The Space Between

June 14, 2016

“Music is what happens in between the notes.”

I’m not sure who said this. I did a google search, but came up with nothing conclusive. Regardless of who said it, this statement struck a chord with me. No pun intended. (Or maybe there is. I am my father’s daughter.)

A musician understands this idea. While the notes are important, it’s really how the musician plays the notes, which brings the piece of music to life. Different musicians can play the same piece and based on how each musician translates the spaces in between the notes, the exact same piece can sound completely different.

Yoga is similar.

We yogis tend to think of the poses as the goal, but really it’s the spaces in between the poses than are most important to pay attention to. The transition from one pose to the next is the space in which the magic happens. Or it’s the space in which an injury is most likely to occur. The transitions are both precarious and powerful.

The more we pay attention to the transitions, the more mindful we become about how we are moving. Our skill increases. So does the quality of the movement.

Yoga is not a destination; yoga is an ongoing journey. More often than not, we refer to our “yoga practice,” as opposed to our yoga mastery. Honestly, I don’t take anyone who calls him or herself a yoga master very seriously.

Yoga is all about the spaces in between. At its root, I believe yoga is about increasing consciousness on an individual or personal level, as well as creating a deeper awareness of how we exist within the world we inhabit. When we pay more attention to those spaces in between the poses—the transitions—we begin that process of increasing consciousness. We listen more thoughtfully to our bodies and move from a deeper awareness. This teaches us how to listen more thoughtfully to one another in our lives off of the yoga mat and move more mindfully in our actions within our families, our communities, and the world beyond our neighborhoods.

This kind of awareness is essential.

The truth of my yoga is that the success of my practice is not based on whether or not I can do a handstand. The power of my practice is based on what happens in between the moment when I put my hands on the ground and the moment my legs go over my head. How do I get there? What happens if I don’t balance at first? Am I listening to my breath and my body?

If I can listen more deeply in these in between, transitional moments on my mat, I can learn how to listen more deeply in conversations with people who I love or who are important to me. This might even teach me how to listen more deeply to people I don’t love as much. If I can learn how to traverse the space between one pose to the next with skill and integrity, I can use that experience to help me negotiate the big, difficult conversations I might have to participate in that could precipitate actual change.

Yoga is never about how awesome my triangle pose is or how well I can do an arm balance. Yoga is never JUST about what happens on my yoga mat. Yoga is always about how I translate the lessons I learn on my mat into the way I move through the world.

I’ve given a lot of thought to that statement, “music is what happens in between the notes,” as the news of another mass shooting rips across our headlines.

I want to live in a country and a world in which I do not wake up to news like this. I want to live in a place where people don’t feel they need to arm themselves against their neighbors. I want to live in a place where I don’t have to explain to my kids why someone would walk into any public place and try to kill as many people as possible. I want to live in a place in which I do not fear going to the movies or the grocery store or out dancing. I want my kids to live in that world, too. I want to teach my children not to fear people they don’t know. I want them to make connections and friendships that are not defined by race, class, religion, or sexuality. I want them to love freely and fear little.

I want to live in a place in which love truly is stronger than fear.

I hope to one day live there.

The only way we can begin to get to that place is by focusing on the spaces in between. We need to listen more deeply to one another. We need to move more intentionally and skillfully through the world. We need to make choices that benefit us all in the long term, not just in the immediate moment.

As hippie-dippy, new-agey, yoga teacher it might sound, we need to breathe more deeply. We need to truly pay attention to our breathing. When we tune in to the rhythm of our own breath more closely, what we start to realize is that this breath is what we all share. All living things. People, animals, insects, trees, flowers—the earth breathes. This breath is what we share. When we harm another person, another living thing, this planet we are only harming ourselves.

If nothing else, in those big spaces in between one difficult moment or one tragedy and the next moment, let’s begin to breathe together. Let’s listen for one another. Let’s fortify from within and support one another.

I know it seems so small, but we need to fill these spaces in between with purpose, beauty, strength, and compassion.

In his address following this most recent tragedy, President Obama said, “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

What kind of place to you want to live in?

What kind of music do you want to make?

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