Mind the Gap, Part III:
How to Discover a Gap
Identifying gaps between thoughts or actions will help expand your awareness. Let’s start with investigating gaps that are right in front of you and easy to find. We can talk about gaps in both time and spatial realms.
Consciously recognizing these gaps that may or may not be familiar to us will give insight into our habits and actions that have so far been unconscious and automatic. We often leap from moment to moment, thought to thought, action to action, here to there, on automatic pilot without registering that we can actually get between these activities and experience them more fully.
Find a spatial gap by noticing the distance between these two points:
Your body and an object that is relatively close to you like the door to the room you are in.
Your hand and shoulder.
Your eyes and the computer screen.
Find a time gap and notice the time it takes to:
Move your hand from your mouse or trackpad to the keyboard.
To step from one foot to the next.
To find your phone when an alarm goes off.
Find a thought gap and notice the “space” or “time” between your thoughts.
Become aware of the moment you decide to get out of a chair and the moment your body starts to move.
The recognition that you are hungry and the thought of what you might like to eat.
The moment you register what someone says to you and the start of your response.
By beginning with these larger relatively easily identifiable gaps, you can practice regulating your attention and learn to expand your field of awareness in increments that are manageable and comfortable for you.
A next step in expanding your awareness is to pick out a moment about halfway between one point of awareness and the next familiar point of awareness. You don’t have to be totally precise with the timing as the intention is to discover that there IS time between the moments you have previously been aware of.
Let’s look at this in walking.
Noticing these moments.
Right foot touches the ground
Left foot touches the ground
Right foot touches the ground - notice
Halfway to the Left foot touching the ground - notice
Left foot touches the ground - notice
Then divide that time and space in half again and notice those moments
Any action or thought can be divided like this so you can expand your attention and awareness. And you can find gaps and insert your awareness with all of your senses.
You can also notice gaps in time at a micro level like:
The time it takes between touching your keyboard and the time the image appears on your screen.
The time between someone asking you a question and the time you take to answer.
The time between having the thought to get up from your chair to get something and when you actually land on the floor.
You can sense the time and space at the same time:
Notice the time it takes you to look from your hand to the screen AND the distance between them.
Notice the space between your two friends talking AND the time between the sound of their voices.
In order to notice and experience these moments you have had to keep yourself from jumping ahead into the next known moment. You have had to INHIBIT (in the F. M. Alexander Technique sense of inhibition) your normal responses in perception to allow for something else to enter your awareness.
It also may feel like you have to slow down your activities to notice these gaps. That can be useful but it isn’t necessary. We aren’t actively trying to go in slow motion although it may be interesting to try for a short while. We are encouraging the building of awareness and perception of what we are doing from moment to moment.
At first it is useful to simply notice and acknowledge that there have been things occurring that have so far been out of your field of attention. These moments have been occurring all the time but have simply been out of your conscious awareness until now.