Category: Mindfulness

5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Chip Conley: Midlife: From Crisis to Chrysalis

Midlife has a bad reputation, often paired with the word “crisis” or seen as the “over the hill” phase of our journey. As the founder of the Modern Elder Academy (the worlds’ first midlife wisdom school), Chip Conley is changing this negative narrative to one that reclaims our middle years as a time of incredible regenerative possibilities. In this podcast, Tami Simon sits down with Chip to talk about his new book, Learning to Love Midlife, and how those of us amidst this phase can activate our capacities for renewal and “let our souls lead the dance.” 

Tune in for a very honest and hope-giving podcast on: The phoenix phenomenon; the anatomy of transition; the metaphor of the chrysalis; cultivating a growth mindset; the components of high “TQ” (or transitional IQ); creating space for something new; the great midlife edit; the dark night of the ego; radically shifting how you want to live your life; vulnerability and accepting help; “dancing backwards in high heels”; developing a friendship with your body; letting go—but also welcoming in; the alchemy of curiosity and wisdom; goosebumps as a sign you’re on the right path; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Mark Matousek: Living Like a Stoic

When things are at their worst, says celebrated author and writing mentor Mark Matousek, Stoicism is at its best. Considered the most practical of all philosophies, Stoicism is on the rise in today’s world—for reasons you’ll hear discussed in this podcast. 

Give a listen to this educational, pragmatic, and perspective-shifting conversation with Mark and Sounds True’s Tami Simon exploring control versus acceptance; using the mind in a more skillful way; humility, proportion, and appropriate action; taking responsibility for what we’re capable of; amor fati, to love life; working with your emotions; Emerson and “the exterior life”; writing prompts for letting go of the disempowering stories we tell ourselves; choosing how we hold our memories; why Stoicism is not a form of bypassing; adversity as a path to freedom; the practice of turning the obstacle upside down; shifting your angle of vision and telling the whole truth; “cosmic optimism,” Emerson’s reality-based form of hope; asking questions and finding your own way; doubt, confusion, and struggle on the spiritual path; Emerson’s view of enlightenment; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Winter’s Reminder to Slow Down and Sink into Deep Re...

My constant reminder to myself all winter is to not push too hard. The essence of the season reminds me that I don’t have to document every aha moment that happens in these cold, quiet months. I don’t have to share every discovery or turn every insight into a poem. In the winter, I’m much more inclined to commune with the Divine and let those conversations remain private. This is the influence of winter, the way it teaches me to shift from an overly productive participant’s pace into a person with a battery that needs to plug in and recharge gradually in order to rise up refreshed for the act of creation.

Rest isn’t easy for us, and we have to be intentional about it. How will you ensure that rest is a central part of your winter schedule? A lot can be accomplished in these sleepy months of contemplation, but if you position rest as the central focus of your routine, you’ll emerge from this season with more endurance for the working days ahead of you.

What does an ideal period of rest look like for you?

Unwinding looks different for everyone, and you’ll need to spend some time making a list of ways you can actualize rest in your daily winter life.

Maybe once a week you wake up and immediately take a hot bath. Maybe you watch a movie in the middle of the day. Maybe you get under your electric blanket and read a book for an hour after lunch. Resting usually requires doing (or not doing) something that will break your routine of constant output. How can you convince yourself to pause and be leisurely?

You’ll have to choose activities that will force you to slow down. You’ll have to remind yourself that resting will expand your creative practice in the long run, even if it seems like the opposite is happening in the moment. Experiment with what works best for you.

Prompts from the Planet

What do plants and other animals do in the winter?

They go dormant. Seeds wait, inactive in the dark soil or stored away, safe and dry.

They harden, keep warm, and get slow. Some stop growing. Others sleep and dream.

Below ground, everything works anew, protective and focused on survival.

The plant world pauses its creation and changes its approach, waiting for the sun to return.

Remember, we are part of the same cycle.

Remember to ask yourself: What is the natural world up to right now? How does it include me?

This is an adapted excerpt from A Year in Practice: Seasonal Rituals and Prompts to Awaken Cycles of Creative Expression by Jacqueline Suskin.


Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

Author photo © James Adam Taylor

A Year in Practice

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Gabor Maté: Healing Principles to Embody in a Traumat...

Why do we suppress our authenticity? How do we reconcile the need to accept things as they are with a desire to change them? What is the pathway to healing in a world that’s breaking our hearts? In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with renowned physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté about these profound questions, and how the approach he calls Compassionate Inquiry can help us find the answers within ourselves. 

Listen in to this informative, inspiring, and at times “fiery” conversation exploring how to bridge the gap between understanding and embodiment; the “full heart beneath a broken heart”; paying attention to tension; growth, not perfection; the neuroscience of emotions; the connections between sensitivity and addiction; activism and advocacy as an element of healing; the dance of acceptance and agency; psychoneuroimmunology; the search for truth and where it emanates from; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Justin Michael Williams, Shelly Tygielski, and Mario V...

The end of racism—really? When your eyes stop rolling, tune in to this podcast to hear why it’s actually possible—in our lifetimes—to free our society from systemic racial oppression and  injustice. In part one of this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Justin Michael Williams and Shelly Tygielski about their new book, How We Ended Racism. In part two, filmmaker and activist Mario Van Peebles joins the conversation to share his own hope-giving perspective. 

This stirring and uplifting podcast explores the five assumptions that perpetuate racism; the eight pillars of possibility; the pledge to help end racism; how our inner work relates to the outer change that we’re working toward; assertion versus assessment, and learning to recognize our own biases; shadow work and confronting the concept of supremacy; taking action where we’re standing right now; “loving with bigger arms”; crossing the divide within families; the metaphor of the inherited house; the practice of calling forward; intraconnection; the link between exposure and empathy; the SUSS process: State, Uncover, Synergize, and Select; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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