Composer Claude Debussy, in his infinite wisdom, boldly stated, “the music is the space between the notes.”
This space is the moment in time between the thought of an action to produce the sound and the sound itself. It is the musical sweet spot. Arvo Pärt masterfully captures these sweet spots. A dull moment is never found in his music because he keeps the listener attentive through carefully woven threads of anticipatory pauses.
The idea of doing more with less is the perfect mantra for our present state of insistence on immediate gratification and satiation. In our modern world, which moves at such incredible speed, we have somehow lost the magic of “wait time.” Instead of a fast and furious spitball session of sensory overload, during which everything rolls off us like Teflon, we should rather seek time. Time for thoughts, ideas and sounds to marinate. Time to make meaningful connections between ourselves and the world around us.
Carving out space in the mind requires a surrender to the process of anything we are trying to achieve, instead of a steadfast fixation on the end product. In Sanskrit, this idea of “good space” in the mind is referred to as sukha.
Yoga creates the conditions necessary for us to experience healthy space in the mind by excavating space in the body, thereby awakening the body’s blind spots, through dynamic yoga postures coupled with the breath. The Yoga Sutras (2.46) describe the two key elements, which are accessible in every yoga posture: sthira and sukha, resolute stability and relaxed comfort, respectively (achieved through the cultivation of “good space”). Once steadiness is present, alertness and comfort become accessible. Until these two qualities are attained, the posture is not a true asana.
This balance of steadiness and comfort, of effort and release, highlights one of the tenets of yoga: economy. Do more with less. Surrender to the fact that more can be accomplished with less force and less struggle. The ability to surrender comes from a deep inner strength and wisdom. You are giving up the illusion of control, thereby opening yourself up to a wider range of choices. You are in essence gaining freedom.
Yoga, like music will always be a practice—never a product, but a process. Trying to access that “good space,” through the guiding principles of sthira and sukha, ultimately triumphs our outer achievement. Rest assured, there is no final show and no final competition.
Nicole Newman is an Ashtanga practitioner and enthusiast. She studies with her favorite teacher Eddie Stern at the Sri Ganesha Temple.
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Editors: Lindsay Friedman/Kate Bartolotta