In Ayurveda, there are five “great elements” (called mahabhutas in Sanskrit) that make up the Earth, the Universe, and comprise our bodies, too. Each element has its own properties, from very subtle to very gross. (You can read all about those elements in my earlier post on doshas and mahabhutas.)
The most subtle of those great elements is called akasha, which contains both space and air. Seemingly empty, akasha inside a seed or a cell provides the space that incubates new life. If you were to slow down the blazing speed at which the human mind operates, you’d notice that thoughts all arise from emptiness. From that emptiness, creativity is born.
What happens in space?
In Western society there is little time for akasha. With work, families, friends, hobbies, TV, reading, social media, and everything else life entails vying for our time and attention, every day of our lives is filled with something. (Or in many cases, multiple things and screens and devices at once.)
There is a fear in Western culture (and probably in Eastern culture, too) of free moments, of uncertainty, of uncharted paths. What happens if you sit on a park bench and look at the birds, rather than trying to take a sweet shot of them to post on Instagram? What if you didn’t have your career trajectory set in stone? What if you kept moments of space open so that you could be open to possibility? When is she going to stop asking questions?
If you’ve noticed, your most brilliant ideas, your best plans, and your most awesome moments of life come, not through obsessive thinking, but during free and relaxed moments: out in nature, on a hike with a friend, not on Facebook, and when your smart phone wasn’t even nearby. (Gasp!)
And I’m not pointing this out to say that I’m better than anyone because I’m under the same spell. I mean, my smart phone is practically an appendage at this point. Let’s not even discuss the fact that my lack of akasha was the main reason why I’ve been absent from this blog.
How do we get our space back?
About three months ago, I got a new job at a startup and that added a commute, and long hours, leaving me little time or brainpower for much else. Fast forward to present day when said startup didn’t get the funding it needed to continue employing me, and a number of others. So here I am with plenty of akasha and time on my hands.
I’m panicked. I have no time for akasha! I’m worried. I need to know what my career plan is NOW.
But a fireside chat with former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy last night changed my thinking. Of course, someone like her had to have been planning to be CEO from the moment she started her career. Nope. She told the group that the fact that she had an unconventional career path and wasn’t planning for the CEO role is how she got there. She started at Xerox in human resources and learned about the company through its people. You limit yourself as soon as you have an end result in mind, she said. But I have to think that space, the akasha, and the intuition that came with it played a big role in her success.
As I ponder next steps in my career, I mustn’t fall victim to my brain’s need to fill the space. Rather, taking the time to be creative and intuitive, I know the right answer will come, through wisdom, not panic.
Would love to hear your perspective on space and its impact on your life and creative process. Please drop me a note in the comments.