Living in the Gap
By Jean Rioux, ERYT 500, LMT
Co-owner of Jiva Yoga Center
Somebody says something to you, or something happens to you and you instantly have a reaction. Reactions or words automatically happen, this is the moment you are “hooked” as in automatically reacting based on past not present reactions, patterns of destructive behavior that we keep repeating because we are unaware. This knee jerk reaction takes you away from being present. Being caught in the trap is the teaching of “Shenpa” which is translated as attachment. As Pema Chodron states it is the poison ivy metaphor-our fundamental itch and the habit of scratching- Shempa is the itch and it’s also the urge to scratch. The urge to smoke that cigarette, the urge to over eat, to have one more drink, to say something cruel or tell a lie.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom”
Viktor E. Frankl
The Practice: The moment you recognize the urge to react vs respond, then pause, in this moment you are standing right in the midst of your natural intelligence. I like to think of this place as “the Gap”, it is the space between action and reaction.
The Gap provides space and that space is powerful. This space allows us to meet others where they are and be with them instead of our own thoughts and emotions. By listening to another based on clear listening and not adding our own personal interpretation (story) we empower the person that is sharing. No emotion lasts for more than 5 minutes, unless you add story to it.
3 Ways to practice the gap
- Recognize and catch your self-getting ready to react.
- Breathe. When you feel the urge to react to someone/something; pause, take 3 deep breaths, listen - and then speak/act. This simple action will put you into your own natural intelligence.
- Meditation. This is probably the most valuable tool. It could as simple as sitting down, closing your eyes and acknowledge the momentum of your body, breath and sensations.
The practice of Yoga cultivates an inner environment that encourages us to be intimate with what is arising moment to moment. This intimacy begins with the practice of attentiveness. Yoga allows us to sit in the middle of life’s moments (the Gaps), sweetly and courageously by being open and aware and feeling the power of pause resonate through our hearts and souls.