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  • Jesse Irizarry

What To Do With The Dead Space

I wish you could see what I’m looking at right now. I’ll take a picture of it for this blog but it’ll be a lousy painting of this picture I see with my own eyes. It’s an early Tuesday morning and I’m writing at my desk in my office. My office is on the top floor of my house and there’s a window right by my desk.

There’s a cool, fall breeze coming in through the cracked window and the morning sunlight is seeping onto the walls in my office. Outside the window, the sunlight is touching the tops of the trees and down the sides of the houses on the other side of the road. The sight of it is filling me with a grateful and peaceful feeling.

Before I sat down to write I sat to meditate. When I was finished, I thought about how I wish everyone found the benefit of sitting for mindfulness practice. I think about that a lot. Some people never will. There’s still so much negative around the idea of it and some people try it but can’t seem to do it.

I’m pretty thankful that I’m able to do this most mornings. There are so many who can’t and it’s not their fault, it’s not a time management problem. Sometimes there’s actually no time. Kids, jobs, commutes. It can be way too much. Waking up earlier wouldn’t help, they’d be too tired to get any benefit from it. They’d be less calm and focused for the rest of their days, not more.

I get it, I’ve lived a life like that. And it was for a while. But the moment I had even five minutes to myself in the morning without having to do something for my kids or hop on the bus to commute to work, I took it and made what I could out of it. I did it as often as I could, which wasn’t much for a long time. When I had five more minutes for myself, I took that too. It was easy for me to take more of that time because I had habituated myself to see any extra time in my day as moments to dedicate to self-reflection, study, and focus.

I’ve also been thinking lately about those who teach others. I don't think there are many people in this world with anything to teach. And I don’t find that to be a cynical point of view. If anything it’s a healthy one, because it’s a reality and a rejection of a common delusion.

We need those who point others who do need answers to the right ones and being a person who can discern where the correct direction to point is for one or a group of people is undeniably valuable. That shouldn’t be discredited.

That’s not the same as teaching though and pretending like you have a better grasp on positive habits or a more profound viewpoint than the next person. If we really quiet the noise, we can usually find most of the answers on our own somewhere in the dark corners of our heads.

The lessons have all been given, all the useful steps outlined and written out. The best philosophies on how to wade through daily life can be found without much effort. You can read the objective bullet points of these after a brief search and avoid any personal interpretative narrative from someone who may delude it by mixing their own opinions based on their personal experiences. Opinions that they haven’t personally challenged to see if they really pass scrutiny.

Occasionally you do find someone who’s taken some view and found a deep connection with some other concept and played this out in their own lives and those of others over long periods of time. That’s someone who can extract the one conclusion that is singularly useful for most people in most circumstances. That’s someone who has something to teach. That’s someone who will tell you a truth that you knew but couldn’t get straight in your head.

I’ve lived years where no time could be found for personal study and meditation. Now I do have this time. Having been in both situations, I understand the truth (the one we all know) that we have to set apart the dead space in our lives for good. If we want to use the freed time we may earn one day, any moment that we have now, however small, needs to be spent on the good, whatever that is for us.

People assume that if they had more time they would use it to grow, develop, or to learn to detach from their monkey minds. But they really know that they won’t because they don’t use the free moments that do pop up at times for this. If you don’t spend the little on good, you won’t spend the plenty on the good when that plenty comes.

I knew that I’d use to have maybe five minutes in the morning to myself before my three-year-old son would start calling for me from his bed if I woke up at 6 A.M. before. I could have woken up at 5 A.M. but I got home too late from work each night to get to bed early enough for that. And I knew that after a couple of days of sleeping only five hours a night my coaching would suck, I couldn’t focus on writing, and I’d have no patience with my kids. Meditating or reading in the morning would be pointless, I’d be a worse version of myself, not a better one.

So every day I took those five minutes and tried to meditate or read. Sometimes it was only three minutes before he woke up. Sometimes my son would sleep a little later and I’d get fifteen minutes.

Despite how much or little time I got, I set the intention in my head that what I had, I’d spend it in reflection, in self-education, in clearing the noise. As I got more time to myself, I gave more time to this. I didn’t even consciously do it and this might honestly be the first time I’ve reflected on it. It’s just what I did because I had already set and kept that intention. The free time I had was for the good of me.

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