Five years ago I started to implement daily rituals to help me create space in my morning and get out of my spinning mind. A morning workout. Meditation. Time to journal and write. All of this before email, before getting online. Before getting caught up in the rush of the day.
Sometimes I even allow myself to lay on the floor and breathe. Or I sit in a chair and stare out the window, just allowing my mind to wander.
Today was one of those days. I needed a slower pace and extra space. And I gave it to myself.
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
Even when I do this intentionally, it can feel so wasteful to sit and stare out the window. Not even actively thinking about an idea or problem.
My inner critic is quick to remind me that I am “wasting time:”
You should be sitting at the table and working right now. There is so much to do, and you will run out of time, as you always do. You need to finish your writing and move on to other things.
I heard her, but her voice was more faint than usual today. Perhaps because I was breathing. I could feel my body opening.
My inner critic thrives in the tight, cramped places. She is like a cockroach. The open spaces and fresh air are not her ideal habitat. The more I pause and breathe, and the more I allow myself to open, the less power she has over me. Just like water melts the Wicked Witch of the West, breathing forces my inner critic into submission.
Creating Space for Your Best Work
In the open space, I can hear my inner wisdom remind me that this is part of creating space for your best work. Space isn’t just the physical external environment or time in the calendar. It’s also opening the mental space and the body space.
When the body is gripping in fear and anger, it is closed off. It cannot receive. Receiving requires us to open.
If your mind isn’t open and clear, you can’t engage with the ideas you want to cultivate. You have no mind space to consider new ideas and thoughts. If your heart and body aren’t open, the breath won’t flow through. You can’t connect to your purpose or access the creative seat of the womb and pelvis or the expression areas of the throat.
It’s not just the spiritual mind/body systems that tells us this is necessary. Science tells us too.
The brain’s default mode network is responsible for perception, attention, and cognition. Neuroscience research shows that mind wandering, daydreaming and other forms of “constructive internal reflection” are essential for learning, problem solving, and goal setting.
The Tension in Slowing Down
Creating this space requires me to slow down. This doesn’t come naturally to me. I think fast, I speak fast, and I move fast. In fact, even when I walk at the slowest pace I can handle, people tell me that I walk too fast for them.
So these two parts of me co-exist in a constant tension. They fight with each other. My natural pace is fast, but I need a slower pace to create space in my mind and body and to create my best work.
Often, the result of this tension is that I slow down to create space, and then at some point I emerge from creative flow feeling behind my day. Suddenly, I’m rushing to the next thing.
Nothing feels worse to me than rushing. I hate to rush.
When I rush, I feel everything close in. I get tight. I push back. My mind starts spinning because I feel rushed to get all my ideas out at once. They start meshing together until they are just one big jumbled ball of thoughts.
And I’m fighting with myself, beating myself up for creating space in the first place. It’s a nasty cycle that causes me to turn on myself. The fighting is exhausting, and it zaps me of energy and time.
The more I fight it, the more I get wrapped up in the mind games. Fighting is what wastes time.
Part of my process is to remind myself of this.
Necessity, Not Luxury
In a culture that worships the hustle and the “getting things done” ethos, it feels like an indulgence to allow myself to sit and stare out the window and breathe. To let my mind wander, without an agenda to bring my thoughts to a certain place.
But this is not a luxury. This is necessity. This space is essential for me to create my best work.
When I slow down my pace I can feel the breath move through me. When I slow down my mind I can think of one thing at a time. I reconnect with my truth and I access more creativity.
When I sit and breathe and allow my mind to wander, I feel myself open. I reconnect to my true nature.
It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the stress of how to accomplish all the things on my to-do list. But I enter a different place about it. I release my grip the urgency. I can see through a wider lens.
Productivity in its Purest Form
Part of my journey over the past five years has been to cultivate the strength to silence my inner critic when she tells me that my morning rituals, or the extra slow down days, are a waste of time.
In these moments I remind myself that this is productivity in its purest form.
I know that when I give myself space, I can hold more space for all the things going on and the people who need me.
When I slow down and create space, I have access to more of my inner resources and resourcefulness. Greater creativity. Higher intellect. Better solutions.
I see the bigger picture more clearly, I listen more attentively, and I have greater sensory acuity. When I slow down to connect with myself, I access more empathy and compassion for those I serve, and for the random people I encounter in my daily life. I am more open and more present with others.
When I am open, I can receive more from the world around me, and this, in turn, provides me with more to give.
Slowing down like this creates time because I am less reactive. I make fewer errors. I can articulate myself more effectively. I communicate with more clarity.
Most important, slowing down creates space in my mind and body for me to create my best work, because it creates the opening for me to connect to my true self.
And being my true self is the essence of creating my best work.