When I was in high school, in the early Mesozoic Era, I was on the field hockey team.
Our team was adequate, not great, and that is how I would describe my personal field hockey talents too – adequate, not great.
Our team was in it for the camaraderie. We loved singing songs on the bus, we loved hanging out together after games, we loved sneaking forbidden hamburgers and milkshakes (our coach laid down strict dietary rules), and we loved the sweaty, tired, we’re-all-in-it-together feeling of our twice-daily summer practices.
I can remember one moment of enlightenment, early in my second year on the team, when the coach gave me what was some of the best advice I have ever received: “visualize the negative spaces.”
What she meant was to not stand at the spot where I wanted another player to pass the ball, but rather to move away from that spot, to create an empty space to pass the ball into, then to move into that unoccupied space to get the ball.
It changed my whole view of the game and made me a better player. It also, as it turns out, changed my view of life and the universe.
There are many empty spaces these days – empty stadiums, empty movie theaters, empty restaurants, and golf courses, and playgrounds. Empty space is easy to visualize. It’s all around us.
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, our lives were full, so full.
We filled up our days with work and leisure, with appointments and playdates, with fitness activities, important meetings, piano lessons, restaurant meals, and errands.
We filled up our lives with things too, with tennis rackets, bikes, daily planners, tools, take-out coffee, computers, and smartphones.
Now we have empty space where many of those things recently existed.
We seem to be filling those empty spaces with family time, with quiet conversation, reading, dinners around the dining room table, board games, and evenings of contemplation (and Netflix).
We now have time to step outside and marvel at the luminous Rose Moon (the name of the full moon in April). We can meditate, if we are so inclined. We have space for lighting candles, for playing gin rummy, for listening to an eight-year-old tell a corny joke, for learning to identify wildflowers, and for hearing the birds sing in the garden
That’s the way it is with empty spaces. Something will always rush in to fill them. Ever since the universe burst into being and filled empty space, the only thing that existed before Creation (or you might call it the Big Bang, tomato, tomahto).
We need to create some empty spaces of our own, voluntarily.
The Coronavirus created empty spaces for us but we don’t need a pandemic to create negative space in our lives, we can do it ourselves, even after the sheltering-in-place is over.
Let’s not forget the slower pace we were forced to adopt for this short period of time. Let’s not rush back to our former busy lives without considering the benefits of spending more time with the people we love most. Let’s keep some of those empty spaces the crisis caused us to create.
And one more thing. Let’s create some negative space within ourselves to allow the Light to enter.
Let’s not fill up ourselves with our “self“. That self can lead to selfishness, self-importance, and self-righteousness. Some hollow spaces inside can be a good thing.
We should pay attention to the sage advice given by my former field hockey coach so many years ago. Her wisdom has stayed with me for a long time.
Visualize the negative spaces.