Meditation, or training one’s attention and awareness to achieve a clear and calm mental state, is a practice we’re all at least familiar with—and hopefully practice daily!—but many of us may be unfamiliar with the concept of “the gap.”
This gap has nothing to do with the clothing brand, the area between a train car and platform, nor the space between one’s teeth or thighs. From a meditation perspective, the gap is the space where the mind is completely present in stillness.
Though it is considered a somewhat ineffable component of meditation, Wayne Dyer elucidates that “in The Gap you are making conscious contact with the indivisible force that is the source of all of your power, all of your joy, and all of your fulfillment in your life. The gap is the space between your thoughts.”
Let’s dive into The Gap together.
The Gap Between Thoughts
People typically have over 6,000 thoughts per day, according to the results of a study done in 2020. And it’s estimated that a high proportion of those thoughts are negative and are the same repetitive thoughts they had the day before. The researchers also noted that those who score high on Neuroticism, based on the Big Five Personality Test, tend to have even more thoughts and that they frequently skew negative. And to top it all off, it is widely accepted by experts that those who report experiencing racing thoughts and rumination habits are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety in general.
Our thoughts are a constant with us all day. And of course, being an inquisitive, analytical, thinking person is a good thing in general, because as Socrates stated, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” But we often spend an inordinate amount of time worrying and contemplating what-ifs and if-onlys. So it’s equally important to understand that a lot of the pain and stress you experience in life stem from thoughts and thoughts alone—not even real occurrences, but imagined ones. And 85% of what we worry about never even happens.
Imagine the relief you’d feel from reducing the sheer amount of thoughts you have per day—especially the negative, repetitive ones. What would it be like to quiet the ‘monkey mind’ and slow the constant stream of inner monologue?
In A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle encourages us to “discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking. Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid of any creative spark, which is how it still is for most people on the planet. You don’t need to be concerned with the duration of those gaps. A few seconds is good enough. Gradually, they will lengthen by themselves, without any effort on your part. More important than their length is to bring them in frequently so that your daily activities and your stream of thinking become interspersed with space.”
It may sound strange, but it is vital to give our minds a break from our thoughts, no matter how short that break ends up being.
Gap the Mind
You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘mind the gap’ in reference to riding the underground Tube in London. It is a warning for riders to be careful of accidentally slipping into the area between the train and the platform. Ironically however, when in the context of meditation, stepping into the gap is not something to be warned against but encouraged. It is a glimpse of samadhi, the Eighth Limb of Yoga, a space that allows you a momentary peek into what true bliss feels like.
According to Deepak Chopra, the Gap is “the infinite awareness of being, the source of all insight, creativity, the power of intention, synchronicity, and the source of every experience in every sentient being. The source of the universe.”
Envision yourself stepping off of the racing, chaotic Train of Thought, by cultivating an inner silence, and instead of “minding the gap,” stepping into The Gap, and finding inner calm and peace.
Finding Yourself in Meditation
Meditation can be a challenge for many yoga practitioners. We often find the physical movement aspect of yoga, the asanas, to be more approachable than sitting still in silence.
According to the Sutras, the essential purpose of asana is to enhance the body’s capacity for long durations of seated meditation. In fact, ‘asana’ means ‘seat’. Swami Sivananda noted that “the more steady you are in your asana, the more you will be able to concentrate with a one-pointed mind… and feel the atmic anandam, infinite peace and soulful bliss inside you.”
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Eckhart Tolle expounds on the importance of encountering stillness in our lives, that it “will connect us with the formless and timeless dimension within ourselves, that which is beyond thought, beyond ego. It may be the stillness that pervades the world of nature, or the stillness in your room in the early hours of the morning, or the silent gaps in between sounds. Stillness has no form that is why through thinking we cannot become aware of it. Thought is form. Being aware of stillness means to be still. To be still is to be conscious without thought. You are never more essentially, more deeply, yourself than when you are still.”
This is you—who you truly are.
Experiencing the Gap in Dayton, Ohio
Now you’ve found yourself a quiet place, a comfortable seat, and you’re focusing on the breath, and perhaps noticing the gaps between the inhale and exhale and between each breath cycle.
Taking even just a few minutes in silent stillness can shift your brain and body into a calm state that can have ripple effects throughout the rest of your day.
Let’s be mindful of The Gap and remember the ancient Zen observation: “It is the silence between the notes that makes the music.”
If you’re interested in learning and experiencing meditation more deeply, join us at Ignite Yoga for our MEDITATE classes. This class incorporates meditation, pranayama, and contemplation. It is for all levels and gifts the much-needed pause that brings your body and mind back home.
Many yogis at the beginning of their meditation journeys have wondered if they are “doing it right.” To that we say, if you are doing it, then you are doing it right.
Well done, you.