The Case for Space

Having just returned from a desert camping adventure, I’m intrigued by the meaning of “space” on so many levels. It seems, when I’m able to view/be immersed in the vastness of nature, I discover new places in my soul I didn’t even know existed.

By absorbing endless natural spaces, or just gazing at the stars above (when they’re visible), creates a combined sense of awe and relief that we can actually breathe and thoughtfully reflect, just by “taking it in.” Indeed, the “wow” factor is a human-only condition, often transcendent.

As much as I love (sub)urban life, work deadlines and productivity, these spacial “time outs” seem critical on so many levels. We are a society that chews on time. Even with the Pandemic slowing some things down, we find other ways to eat up the other spaces in our lives. 

I also think about how to manifest “space” organizationally (aside from just the physical environment). As Founder and former Executive Director of Insight Garden Program, everything felt urgent and weighty during my transition from one role to the other. It was suggested that I “let go of the small stuff,” delegate work, and consider the bigger picture from a systems perspective.

It was a gritty, but necessary transition, common among founders turned EDs. 

Setting boundaries and taking some “space for myself” was critical to avoid burnout. Organizations can implode without taking space. Breathing into important decisions, being more inclusive in organizational management, and taking real vacations to literally “unplug” became IGP’s collective mantra.

These moments of space, between breaths, words, meetings and even conflict allow our brains to shift into non-reactive mode. Decisions become more thoughtful when we open hearts and minds to inclusiveness. Fostering new ideas by listening to every voice in the room helped to spark creativity and send us to places that I couldn’t ever have imagined. We slowed time down to more deeply renew commitments, explore possibilities, and rethink strategies. For changemakers, it’s a necessity. 

This idea of finding (and creating) space – literally or figuratively – is a lesson from our natural world. Our ecosystems provide us with all we need in moments of contraction to expand again, get grounded, and experience wonder and awe – from our own backyards to a sublime desert.

And the science, indeed, proves this point. The work of Dacher Keltner and the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has been particularly focused on the study of wonder and awe. 

So when we feel like the world is closing in, we can go out again, expand our consciousness and creativity, reconnect, replenish and renew.

“Drifting across the vast space, silent except for wind and footsteps, I felt uncluttered and unhurried for the first time in a while, already on desert time.” – Rebecca Solnit

About Beth Waitkus

Gardening as a revolution. Most recently, as Founder & Executive Director of the Insight Garden Program, I built a $1+ million nonprofit that works across sectors to provide experiential, transformative gardening and landscaping training in prisons, participant re-entry programs, and advocacy for systems change at the intersections of environmental, criminal, and social justice. To become environmentally aware, all people need is a little time in the garden, or outdoors -- nature teaches us everything we need to know.
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1 Response to The Case for Space

  1. Rodney C Gott says:

    You have a duplicate paragraph in your letter

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