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March 30, 2023

What Are Mindful Spaces?

*This is an excerpt from Mindful Homes: Creating Healing Living Spaces with Mindfulness and Feng Shui by Anjie Cho, CICO Books

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Space is a word that I always come back to. It’s fascinating, mysterious, and truthfully something I can never quite put my finger on. On a mundane level, as an architect I design physical spaces for people. As a feng shui practitioner, I manipulate the energetic and invisible in physical spaces. Space can be visible (yang) and invisible (yin).

Although space is empty, there is usefulness in it. For instance, the essential part of a woven basket is the space inside that can hold and contain. My ikebana teacher often reminds me that in the art of Japanese flower practice, we are arranging the space just as much as we are the flowers. I believe this is also true with feng shui and our homes.

In feng shui we also arrange and work with space, because the qi can flow throughout space when we create the circumstances for this to happen. We can curate our experiences and create opportunities to be surprised by what can arise in space. Space is a physical and energetic place in which creativity can flow and emerge, bubbling up like a spring.

This concept of space has been something I’ve been exploring all my life. While my life’s work has to do with examining the yin and yang of spaces, I have also found myself fearing space. With clients, I often get asked, “What about that empty corner or wall? What should I do there?” I have seen this fear show up when trying to fill out the uncomfortable spaces in our lives with the comfort of food, a quiet moment with unnecessary words, or our homes with clutter. Sadly, we’ve all experienced filling up every empty moment with our devices and social media. We don’t know what to do with space. It even shows up in our calendars and our time. We fill up any spacious time slots we have as well. God forbid, what would happen if we were to get bored?

Which leads me to time, a manifestation of space. I am interested in the intersection of time and space, because I believe that time is space. One of the core tenets of Buddhism states that discontent and unhappiness arises from fear of impermanence. As humans we have a fear of death, of dying. Furthermore, in my meditation practice, I am constantly challenged to examine time and space. In a meditation session, one can feel that time takes forever. A minute feels like hours. Or sometimes it’s so refreshing and timeless, like a cool shower at the end of a hot, humid summer’s day. When we are engaged in the things we love—which for me includes my dharma art practices of mentoring students, flower arranging, ceramics, teaching, or simply spending time with a beloved kindred spirit—time does not even exist. Then as we grow older, we look back at our lives, as well as time itself, and it seems to have just slipped through our fingers.

Someone once told me they knew how to manipulate and stretch time. I was skeptical but also curious. But now I understand. If I’m engaged with what inspires me, that which makes my heart sing, time is eternal. What inspires you? Create some space to explore! The key is not just to look at our outer environments, but to work with the inner through sitting meditation practice.

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author: Anjie Cho

Image: Catherine Gratwicke © CICO Books 2023

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