My Understanding of What Creating Space in the Mind Means

Exploring 'creating space in the mind,' this post dives into mindfulness as a tool for personal growth and living with OCD. Learn how meditation opens up mental space, allowing emotions to exist without overwhelming, transforming our internal world.

Abstract art symbolizing mental expansion and mindfulness, with vibrant shapes and soothing colors.
Journey into Mindfulness: Expanding the Horizons of the Mind

During my spiritual or mindfulness journey, occasionally, I may find a metaphor, idea, or concept that lends me support or perspective to allow me to either appreciate or get a handhold on making progress. This time, I felt the need to discuss "creating space in the mind." If you are familiar with Andy Puddicombe and have heard this term before, I came up with my interpretation of this "idea," which felt quite profound to me, and I thought I would share it with you.

I'm a strong believer in the power of mindfulness and meditation. I truly feel that if you commit to a regular mindfulness practice, it can profoundly improve many aspects of your life in ways that are hard to fully describe without directly experiencing the benefits firsthand.

As someone who has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I often used to feel trapped inside my mind, stuck in compulsive thought loops and anxieties. Exposure therapy helped teach me to sit with the discomfort and anxiety for extended periods, to become habituated and less reactive to OCD triggers eventually. While learning to endure anxiety is an important skill, I wanted to find additional ways to strengthen my mind. That's when I turned to mindfulness meditation.

Through my meditation practice, I had a powerful realization about difficult emotions like anxiety, anger, and depression. Mindfulness isn't about trying to eliminate challenging feelings or prevent them from arising. Rather, it's about creating more space for those emotions to exist in the mind and body without overwhelming us.

I now visualize it like this: Let's say I'm struggling with OCD-related anxiety that feels like a huge, hulking giant filling up my mind - it is actively working to consume all mental space, leaving it as the sole subject of my attention. If I can use mindfulness to make the space inside my mind bigger, then I'm allowing room for the anxiety to be present without it taking over everything. So, I have only done as good as introducing you to a metaphor at this point, but how would you apply this to your situation?

Speaking practically... sort of

An important concept in meditation is creating a habit of directly turning our attention away from the activity within the mind and rest it on some stable subject - in my case it is the breath. When we notice a thought entering the space in our mind, the inner voice of the mind often emerges. We tend to offer it our attention habitually, and it steals us away from the intended stable object. With practice, we become more aware that our attention is being stolen away from our intention, and the time it takes to notice we are distracted diminishes up to the point of not forgetting.

So how does this all connect to this concept of "having space in the mind?". With time, what feels like readjusting attention, I began to notice the presence of thoughts without offering them my attention. It is like watching something out of the corner of your eye.

When we notice a thought entering the space in our mind, the inner voice of the mind often emerges. We tend to offer it our attention habitually, and it steals us away from the intended stable object.

It's like upgrading from a cramped studio apartment packed with ten people to a spacious warehouse - the same ten people are there, but there's plenty of space for them and other things. You might still encounter things that make you uncomfortable and engage with them, but those things no longer dominate the entire space.

This insight has been incredibly freeing for me. I can feel that expanded sense of space in my mind now. I recognize there is room for very difficult experiences and emotions to arise without them completely engulfing me. Creating this space allows me to be present with challenges rather than being constantly hijacked by them. It appears in the mind, but it can radically transform our relationship. Of course, anxiety and other painful mind-states still occur, and they're still uncomfortable. But they feel much more manageable now that I can situate them in a vaster internal space. With practice, I believe this skill of "expanding the mind" can be profoundly helpful for anyone navigating the ups and downs of the human experience. It may not change what shows up in the mind, but it can radically transform our relationship to it.

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