In all things human, education

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…” – James Kirk

Yogis, we’re going on a fantastic voyage. A voyage that reveals the importance of inner space…

A famous study entitled “From Jerusalem to Jericho” was conducted in the 1970’s to analyze the good Samaritan story from the Bible. Researchers sought to determine what factors impacted a desire to act like a good neighbor towards someone else: did someone’s current thoughts affect kindness? Did feeling rushed?

To test their hypotheses, they gathered a group of seminary students and tasked half of them to give a talk on the Good Samaritan story (ostensibly to generating thoughts about helping someone else) and the other half to give a talk about religion and the work place. They then had the students walk from one building to another. The students were further divided so that one group was given a “high hurry” motivation (ie: you’re late!), another group a “medium hurry motivation” (they’re waiting), and a final group a “low hurry” motivation (you’ve got some time to get there). En route, the students encountered a person (an actor) pretending to be in distress.  Then researchers tallied up who see if they could discern any patterns in who stopped to help.

Turns out that degree of religious thoughts had no bearing on whether or not people stopped. (People given the good samaritan story stopped no more frequently than the others.) However, those who felt leisurely stopped far more than those who felt rushed by a ration of 6:1.*

The moral of our story? Compassion requires space.

Daily living is compressive. How often do we feel rushed? We hunch over our desks, rush to get the kids to school, fight against the traffic, and armour up to not get hurt. We are beset by obligations from peers, family, bosses, even friends. Our lives move at cyber-speed, and we frantically race to catch up with emails, texts, and skypes.

It’s time to slow the clocks.

When we go to yoga, or walk in nature, or write in our journals, our soul spreads its folded wings and stretches to full breadth. Without self-nurturing space, we default to our survival impulses. Caught in flight or flight, we react impulsively and can even become blind to what’s right in front of us (some students actually had to literally step over the stricken victim in the scenario). But when we create space in our lives, we then have the room to act ethically, considerately, and gracefully.

How can you create space for yourself? Through the yoga practice? Through breath? Through journalling?

Create space this week just for you.

Because when we create space for ourselves – even when it’s just starts with an extra breath – the world receives a better version of who we are. And that’s worth an extra breath.

*Ironically, the errand that students were tasked with was to go to the next building in order to deliver an impromptu speech on the passage of the Good Samaritan. The full study is entitled, “From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behaviour.”

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Showing 3 comments
  • Monday Mind

    Great post, Rachel. It’s funny how being busy can lessen the space between and we become less compassionate. I love the metaphor, that the sky is our mind and the sky is ever present. Thoughts are the clouds that come across the sky. The space between the thoughts, is the stillness of the mind during a meditation. Meditation has given me a sense of spaciousness.

  • Karen Kinnard

    Hi Rachel, I found your blog when researching for an upcoming teacher training where I’m teaching about transitions in flow classes. I too wrote a blog that I have not contributed to in a year or more, but it’s still out there and serving others – I hope. I just wanted to tell you that yours is too. I’m teaching a group of 11 how to become yoga teachers. So there you are, you will have impacted another dozen. Thank you. 🙂

  • Rachel

    Karen, thank you for sharing this! I’m so happy to hear that it was helpful. Keep writing! 🙂

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