This morning I was lying in bed wide awake and I could tell that it wasn’t time to get up yet. I felt surprisingly well rested even though it was early. Still, I wished I could have stolen a couple more hours of sleep before work. Despite my wishes, something inside pushed me to get up and write, but before even thinking to make a decision, the words began to flow. Faster than I could keep up with, this blog post began practically writing itself in my mind. For weeks, I was starting to believe I wasn’t cut out for this writing stuff. Needless to say, this little creative surprise visit was an unexpected, but welcome change.
But…I didn’t get up.
Almost as quickly as the inspiration hit, my thoughts bombarded me with reasons why I was better off staying put:
“It’s early. You have work. You really should stay in bed. You need sleep. You can start writing this when your alarm goes off.”
These thoughts spiraled into the beginning of what seemed like a never-ending chain of criticism and doubt:
“But if I wait, I’ll only have an hour to write. Hell, if I make breakfast, get my coffee, and prepare for work, I won’t have any time at all.“
I tried to ignore my thoughts and decided to get up when they ferociously charged in again:
“You’ll be tired. It’ll be a long day at work!”
Before I knew it my thoughts were in an all out war with themselves:
“But I’ve been tired before and the day went fine!”
“Ah, yes, but think of it. You’ll be standing at your station, barely able to work, and wishing you got more sleep. That’s a LONG day.”
Now, even though I was peacefully lying on a soft mattress, in a warm apartment with a roof over my head, I could begin to feel this long day. In fact, the whole world felt tired and life felt hard. That one thought about a long day didn’t just shape that specific morning – Those thoughts, in that moment, shaped my entire world view. As I laid in bed and imagined how difficult work would be in my sleep deprived state, I was filled with horrific thoughts and feelings of all the times life felt difficult. Likewise, not only did I notice how tired I thought I was in that moment, but how tired I was in past moments, and how tired I would be in future moments.
“This,” my thoughts threatened, “is why you shouldn’t get up.”
I didn’t actually know if this was true. I had no idea if it would feel like a “long day,” “short day,” or how’d I’d feel about the day at all, but our thoughts are great at convincing us that they are solid and real.
Still, I continued to lay there. I finally decided once and for all to get up and write, but my thoughts would not give up so easy.
“Not so fast!” my thoughts crept in. “Look, you wanna get up, but can you even remember all the good stuff that came flying out before? You won’t even remember. You’ll just get up, go to your computer, type a few words and struggle for the rest. That’s not even worth it. And, what’s the point?, You’re no blog writer. Besides, it’s early and you need the sleep. You’ll be sorry.”
Now obviously, I did get up and write this blog. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. So, what happened? How did I manage to get up and write when it felt like the whole world was against me?
I noticed, what I like to call – the Gap.
I first experienced the Gap when I was in the middle of an intense moment one day. I was sitting alone in my car feeling angry, isolated, and hopeless. I felt small because my world seemed small. Not knowing what to do, but desperate for control, I screamed at the top of my lungs and repeatedly hit the passenger seat next to me, in an attempt to show how real and horrible my life was. I’ll never forget what happened next because suddenly, in my own version of Hell, I saw peace. I felt peace. I knew peace.
I didn’t literally see the Gap, but in that moment I absolutely knew that instead of one giant, solid, reality “out there” making me happy or sad – two things were happening.
The first notion I was very familiar with: my thoughts were chattering on and on of their own accord. I didn’t have to identify with them, they existed regardless of my relationship to them. Second, I noticed there was a deeper space within myself of amazing peace separate from all the noise. While the thoughts were ever-changing this peace was always there. While the thoughts may distract us from this peace, they cannot negate it.
The insight I derived from this experience: we are not our thoughts.
The world wasn’t actually small. In fact, there was an entire world population filled with friends I had yet to meet. Life wasn’t actually out to get me. When I was caught up in my bad thoughts the world was bad. The truth is the world is neither good or bad. The world just is.
When we forget that we are experiencing our thoughts rather than experiencing the world, life can seem scary, hopeless, or even impossible. We might feel stuck or unable to change but this is just our thinking in the moment. We forget that a new thought will come along, with the potential to change our reality at any moment. This feeling of existing in a space where we are not or thoughts is the Gap. The good news is we don’t have to force or struggle to search for the Gap, because it’s who we are.
So, this morning I did it. I woke up and wrote this blog. I went weeks thinking I couldn’t do it. I thought I didn’t have enough time or enough interesting content. I needed to find the “right” time or else I was destined to failure. When life felt unchangeable I believed I had to fight my way into productiveness.
You know the phrase “This too shall pass?” Well, it did. It always will. I was too busy fighting thoughts of doubt, so distracted by them I didn’t realize they too would pass. I fought so hard that I literally had to fall asleep for my mind to quiet down and access the Gap.
The most beautiful part of all is that I didn’t need the struggle. The doubt and desperation that came with trying to force creativity resulted from being stuck in doubtful and desperate thinking.
When we mindfully exist within the Gap, we become a conduit for our true creativity.