Spaciousness and Striving – Reflections on my Silent Retreat


Last weekend I went on my first non-residential silent mindfulness retreat. It’s been challenging, rewarding, intense and satisfying all at the same time. I’ve been meditating for some years now but it’s only within the last year that I’ve managed a sustained practice. I did my 8 week course back in 2012 and a year ago I completed a mindfulness instructor’s diploma. I’ll write separately about what actually happened on the retreat.

As this week has gone on, I’ve spent time reflecting on my experience and several things have occurred to me; there’s one key theme which I want to mention here.

Spaciousness and Striving

One I don’t allow myself to have enough of, and the other…well, let’s just say that there’s a little too much of that at the moment! One of the guiding principles of mindfulness is that of non-striving. This weekend, it’s been bought home to me sharply – and rather physically painfully – that this is a principle that would be good for me to develop.

Allowing more spaciousness may help me to strive less…to be rather than do all the time. To not try so hard, but invite things in and then leave space for them.

I wonder if this is something that you recognise in yourself too?

One of this weekend’s tutors recommended a talk by Tara Brach. In the talk, she references a poem, Fire, which has really made me think.

I’ve copied it out here for you. I hope you enjoy it.

I have a tendency to pile on the logs – how about you?


What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs,

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and the absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire


simply because the space is there,

with openinings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

Judy Brown

I pile on the logs in almost every area of my life and this week I’ve been noticing this. I’ve started giving myself more space and time to achieve what I want to, knowing that it’s nowhere near as much as I think I can. I feel calmer, less hassled, happier.

And importantly, less guilty for ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ all the time.

one_to_one_coachingI’m Susan Ritchie, a leadership coach, trainer and writer, helping leaders and executives to create impact and develop their presence.