In the couple of days preceding its start I worried the days might feel very long. We were online, using Zoom and Jam Board, and one requirement was that we were to be on camera at all times. I needn’t have worried. The content was so engaging and the facilitators so skillful the days flew by.
There were about twenty-four of us in the class, from almost every corner of the world: Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, China, Germany, Kuwait, Sweden, USA, Japan, India, Canada, the and UK, among others.
As part of our training, we were often placed into pairs or triads in order to practice a new coaching skill we were learning. During several of these practice-coaching sessions, I found myself in a group with Audrey. Audrey, originally from Hong Kong, currently works in New York City.
During one of our role plays, Audrey spoke about Chinese art and its use of space. She explained that often Western art encourages the practice of filling the full canvas with people, things, places, and colour. Contrasting that, Chinese art is known for its use of ‘white space’. The objects, people and scenes only cover a portion of the canvas; the rest is left blank.
This allows the painting to breathe and enables the audience to use their imagination to interpret the scene. Audrey explained if the mind can reach there, there is no reason for the brush. Space is left for the audience to fill in the rest of the picture.
I had to work hard to stay engaged and focus on our role play as my mind absorbed what Audrey had revealed and as I began to connect this idea of space with other areas of my life. I’ve been wondering where I leave space and what might be possible if I leave more space in my world.
For the next month or so, I have very little space in my calendar. I have two large, exciting projects demanding my focus and time. Yet I’ll do myself no favours, if in that time, I completely cover my canvas and forget to leave space for creativity, for thoughtfulness, and for restorative rest. I may not have control over the time-commitments on my calendar, but whether through good luck or good management, some of my filled timeslots have space-creating activities built into them.
My Tuesday hikes, give me space of the most literal kind. In the mountains and foothills, I have space to breathe. And think. And appreciate. And be with others. And experience nature and her wisdom. And remember how lucky I am. When I look up at the clear blue sky as I travel the forest trails, I notice a completely blank canvas. I understand the power I have to fill it in any way I wish.
My Wednesdays with Ben, and soon with Andy too, give me a different kind of space. This time gives me space to fill my heart to overflowing. In this space I allow myself to let go of my ‘important’ work and commitments and to find joy in each moment. I find space to be present, to laugh, and to feel joy. When we spend this day each week with Benjamin, I purposely leave some unstructured time in the day; space for him to have his own idea of what to do. Or perhaps space to just linger with a captivating activity.
My twice weekly dance classes give me space to move. Even more than that, they give space to be with friends, to feel the music and its affect on my body, and to move my own body while being completely in synch with others. It is in these classes I can forget about age and age-appropriateness, and be willing to make my own rules, or make no rules at all around what it means to age. Our incredibly gifted and skillful instructor, Reba J, has created a space for us where she holds a belief about each of us that is far more generous and confidence-building than any other I have experienced. In this space I continue to grow. Better than that, I blossom.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have a dishwasher. Doing the dishes gave us a space in between our meal with our big family and whatever activity we were going to do after dinner. I now see that space was filled with gifts. My sisters and I talked together. Sometimes we sang. There was space for us to just be. To be sisters.
This week, thanks to Audrey, I’m going to practice noticing and appreciating space. I’m going to accept space in conversations and remember its important role of giving room for thought and for considered responses. I’m going to find tiny moments when I can stand on the blank parts of the canvas of my life and resist filling in every single space, in service of creating something not yet imagined; something with the potential to be wonderful. I’ll let the end of the brush stroke be the beginning of my wonder.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What space am I creating?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to create the space needed to grow into your yet unimagined life.