Creating Space

By Phakchok Rinpoche

Several years ago, while I was in England on an annual teaching tour, someone called me from my home in Nepal saying that some of my students weren’t getting along. They were creating big problems for themselves and everyone around them. This news really irritated me, and the more I thought about it the more I became completely fed up with the entire situation. I just kept thinking over and over, “Why is it always like this? Why are they doing this?! How am I going to deal with these problems when I’m on the other side of the world? What’s going to happen now?” And on and on and on went my thought process. Ironically, these thoughts were spinning around and around in my head while I was sitting in the car on my way to give a public talk entitled “The Key to Happiness.” When I considered that fact, I became further irritated with myself and I thought, “What a joke this is! If I can’t be happy myself, how on earth can I teach others about happiness?”

Then I stopped thinking for a while and just stared out of the car window at the passing scenery. Thankfully we were driving through the open countryside, on a clear day, with a wide open blue sky overhead. I had about 20 minutes before we reached the venue, so I gazed out and let my mind blend with the spacious sky. Inspired by the vastness and beauty of the sky, I closed my eyes and imagined I was surrounded by space, like in that scene in Titanic where Kate Winslet stands on the tip of the ship’s bow with Leonardo Di Caprio and leans out over the vast ocean. After just a few minutes, I experienced a sense of relief. The irritation and tightness was replaced by a sense of spaciousness and ease, and the problems that had been troubling me so much seemed small and no longer overwhelming. In fact, I quickly found myself jotting down a few ideas on how the misunderstanding between my students could be resolved.

When our mind is tight, any thought that arises dominates our mind. When we can adopt a spacious attitude, nothing that arises can dominate our mind. It’s like the difference between a tiny 10-foot by 10-foot room and a huge 100-foot by 100-foot room. In the tiny room, anything you place there completely defines it. If you put a desk in there, it’s an office. If you put a bed in there, it’s a bedroom. If you put a stove in, it’s a kitchen.

In a huge room, you can have many things, and different environments, yet no single thing defines the room. When we create space, thoughts and emotions can still appear, but they no longer completely define our state of mind.

How to Create Space

Why not try it out now? It isn’t necessary to spend lots of time on this exercise, even five minutes is enough, but ten is even better!

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Imagine being surrounded by an infinite, perfectly clear, blue sky. The sky is cloudless spacious, pristine, the deepest sky blue color and completely envelopes you, extending forever in every direction, above, below and to every side.  There are no walls, no boundaries and no buildings, nothing at all in any direction. Continue focusing on this infinite sky by making it as vivid and vibrant as possible.

If you become lost in thinking about work, things you need to do or anything else, that is completely normal. Just gently return your attention back to imagining boundless space and continue the meditation.

Having made the sky as vivid and clear as possible, spend some time appreciating the space that you are visualizing. Do this by feeling the spacious quality of the sky. For example, bring to mind how beautiful it is or you can appreciate how infinitely vast, spacious and immaculate the sky around you is. You don’t have to go on and on about it. Just gently try to feel how it is to be in the spaciousness of the sky.

Allow yourself to feel the spaciousness of the sky permeating everywhere inside, outside the body and the mind.

Rest for a little while in this spacious feeling.

Slowly open your eyes and re-orient yourself to your surroundings. How do you feel?