind to free up and naturally connect to the depth of stillness within, is endless. It is filled with surprises and rewards beyond measure. I have heard, over and over again, some version of these words, “It was better than I could have ever imagined.”
New ideas, fresh experiences of ourselves and our work come from this space. Renewal, enthusiasm and inspiration come from here. Connection to the creative intelligence resides here.
What emerges from this space is magic. It is beautiful and rich and creative.
Sound too good to be true? I get it. I invite you to give it a go anyway and see what happens for you.
“The richness of life, the creative genius of our minds, intimacy, and connection are in the opposite direction of doing.”
What we create, is shaped by the moments we touch the infinite within. Creativity flourishes when we allow for empty time and space.
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Barbara Patterson is the owner of a global coaching and consulting company helping solopreneurs, entrepreneurs & leaders access more clarity, creativity, have greater impact and higher levels of fulfillment in work and life. She is the founder of Beyond Limits in Business, a global platform and community designed to point people to the source of human potential. That potential resides within and is experienced via our minds. Barb is also the host of the Real Business Real Lives podcast. You can follow Barb on Linkedin and Insta