skip to Main Content

Finding life’s music in the White Spaces

Image by Rombo on Unsplash

Whether it was Mozart or Debussy, this quote is one to ponder: “Music is the silence between the notes.” Because it’s in that silence that you’ll find the white space where you will discover the music of your life, the song you’re here to sing.

Recent conversations with coaching clients have led to discussions about “white space”. Not always in that exact language but always dancing around the idea. I have loved this concept since I heard it from Coach Dawn Kotzer, Inner Wilderness Guide, Doodle Activist and the Real Deal (that last one is my title for her.) That was quite a few years ago. She was speaking about the white space on our calendar, the idea of blocking out unscheduled time. I contacted her recently and asked her how she’s looking at it now.

“Energetically speaking,” she said, “White Space- fluid & flexible, immune to the needy, BS part of ego – is home to our creative soul and where we most effortlessly access our core of peace.”

Can you feel it?

That still feels so open and expansive to me. I get it; I seek it. I know what she means on a gut level. At the same time, it’s amorphous and can, therefore, be difficult to articulate. Those coaching conversations made me realize I hadn’t reached down deep enough for the right language.

One client spoke about how busy her life was years ago with kids and work and home. Life is less structured now but she’s still carrying the old busy mindset. She pondered, “How do we figure out how to not have our days crammed full?”

I offered my definition of white space – open, unscheduled time to do nothing. She disagreed. She felt that it wasn’t possible to do nothing. I guess it was how I explained it because she is right. (I love this about my clients. They are so wise.) I wasn’t explaining that gut level understanding well enough. I still hadn’t gotten the exact right language.

Or is it life’s margins

Another woman I was working with described building and maintaining the margins of life. Oh! That made me sit back in my chair and take it into every cell.

Those margins are non-existent in the first half of life as we rush through our days. Working, tending, doing. And, just like my other client mentioned, we carry that restrictive, busy mindset into the second half of life. All that rushing and doing that’s no longer needed except our habit makes it so. We strive to fill the margins.

I love the idea of cultivating the margins of life. That’s the expansiveness I crave and closer to my visceral understanding of white space.  If I need a visual, maybe it’s the contrast between a narrow highway with no shoulder and those roads with generous edges. Narrow spaces bring discomfort. The wide edges create space. And in that place, we can discern and act on what is most important.

Is it just thinking time?

So, what is the essence of white space, after all? As the first client said to me, “It’s always something, right?”

True. I can sit on a chair and gaze out the window but there’s never a void. I’m thinking, ruminating, dreaming. All of this is good. So, call it what it is. Thinking time.

But it’s more than that. It’s protected time. Time claimed just for me, bounded by stillness and quiet space. Okay maybe I’m getting closer.

Leo Barbauta, of Zen Habits, wrote a post that I mentioned it in an earlier blog. It has a powerful pull for me. He likens the white space in design to white space in life. He describes white space in life as a place where we are able to get more clarity, peace, breathing room and balance. It’s the removal of the non-essential that enables us to have the time and space to figure out what is most important. Only then can we give it the emphasis it deserves.

Whatever you call it, you need it

It’s similar to the second of Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants. The important but not urgent. A place most of us are not used to occupying in a busy Second Age or first half of life. But a perfect place in which to unfurl, develop and sink into a Multidimensional Life.

There are as many ways to look at this are there are eyes. But, at its core, I believe it is the claiming of time to intuit what is best for you in the moment and in this stage of your life. It’s tuning in to your own music. It is a creative process that is unique to each of you and carries a language you will need to create for yourself.

Whatever language you use, this concept is essential to a Multidimensional Life. In their own language, it resonates with my clients and and elevates the work we do together.

What will you call it? How will you describe it? And, most importantly, how will you incorporate it into your life and find that clarity and peace?

Don’t make it a big project. Look for moments. Let them build like beautiful, soaring music. Create your White Space and listen for your song.

It’s me, your inner voice.

Microphone
Image by Israel Palacio on Unsplash

Hi, there, Friend. It’s me, your inner voice. Call me Ivee if you like.

[Tap…Tap…Tap…] Is this thing on?

I’ve been trying to get your attention but it’s so darn noisy out there. Bright lights, people vying for your attention. All the siren songs luring you to a rocky shore, their beautiful voices drawing you in.

And here’s the thing. When you’re listening to them, you’re not listening to me. After all, their song isn’t your song. And, furthermore, when you try to match their voice it’s not sustainable. Your voice begins to wobble, your throat gets dry. You can’t hit that high note anymore. Trying to sing someone else’s song, competing with the singer who seems to have it all, doesn’t work well. Oh, it might for a while. Until it doesn’t. Oh, and, by the way, that other singer? She really doesn’t have it all. And yet you continue to try.

I’ve heard that this happens a lot. I talk to other inner voices, you know. We have our own version of Zoom: virtual, virtual Zoom or Vavavoom.

Here are some things I’ve learned.

Can you still hear me? [tap tap]

Okay, good. Let’s talk about you and where you might have some challenges. Because this is really important. On every level of your life.

One area you might be struggling with is your career. You’ve probably been quite successful. But it may have come at a cost. Or maybe it’s run its course, outlived its joy. Work became a “job” for the income instead of a passion. Or, as so many of you, you work for the benefits. I’ve heard this is a big one for women in midlife.

Second, you are probably operating on autopilot. It happens. I mean, reflect on what you do every day. Sometimes it’s out of habit; sometimes out of need. However, what I’ve learned is that autopilot drives you into a deep rut.

I get it. You do what you need to do. One foot in front of the other.

But it can be different.

What happens when you don’t listen.

When you go for long periods of time tuning me out, you know, that route you’re traveling on autopilot? It gets old. It feels uncomfortable. You become filled with unease. Maybe dis-ease.

It. Just. Doesn’t. Fit. Anymore.

Ultimately, you end up sacrificing the very things that I’ve been trying to talk to you about. Those important things that energize you rather than the daily fire drills, the hamster wheel, the blur of life passing by. The things that make life juicier and more meaningful.

And when you go on like this for too long, you experience varying degrees of burnout. Stress and all its attendant ills can be very subtle or it can hit you over the head. A few examples: lowered immunity, poor sleep, lack of focus, overeating/undereating. These lead to other things. It’s a slippery slope, not a pretty sight. And then there’s that huge hole right next to me where your heart is.

I can help you fill the hole but we need to be in touch more.

What happens when you begin to listen.

When you start listening you might notice me telling you that you don’t have to settle for the status quo. You begin to hear my sweet voice inviting you to imagine how you can begin planning for something new at this stage of life. Not a radical, ditch everything and start from scratch new. But a start. In fact, take a moment and try to imagine that right now. What would it feel like to believe in possibilities? Is it hard? Try to let it in just 10% of the way.

When you tune me in you begin to realize that you’re not too old to make meaningful changes. That you can make different choices in how you spend your time each day. That it’s okay to make yourself a priority, rather than putting yourself last in service to everyone around you. Yes, I know that last one’s a toughie.

And you can also begin to express your creativity – whatever way that wants to show up – in ways that will make you come alive.

What has to take place in order to be able to hear.

Two things have to happen, however, before you can begin to hear me.

First, you need to get comfortable with the unknown and with your own vulnerability.

Part of the reason you’ve had a hard time hearing me and thus getting started, is that you’ve built a silencing wall around me. I know you didn’t mean to. You probably don’t even realize it’s there. But, listening to me is risky. What I have to say might fly in the face of everyone around you. And then what?

Well, okay, then what?

You begin to experience discomfort. Call it fear if you like. You begin to feel vulnerable.

Much of what I have to say comes from that place of vulnerability, that very tender part of you. And that is why you often check out.

But questioning your particular status quo, allowing the yearning for something different to become visible, finding the spiritual courage to fill that emptiness that resides beside me? That’s a scary vulnerable.

Beginning

Once you decide to let yourself be vulnerable, a second obstacle may appear. You realize you want to begin this process of change but you don’t know where to start. That can be overwhelming and cause you to hit the brakes. That’s okay. I’m here for you. Starting can be as simple as being quiet, (that in itself can be a challenge!) and asking the right questions. And, of course, trusting me, your very wisest self.

This is also where a good coach can help. A good coach (contact Kathy here)  is one that will make you feel comfortable with not knowing where you’re going at first. She will make you feel less vulnerable and eminently normal. She will help you tune in to me and discover what makes you come alive.

Between the two of us? Oh, the places you’ll go!

A letter to Thomas Jefferson and The Case for White Space

A White Space
Image by Christian Fregnan on Unsplash (altered)

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing – advising his daughter Martha, 1787. – Thomas Jefferson

Dear Mr. Jefferson,

It saddens me that you instilled into your daughter the belief that “always doing” is beneficial. I wonder how that worked for her. Perhaps it was the way of the 18th century, but with all due respect, I say poppycock!

This is a myth that needs to be dismantled. It’s time to redefine idleness and challenge the need to be “always doing”.

This notion that we get more done when we are constantly doing is a great example of the law of diminishing returns. It ignores the need for rest, recharge, re-creation. Where and when do we get to think and dream? To just noodle?

Sloth or idleness?

How do you define idleness, TJ? Did you never walk around the grounds of Monticello while dreaming up the Declaration of Independence or working through a gnarly design problem? I find a walk to be an amazing stimulus for my creativity. I’m re-creating and enjoying the fresh air while I write in my head or marvel at the ideas that pop up. I often use the voice-recorder on my iPhone. You would have loved that.

What about sitting down with a beloved book?

Perhaps you consider staring out the window to be idleness? Again, I disagree. Sometimes it can be hard to do sit and woolgather. However, when I do I find that the quality of the ideas and creativity that come up is better than anything that emerges when I have my nose to the grindstone that is my desk!

For me, the concept of idleness or what could be considered non-productivity is a struggle and something I work on and toward. Yes, I hear the irony in that. But I have come to understand its intrinsic value. Now, understand, I not talking about sitting around the house in curlers and a housecoat, a cigarette dangling from my mouth, watching Jerry Springer. That is sloth, not idleness. There’s a vast difference.

Idling or recharging

But I get it, this tug of constant productivity. The way that even downtime has to be structured and busy. It’s an attitude that has carried over from my years of working in corporate where busy-ness was a measure of my value. When I slip back into that mindset, no matter what I do it’s never enough. I go down a rabbit hole and fizzle out. Then I need to recharge. And in that situation my recharging choices are not always the best. Surfing the internet, computer games… You have no idea, TJ, of the ways we can be “idle” here in the 21st century.

Therefore, I’d rather weave “idle” recharging into my day. Even as I write this I will occasionally turn around and gaze out the window. The sky is autumn blue and the leaves are getting sparse. The sun slants in at a lower angle and casts long shadows. My mind relaxes and thoughts untangle. Sitting and looking out the window is just what I need at times. And then I turn back to the page.

White space

So, did you ever consider the beauty of white space on your calendar, TJ? A block of time that has no commitment. Expansive and luxurious. Where all things are possible. Yes, it may also produce anxiety, bring up the habitual need to fill it with something productive, something meaningful and purposeful. However, what I’m finding is that meaningful and purposeful don’t live on the hamster wheel. They live in our heart centers and if we are constantly “doing” as you are advising your daughter, we will never learn what they have to teach us. We will never hear their song that carries us into our Multidimensional Lives.  Here’s a beautiful article by Leo Babauta titled “Life’s Missing White Space.” He discusses how white space in design provides greater legibility, luxury, breathing room and balance. And then he applies these concepts to life.

What would white space look like for you?

The reality is that staying in that high activity mode, 24/7 is not healthy. It keeps the adrenaline pumping, causing stress and all those things that cascade down from that state. That state begets more need for productivity and the feeling that whatever we do is not quite enough. Certainly, I could do more. It keeps us on the hamster wheel.

Am I alone in this?

I’m curious, reader. What does idleness bring up for you? Do you need to be always “doing” or knowing what’s next? Could you use help in slowing the hamster wheel of endless productivity and defining what your white space might look like? Contact me and learn how working together can bring ease, possibilities and, yes, some of that well-deserved white space into a busy life.

A Journey of Becoming

The Journey Of Becoming
At the Seashore Original art by Donna Mills at Donna Mills Art

We are all on a journey of becoming. I used to think it was about growing up, but in fact it’s about growing. The world is a bit quieter and clearer right now. It’s a great opportunity to pause and see just where you are on your journey.

When I was in high school, and for many years later, my friends and I would ask each other “are we grown up yet?” It would usually come up as we celebrated deliberately belated birthdays. Our tradition was to delay, delay and then launch a guerrilla style celebration. We amused each other. What can I say? But on the silly card selected for the occasion, we would usually include that question: “Are we grown up yet?”

It was as if “grown up” were a place at which we would arrive. I’m not sure what we thought it would look like or feel like or how we would know we arrived. I do know that eventually we stopped asking and started living a grown-up life with all the normal accoutrements. We married, went to work, purchased homes; some had children, some married into children. We put our heads down and, well, I guess we grew up.

End of story? Oh, of course not!

In the introduction to his book “The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be”, Mark Nepo mentions how the journey of becoming who we were born to be never ends. We don’t arrive. We grow.

As I read that, the question from my teenage years – about whether or not we were grown up yet – popped into my consciousness. We weren’t really asking about growing up; it was more about becoming a grown up. And, as Nepo reminded me, we don’t arrive; we continue to grow.

My friends and I are all mature, responsible women, now. But we haven’t finished growing yet. We’re still on the road.

On the journey

And it occurs to me that the journey of creating a Multidimensional Life never ends, either. A Multidimensional Life (MD Life) is one in which we tune in to what wants to be done on a deep level. It’s not a place at which we arrive. Rather, it’s a constant state of becoming, an ever evolving, dynamic process that heeds our inner wisdom as well as informs it. It’s an invitation to live from the inside out; from your magnificent essence. Yours. No one else. (They can ride along; they just can’t steer.)

It’s a time of liberation.

Liberation

As we move forward in this process of becoming, liberation asks for curiosity as well as hope. It asks that we put aside our comfort and discover the raw, unpolished beauty in the unedited version of ourselves. Liberation invites us to take small steady steps to create and express our truest selves. It reminds us that we have a deep well of wisdom; that there are possibilities of growth and transformation; that we have everything we need for this journey.

Paradoxically, there’s comfort in our familiar discomfort and liberation’s not always easy. It requires spiritual courage. However, in the end, it is so worth it.

Where do you begin?

Take a moment – now, if you can – and look up from your busy “grown up” life. Notice the road you’re on. Is it rutted and narrow? Uncomfortable? Are you ready for something new? If you’re not sure what that looks like yet, that’s okay. In the beginning the less certainty, the better. Just decide to start.

Questioning

Here’s a small question to nudge you. Don’t strain for answers. Just listen and let them bubble up.

Are you at a tipping point where your yearning for something truer to self surpasses the need for the safe and known?

Just being conscious of the question will begin a shift. Listening to your responses and the emotions it arouses will evoke more questions.  And, just like a tiny alteration in direction can ripple into a totally different destination for a ship, so too, will this questioning move you in new directions. You will become wakeful, attentive, liberated.

You’re not alone. We are legion on this journey of life.

Grab a partner for the journey

Don’t do it alone.  Contact me and we’ll talk about the nudges from your questions. We’ll draw on your creative spirit and to begin to look at your life as a journey of becoming. Together we can take the first small step into the rest of your MD life.

The Midlife Journey and Opening Doors

Transitions And Closed Doors

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.  Helen Keller

Reading this quote led me to think of how, in midlife, we begin to feel the unease of change and the belief that too many doors are closing. Each time I read it, I get an immediate visual of someone looking longingly at a closed door, looking backwards at what’s done and gone. It may be that she’s not ready or willing to face what’s ahead. Or perhaps she’s not even aware that there is another door beckoning.

That makes me sad.

Our Options

When life hits us with challenges and changes it certainly feels like doors have closed and options are evaporating. And sometimes we’re too tired to go searching for the newly opened doors. I get that. And, while it may not always feel believable, what I do know is that we always do have choices, also known as doors.

We can:

Ignore the open door. Or continue to believe that there are no open doors for us. Feel sadness and despair.

See the door but feel fear about walking through it. Do nothing. More sadness.

See the door. Or doors. (There may be several.) Pause and step through with understanding.

That pause in the last option is a rich one.

A Potent Pause

A pause can be minutes, days or longer and here is what I have found to be true about it:

  • A pause is a rich time when we listen to our thoughts, observe and feel our way to choices. Because there are always choices. We can make them actively or passively, but they are always there.
  • It’s a period to process and integrate what has passed. When we do so, we can regroup, refresh and reorient ourselves to what lies ahead.
  • For me, pausing enables me to set aside my impatience and be objective and observant. I have aha moments and my body cues me as to the best direction.

What I’ve learned

As we listen deeply during a pause, we begin to understand that the first attempt might not be the final and that’s okay. At the same time, we know that inaction is rarely good. I’ve learned that life is full of trial and error and that we always have a second chance (or a third or fourth!) until our time on earth is over.

Life has taught me this many times. It’s why I pause. It’s how I remember what I know. When I believe there are open doors, they appear. When I trust my inner voice, I make wiser decisions. Those decisions are always the best for me at the moment. It may not always be what I expected. I leave myself open to wonder and surprise and I know there will be more doors.

Are you working through changes and looking for open doors?  I can help you with that. Contact me and together we will shine the light on the door that has opened just for you.

 

On Being and Beaning

“Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver

Just be.

Oh, boy. That’s a hard one for me. How about you?

When I was first confronted with the challenge of “just being” I was very apprehensive. I was going off on a weekend retreat at the beach with two writing buddies. We were going to write and be quiet and “just be.”

“I don’t know if I can do that”, I told my friends. “It feels really hard to not be doing.” A weekend that should have been the ultimate in relaxation was becoming fraught with anxiety.

Being, Beaning, Beaners

They indulged me. You see, they were a lot further along in their being-ness. An ad for a local coffee shop lightened things up by inspiring the alternative of just “beaning”. That, in turn, christened us “Beaners.” Ahh, okay, much easier. I could work with that.

Years later we continue to riff on that moniker and have fun with it. I, in turn, am much more in tune with the need to “just be”. I’m not great at it, but my anxiety has almost disappeared.

The Myth of Productivity

My discomfort stemmed from a belief that I needed to be productive. Constantly. I know how unrealistic this is. At least my head does. However, somewhere in my vast unconscious, this idea has taken up residence and thrived.

I have also come to understand that my idea of productivity might be a little skewed. Multitasking and buzzing around is not always the best use of my time. Ping-ponging between different to-dos in different categories leaves me exhausted and feeling that I’ve haven’t gotten enough done. I have given this mistaken belief of how to be productive its eviction notice.

That space is now occupied by the gentle understanding that being on a walk or being with a thought or being fully with my husband or family gifts me with spaciousness. Ideas arrive, as if on wings. Thoughts are completed. The creative process flows with ease. That is a style of productivity that, while initially counter-intuitive to me, is much more desirable.

I love this quote by Kafka:

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka

What would you have “rolling in ecstasy at your feet?”

“Do not even listen”, he advises. He, too, is saying ignore the imperious voice. When we do that we move out of our head and into our bodies.

How can I do this, you ask, in this fast-paced crazy world we live in? I don’t have time to just sit and wait.

I hear ya!

Here is what I have discovered:
  • Just being aware of the fact that it was difficult to sit quietly and be still created a shift for me. I was no longer on auto-pilot. I realized that there could be a different way of being.
  • Daydreaming is productive. Who knew! What I like to call wool-gathering was actually a moment of quiet discovery. I began to notice where I was going. The next time you find yourself staring into that mid-distance, allow it. At the same time, be curious about what’s going through your mind. Listen. (Apologies to Kafka)
  • Just 3 minutes of meditation is super beneficial. Just one example of the benefits: I had never quite grasped just how impatient I was. Meditation showed me. It also lowered it. When I return to meditation after a lapse, I see it again. I know now that it will dissipate. And, yes, 3 minutes is a reasonable way to start. How long does it take a kettle to boil or a pot of coffee to brew? There you go!
  • Practicing quiet opens up a portal from which my inner wisdom flows. Now, if you’re anything like me, your head is a veritable circus. Sometimes, it’s a great place to be with thoughts and ideas careening about. But, that’s not where our true wisdom resides. It lives in the space between the thoughts. For that we need quiet.
  • Finally, I have found that curiosity is an important quality. While that might put us back into our heads, it carries no judgement. It provides an opening to what your true self needs at that moment.
And, here’s the challenge:

Where can you claim small moments of just being?

Can you tell that imperious voice in your head to be quiet? Over and over again?

How would it feel to accept without judgement the offerings of world? Be curious about what shows up? Watch them “roll in ecstasy at your feet”?

All of this has a story to tell you. Is it the one you want to carry forward??

Let's Connect
Get your free copy of The Potent Pause: a Mindful First Step into Midlife and Beyond
and sign up to receive my monthly email.

Copyright © 2019 Kane Creative Consulting - All Rights Reserved
Template built on the Total Theme by Be Bright Studio

Back To Top