I arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico with a terrible, feverish flu. This was a year ago, when my partner and I traveled to the picturesque, coastal village of Puerto Ángel, to celebrate the New Year with friends.
Puerto Ángel nestles between the mountains and the sea, with little winding roads, that I’m sure have charming appeal for the average visitor. Each day, determined to make the most of our journey, I’d wedge my sick self into our little rental car, packed with 6 people, and we’d head for the beach, maneuvering around all the other cars and trucks on those narrow lanes. Then, at night, I would lie awake, burning up with fever, and wonder semi-dramatically, “Is this illness permanently damaging my health?”
When any thought arises, it means the mind has condensed out of openness into the form of the thought. If the thought happens to carry a tinge of suffering, then further thoughts can quickly cordon off the mind, closing us in, making our view of the world smaller and smaller. This was not what I envisioned for our trip to Mexico!
When we fall into cramped mental spaces of frustration and dissatisfaction, it’s easy to become depressed, space out, go into denial, or become disconnected from the amazing world around us… especially if we happen to be sick! I was doing my best to keep my mind open through the aching haze of flu and fever, but connecting with the local culture and enjoying my time at the beach weren’t coming easily to me.
Meanwhile, I knew the true nature of my mind was still there in the background: vast, spacious, and totally open to possibility. I had enough awareness to notice my thoughts were hemming me in, but the illness made it difficult to interrupt myself and change course. (Even when we feel well, attachment to our thoughts and opinions can be fierce!)
One way to free the mind and create more possibility for ourselves is to imagine putting space around the thoughts.
For this practice, I find it helpful to picture stubborn thoughts like walls – mental structures we’re temporarily unable to see through. If we can remember that out beyond the enclosing walls of our thinking, the vast, open space of the mind remains available to us, then we have a chance to open a window and reconnect with that natural openness.
Going into a spacious landscape for this practice – next to the ocean, under the sky, on a mountain, in a grassy field, or even high up in a skyscraper – to experience open space directly can really help the mind open up.
The trick here, is not to force our thinking to change. We’re not trying to wrestle our minds to the ground or deny how we’re feeling. Instead, we’re simply remembering the all-encompassing wisdom of the mind, the wisdom of spaciousness, out beyond our thoughts.
Once we’ve tapped into the wisdom of spaciousness, a thought that is true, harmless, and kind will thrive and do good works, while a thought that creates conflict, confusion, or fear will gently and gradually transform.
This heals us.
The wisdom of spaciousness lets the mind breathe with creative energy.
It helps us see things from a wide angle and move inclusively into the fullness of who we are, beyond limiting thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.
After a string of feverish, headachy, yellow-sun days, spent at hot beaches or winding through cramped, village roads, we gathered with our friends on the big, thatched-roof porch behind the seaside house they rented, to welcome the new year.
While waiting for midnight, I kept sending my mind into the deep, moon-blue expanse of night sky and sea, like a prayer of openness for the year to come. Beginning the year in that cathedral of wide, clear sky, with my mind at rest in its natural spaciousness, felt wonderfully healing. Whatever the year might bring, I knew I would be ready for it because my mind was open.
What tricks and tips do you have for keeping an open mind this year? I’d love to hear!
About the Author:
Delana Thompson helps spiritually-inclined entrepreneurs express their hearts and expand their influence with authentic copywriting, project management, and professional delivery of their online content. Her clients include teachers and practitioners of meditation, yoga, ayurveda, shamanic healing, astrology, and fine art. When she’s not writing marketing emails or designing landing pages, you’ll find Delana salsa dancing, practicing meditation, planning a trip, listening to a podcast, speaking Spanish, or missing all her faraway friends. Visit Delana on LinkedIn to learn more about her business.