The Spaces in Between
Climatologically speaking, February is the third coldest month of the year – but it’s also the one where we see the most drastic atmospheric swings in weather conditions. I mean two weeks ago, Johnny had a snow day off from school and this past weekend we had undeniable undertones of spring. In so many ways, February is that in-between place, some place between the dead of winter and the onset of spring, where the weather is neither predictably dark and cold nor dependably warm and sunny.
Perhaps that’s why lately I’ve also found myself in my own personal in-between seasons of sorts. Over the last few weeks, I’ve experienced a lot of excitement, possibility and have felt a deep sense of freedom; but I’ve also experienced fear, sadness and a ton of uncertainty. In the space between my “here’s” and my “there’s”, I’ve had to wrestle with those uncertain realities, particularly in my career and my relationships. The excitement of interviewing for a position that would afford me the personal and professional growth I desire, was met with the fear that I might not get the position and that I’ll be stuck in my “here,” that I’ll never get to my “there.” And – in not wanting to be in the “here” space of my (then) current relationship, I made the hard decision to end a 4-year relationship with someone I love and now find myself in this in-between “here” and “there” place trying to build a solid friendship.
When things are up in the air – when a new job has arrived and there’s still weeks to go at the old one, when a new phase of a relationship feels neither separate nor completely connected – we find ourselves sitting in the space with varying degrees of uncertainty. We may have information about what the future will hold in one area and not another. We may not know what to expect in our reality when the dust settles and we may question if the dust will ever settle, or if we’ll be forever stuck in the space between. With this comes all sorts of mixed feelings from excitement to fear to ambivalence to doubt. Those intense emotions, coupled with our sense of uncertainty, trigger a survival instinct that activates our limbic system. This means adrenalin and norepinephrine are released by the brain and our thinking tends to become clouded and pessimistic. Jeff Hawkins, founder of the Neuroscience Institute says the release of those neuro-chemicals prompts a ‘fight or flight’ response which in turn triggers painful emotions and memories. Hawkins says it’s the brain’s way to fight back because the brain views uncertainty as a threat to its existence and tries to avoid it at all costs.
As humans, we’re addicted to certainty. And here I was thinking it was just me! But the reality is we all want to know we’ll get “there”. We all want the assurance that the friendship will eventually turn back into a relationship or that the job will come through. Our brain thrives on certainty and it operates as a prediction machine, one that can’t exist in the space between. According to our brain we’re either “here” or we’re “there.” There’s estimated to be about 40 environmental cues that we can consciously pay attention to at any time and subconsciously there are about 2 million – that’s a lot of predictive possibilities to either land us “here” or “there”…but not somewhere in between.
Regardless of how our brain wants things done, at some point in our life (or frequently throughout our lives for those of us on this spiritual path of growth), we’ll find ourselves neither “here” nor “there”, just somewhere in between the two. And, more challenging than the space itself, is being where we are. Staying where we are, wherever that is at the moment – and whatever plane we’re existing on, be it mental, physical or emotional – is the hardest part of this whole process.
Ultimately, the “between” is always going to exist, so it’s not a matter of avoiding it at all costs, but managing ourselves once we find ourselves there. Hawkins says the key to reducing uncertainty is to recognize and accept it. Bear in mind here that being where you are and accepting where you are, doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. Rather, it means you are moving with life and its flow and its seemingly un-magical timing of things. And, by accepting that there is uncertainty, by acknowledging to your brain that it is normal, your brain can relax a little, which keeps your mental space clear enough to consider your next best step.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the certainty of knowing I got the job or the assurance from the Universe that my interactions with my ex would be reactionary-free. Of course, I want that, but wanting that takes me out of the present moment and robs me of the wisdom of right now.
There’s a reason this space exists. There’s a reason I’m here. There’s a reason you’re here too, or that you will find yourself here at some point. There’s a wisdom that can only be found in the space between. This space, this very one, is an opportunity for reflection, reevaluation, softening and spiritual deepening.
This week, rather than chasing the goal, rather than the familiar feeling of setting goals, having hopes and charting a course to achieve them, I’m creating space for things to come in. It’s a very different feeling, and one that requires a great deal of trust. It’s something that requires me to let go and to actually be in the space between. And so I’m letting go of needing to know. I’m taking a deep breath so I can engage more curiously and somatically with my feelings. I’m giving myself a break by releasing some of the pressure of having to do more and be more.
What about you? What do you need to let go of so you can be in the space between? What is there in your business, relationships or personal beliefs that you need to let go of if you are going to shine even brighter this year?
True safety and certainty, the equivalent of buckling our seat beats, comes from partnering with life instead of bracing against it. Drop into that space between. Trust it’s wisdom. And remember that the spring always comes.