When I moved into my new office (almost 8 months ago at the time of this writing), I noticed that my sessions seemed to improve. They went deeper somehow. At first I just thought it was a coincidence. I thought that perhaps my skills as a healer had improved around the time of the move. Then my office mate, who is also a healer, mentioned that her sessions had also become more powerful since we moved. I wondered if it was actually the space itself that was creating this effect.
Since then I’ve been investigating the power of space as medicine. What I’ve discovered is pretty amazing. Space really is the final frontier!
The physical spaces that we inhabit are sensed by and through our nervous systems, which relay some conscious and a ton of unconscious messages about the space we are in back to our brains. Numerous studies have shown that our brain wires (and rewires) itself in response to our environment.
It seems to follow then that the environments, or spaces, that we spend our time in have an enormous impact on our well-being. In the many (or even most) old systems of medicine there is a “space component” – the idea that a sick person should spend time in spaces that are beautiful, supportive, relaxing and comfortable in order to heal. The patient can simply spend time there and let the space do the work.
Letting the space do the work is a really powerful concept! I believe that we can even “let the space to the work”, when we do our inner healing work. Let me explain:
Space, as you may (or may not) know, is considered to be one of the 5 elements from the ancient Vedic school of thought. The Sanskrit word for “element” is Mahabhuta, which translates as “great primal force of existence.”
The idea is that everything that we experience in the universe is made of 5 different Mahabhutas – primordial forces, or energies. These energies, or elements, are the backdrop of our entire existence and color every experience that we have. They are within us and all around us. They are the subtle stuff that everything is made of.
Really, these elements are just a way of organizing energy. Some philosophical schools recognize different elements than the ones that I am going to write about here. I’m going to write about the elements recognized by the Vedic schools, because it’s what I’m the most familiar with. (The Vedic schools are from ancient India, and they gave brith to yoga and Buddhism and Ayurveda and a bunch of other awesome stuff. FYI.)
Many other philosophical schools only have 4 elements; earth, water, fire and air. One of the reasons that I like the Vedic philosophy is that it recognizes a 5th element; space (also sometimes called ether).
The old Western mystical traditions also recognize this extra element of space. The Western mystics (namely the alchemists) called this element “the quintessence.” Quintessence, my new favorite word, is defined by Miriam Webster’s dictionary as “the pure and concentrated essence of a substance” and/or “the most perfect embodiment of something”.
Quintessence is the perfect word for the element of space, because it is really different from the other 4. While air, water, fire and earth all have particular qualities, space is the absence, or totality, of all of those qualities. You can think of space as containing all things, and at the same time being totally empty.
This, in a way, makes space the most profound of all of the elements and perhaps the quintessence of Divine Consciousness.
We humans, as expressions of Divine Consciousness, have this quality of space within us; We have our own infinitude, and an ability to contain all things.
Of course, when we get stressed out and we forget that.
I find that my tendency when I am stressed or stuck in old pain or suffering somehow is to clamp down and clench up. I struggle and wrestle with my pain, and try to push it away. I narrow my focus around the problem, or sometimes I narrow my focus around something else to distract myself from it.
Whenever I do this, I am in resistance. The problem of course, is that as Carl Jung famously said, what we resist persists.
Instead of clamping down on and clenching up around my suffering, I also have the option just make some space around it and let it be there. I can pan out, so to speak, and take a wider angle. I can make room for it. I can relax around it. This takes me out of resistance.
This is such an important part of healing.
The practice of making space for our suffering is really different from all of the other things that we do to try and heal. It’s also really different from the things that we do to avoid or try and hide from our suffering. It’s a kind of third option. When we take this option it gives us some perspective and some breathing room. It also connects us directly with our own divinity.
Divine Consciousness, just like space, contains and holds all things, with no exceptions. In the old Vedic traditions they say that, because of this, we can find God everywhere. When we make space around our experiences, I believe that’s what we’re doing; we’re finding the Divine in that moment.
When we connect with space we’re dropping our resistance, which allows things to release. Making space around the things that feel particularly painful or stuck or challenging might just be the missing link to our healing.
“Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals: not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly –
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.”