March 30, 2017

Mind the Gap.

I lived in London for years, but it was many years after I left that I realised a Londonism had some real wisdom to offer me.

Like anyone who lives in London for any length of time, I had learned to become immune to the particular experiences that the Tube could offer—stranger’s armpit in your face anyone? The smell of urine in the tunnels leading to the Tube perhaps? The monotone reminder to “mind the gap” between the platform and the train?

I left London. And moved to the other side of the globe. And yet recently, that anonymous voice kept coming into my mind. Bizarre, right? Maybe, except I have recently been working on developing gratitude in my life. And working on developing more mindfulness in my life. And peace. And contentment. And did I mention gratitude?

So I started wondering why this monotone voice was repeating a London Underground warning to me—and I realised that one of the reasons why I develop discontent in my life is if there is a gap between what I want and what I have.

One of the obstacles to mindful living is if I am planning how to bridge a gap between what I have now and what I will have then. And when I focus on the gaps that ambitions or desires have fallen through, that is when peace, real gratitude, or contentment feel elusive.

After thinking about this, I realised that like those years ago in London, I had become immune to the warning—mind the gap.

I have spent precious energy wishing that some parts of my life were different—even though there can be no way to change them—like my mum dying for example. But when I climbed onto the Tube, I was aware of the gap. I stepped over it, onto the train and on with my journey. In my life I was doing the equivalent of looking at the gap, analysing it, hating it at times, and then waiting on the platform at bit longer, only to reassess the gap and wish that it would somehow go away.

I realised that if I mind the gap I see the gap for what it is—a space—sometimes painful, sometimes big, but often not. A gap between where I am now and where I want to be or wish I could be is not a deficit. It is a space that I can mould and change and learn from, not a chasm that I need to keep staring into. When I accept that the gap is not a deficit, just a space, there is real comfort in knowing that within space we can float, grow, morph into whatever we want.

While my ambitions or desires may not have materialised exactly as I had imagined they would, in their place I have experienced or learned things that I never even knew existed. Space provides potential.

The gap between our life now and life as expected, can teach us so much. Where is our expectation of certain things coming from? Are we being realistic? If we crave more materialistic success, what is our motivation? To impress others? Security? Can we accept the gap between our expectations and reality? Do we waste our precious energy and precious life, by not knowing what to change and what to accept? Do we ruminate and worry, rigid in our expectations, or can we move in another direction? Can we park expectation?

Do mind the gaps in your life. See them, if you can, as an invisible bridge, one that connects you from the platform that you stand on now to a journey that may bring you anywhere.

We were not born to check off a list of experiences or status symbols in our lives. We were born to notice the potential within us, even when the cost of that potential is sometimes painful.

If your life is not quite going the way you had imagined, then mind the gap. Have courage to continue your journey.

Often that gap provides us with the opportunity to carry on an inward journey that can lead us to all sorts of wonderful worlds.

Or it could end up taking you to London—in which case mind the stranger’s armpits.

Author: Sheena Teeder

Image: Author’s Own; Unsplash

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Sheena Teeder