Noticing space, chunking up

This dharma talk by Ajahn Sumedho, published in Tricycle, brings attention to something we often ignore: space. It is one of the first steps in seeing things differently.

The space in a room is peaceful. The objects in the room can excite, repel, or attract, but the space has no such quality. However, even though the space does not attract our attention, we can be fully aware of it, and we become aware of it when we are no longer absorbed by the objects in the room. When we reflect on the space in the room, we feel a sense of calm because all space is the same; the space around you and the space around me is no different. It is not mine. I can’t say “This space belongs to me” or “That space belongs to you.”

Space is always present. It makes it possible for us to be together, contained within a room, in a space that is limited by walls. Space is also outside the room; it contains the whole building, the whole world. So space is not bound by objects in any way; it is not bound by anything. If we wish, we can view space as limited in a room, but really, space is unlimited.

Noticing the space around people and things provides a different way of looking at them, and developing this spacious view is a way of opening oneself. When one has a spacious mind, there is room for everything. When one has a narrow mind, there is room for only a few things. Everything has to be manipulated and controlled; the rest is just to be pushed out.

Noticing space reminds me of a concept in NLP called “chunk size”. Noticing space would be a relatively large chunk size. Just noticing objects and ignoring space would be relatively small.

Many of the characteristics of becoming enlightened, from what I can tell, have to do with viewing the world with a larger chunk size. Big Mind. Big Heart. NLP calls that “chunking up”.

To move in that direction, begin to notice space. Notice that it’s empty. Notice the space between thoughts, between breaths.

Notice that space connects us all.

2 thoughts on “Noticing space, chunking up

  1. You got me thinking today, Mary Ann!
    People usually think of Space as being air, but it is not air. It is ether. And air? Well, air is nutrients (Prana) that only occupies space in certain areas of the universe. Air is food for matter? AWwww. I can’t even wrap my head around it!!! The only explanation is Love is Space. If air is Matter Food, then Space must be…Soul Food!
    And Thoughts? Where do they come from? Are any of them original or just memories dredged up from our brain matter. What are they really?

    Sending Love and Good Thoughts,


    • I like that — Love is Space! Of course ether and air are different, but I’ve wondered how ether got to be an element in so many ancient systems. Isn’t it what dentists used to use to anesthetize people? Now you’ve gotten me curious, Sunny!

      Merriam-Webster defines ether in several ways:
      1a : the rarefied element formerly believed to fill the upper regions of space
      2a also ae·ther : a medium that in the wave theory of light permeates all space and transmits transverse waves
      3a : a light volatile flammable liquid C4H10O used chiefly as a solvent and especially formerly as an anesthetic

      And from

      “Ether, or luminiferous Ether, was the hypothetical substance through which electromagnetic waves travel. It was proposed by the Greek philosopher Aristotle and used by several optical theories as a way to allow propagation of light, which was believed to be impossible in “empty” space.

      “It was supposed that the ether filled the whole universe and was a stationary frame of reference, which was rigid to electromagnetic waves but completely permeable to matter. Hooke endorsed the idea of the existence of the ether in his work Micrographia (1665), and other several philosophers of the 17th century, including Huygens, did the same. At the time of Maxwell’s mathematical studies of electromagnetism, ether was still assumed to be the propagation medium and was imbued with physics properties such as permeability and permittivity.

      “In 1887, a crucial experiment was performed by Michelson and Edward Morley in an attempt to detect the existence of the ether. The experiment, named the Michelson-Morley experiment in honor of its authors, shocked the scientific community by yielding results which implied the non-existence of ether. This result was later on used by Einstein to refute the existence of the ether and allowed him to develop special relativity without this artificial (and non-existent) constraint.”

      I do believe there are original thoughts, and they have a different quality than normal thoughts. Normal thinking is a by-product of an active mind. It may serve a useful purpose but often just holds the illusion in place. Original thoughts are knowing truth. They penetrate illusion.

      At least this is so in my current map of reality!


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