By Jason Garner
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a saying hanging in my home. Written over an image of the rising sun of a new day, the saying goes like this:
There is always time to make a change.
There is always space to turn around.
There is always tomorrow to start again.
There is always a new path to choose.
There is always energy to move ahead.
There is always light to guide the course.
There is always God to show the way.
Over time it’s moved with us from home to home and its meaning has transformed with our evolving spirituality. Through it all, the painting has been a reminder to my family that we are never locked into one path, that we give ourselves and each other room to change and grow, and that our lives consist of space and new beginnings.
Freedom is the understanding that our lives consist of space and new beginnings.
The saying came to mind the other day as I was looking at a property on Google Earth. My wife has a dream of owning a piece of land with its own water, lots of sun, and ample space to grow our own food; a place where we love the earth and it loves and nourishes us in return. She searches the Internet for magical plots of land, then comes to me with a childlike sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes and says, “Wait till you see what I found!”
Most of the pictures people use to list their homes show things like bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. Christy isn’t interested in any of that—she wants to see trees, gardens, and water—and, hence, Google Earth has become her go-to tool.
She types in an address she wants to see and starting at a view from outer space (literally) the program slowly zooms in on the property. At each level of zoom we view the property from a new vantage point until it zooms all the way down to an image from the street where, in the case of these mountain homes, we often find a crappy paint job and an old Ford truck (or two) stuck in the mud that was once the front lawn.
Most of us live our lives from this vantage point.
Like that zoomed-in place on Google Earth, we see our lives close up because we’re engaged in living them. We notice all the details, and often hyper-focus on the negative, like the cracked paint and broken-down pickup trucks on the front lawn of a mountain home.
In our daily lives this looks like bad hair days, fights with our spouses, rushing to get our kids to school, deadlines at work, and traffic jams on the freeway. We find ourselves trapped in this up-close, negative viewpoint and we become locked into a perspective of the world in which we have no space to maneuver, change courses, or even breathe.
Emotionally we experience this in the form of panic and the feeling of being suffocated as our lives close in around us. In our bodies it’s expressed as stagnation and disease. And spiritually it’s the empty sensation that something is missing from our experience.
When we feel trapped by a situation in life and can’t see beyond a two-dimensional view (good/bad, right/wrong, love/hate) we don’t have a magic button we press to change our view point or zoom in and out—it’s not quite that easy. But we can learn to use tools to widen our perspective.
With the help of my teachers I’ve developed these five easy tools that I use to create space around difficult situations in my own life:
1) Breathe. The breath is an amazing tool for creating space, not only in our physical bodies but also around issues we are struggling with mentally.
Tool: When you find yourself trapped in your head, endlessly debating an issue or thought, take a breather…literally. Pause, breathe deeply, and focus your attention on your breath. Feel your lungs, diaphragm and stomach expand and contract as space is created in your body. Continue breathing and become aware that you have the same ability to expand your mind beyond the myopic viewpoint that has become overwhelming.
This might look like taking a deep breath before replying to an email or phone call, stopping to breathe until a perceived threat has lessened or slow, controlled breathing in a tense meeting to lower your heart beat.
2) Stretch. What we think is often manifested in our bodies. Mental tightness can translate into tight muscles, achy backs, and stiff necks. Sometimes we can relieve the tension by relaxing our minds, but often it’s easier and more effective to finding relief by actually creating space in our physical bodies.
Tool: Take a moment to stretch your body as you’re grappling with a difficult decision or issue. Touch your toes, reach to the sky, and bend side to side. As you stretch notice how space is created. You might become aware of less pain, stiffness and the ability to breathe more freely. As your body relaxes it sends a message to the brain that all is well and invites the brain to respond accordingly.
3) See the Space. As we walk through life we tend to see and focus only on objects—cars in the street, people in a meeting, furniture in an office. This lends itself to the feeling of being crowded and restricted. However, there is almost always more empty space than there are objects. In nearly every situation we can choose to focus our attention on open space. There is space is everywhere—we just have to become aware of it.
Tool: Focus your attention on the empty space around you. Notice the spacious sky above the crowded street, the empty space that surrounds the desk and computer your staring at, or the open air that embraces the furniture in your home. Now, close your eyes and allow that sensation of spaciousness to come into your body and, as it does, slowly let the feelings of restriction go. Breathe deeply as you feel the space of the outer world grace your inner being.
Breathe deeply as you feel the space of the outer world grace your inner being.
4) Zoom In and Out. Just as Google Earth pans from outer space to street view we can mimic this action with our thoughts and allow ourselves to open up multiple solutions to a difficult challenge.
Tool: 1. Start with the limited view you’re aware of at this moment. Accept it while acknowledging the possibility that there may be more options available that you can’t see right now.
2. Next, mentally zoom all the way out to the highest perspective you can imagine—you might call this perspective God or the Universe or the Tao. From this expansive perspective be aware of the smallness of the issue you’re grappling with. Notice the space that opens up all around it. Or, perhaps like Google Earth’s widest view, you can’t even see your problem any longer, as it’s not visible or just doesn’t seem important from this heightened perspective.
3. Finally, zoom back in to a level just above your problem. In Google Earth this would be a view that shows the house you’re looking at along with a few of the neighboring houses. In life this is a perspective that shows a handful of options along with the one, moments earlier, you were stuck on. Observe your issue from this angle. Identify the new options that open up. You might try zooming in and out a few times to really give yourself the experience of space as you see more and more options.
5) Try It On. The final tool is to try on a few of the different options you observed in step 4. Like trying on clothes in a dressing room and modeling them for your spouse or friends, we can try on options and solutions and see how they feel and work for our lives.
Tool: Identify a couple of potential solutions that feel good for you and try them on. Commit to one fully for a few minutes, an hour, or even a day. See how it feels to you. How does it fit into your life? Does it make you experience joy or additional stress? Then, let that option go and give yourself permission to try another and another—as many as you like—until you find one that feels right to you.
Freedom in life comes in the form of space.
This week I invite you to give yourself permission to begin again and again, as many times as you need to as you open up new options in your life.
Create space by breathing deeply when you’re stressed. Stretch your body and allow ease and flow into your body’s physical structure. Observe the open space that exists all around you. Take that into your mind and visualize space entering the tight issues of your life. Zoom in and out and notice how options appear where there previously were none.
Then try those options on, one by one, until you find one the fits you and the life you want to live.
Jason Garner is a husband, father, former Fortune 500 company executive, and spiritual student who spent the first 37 years of his life working his way up from flea market parking attendant to CEO of Global Music at Live Nation (the world’s largest concert promoter) – never taking a breath in the belief that to be loved he had to be the best. He has worked with rock stars and sports legends and was twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the top 20 highest-paid executives under 40. His second divorce and the sudden death of his mother from stomach cancer caused Jason to re-evaluate what mattered in life and to finally breathe. He has spent thousands of hours sitting cross-legged at the feet of timeless Masters of mind, body and spirit including learning from the monks at the Shaolin Temple in China. From an open heart and a sense of confident vulnerability, he now shares the lessons learned on this journey and what he continues to discover through the daily adventure of life at JasonGarner.com. To see more of Jason’s writings visit his website, or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to check out his book: And I Breathed.
Editor: Dana Gornall
This article was previously published on author’s blog.