11 Ways To Create Spaces That Facilitate Moments Of Meaning
A moment of meaning is associated with feeling awe or experiencing profound connection to something bigger than yourself. As humans, we crave these moments as a way to inspire ourselves or satisfy our curiosity. Some past research has even found that the feeling of awe enhances overall well-being and instigates profound personal growth. A meditation practice at home, spiritual rituals, spending time in nature, and attending retreats and festivals are a few ways to realign our inner selves, reconnect with what’s beyond us, and experience meaning.
Just like you would set the mood for romance, we must also set the room for these moments of wonder, curiosity, and awe. The physical space around us affects our conscious experience. The right environment can help us slow down, clear our minds, and breathe easy, whereas chaotic surroundings can be the perfect conduit for a chaotic soul.
Whether creating a space for a workshop or shifting a common area in your home for your personal meditation practice, ration time to consider where your event or ritual will be taking place and take steps toward ensuring it’s a space that best supports your quest for meaning. The goal is to feel surrounded by multiple possible layers of connection.
Here are some of the most effective ways to create spaces that facilitate moments of meaning. If you lead experiences for large audiences, I suggest incorporating as many of the below options possible. If this is just for you and your space, then simply use whichever suggestions resonate with you.
Draw from the five elements.
When I’m trying to facilitate a meaningful moment, whether in the corporate office of a Fortune 500 company or on a hippie-dippie spiritual retreat in Israel, I connect to the five Ayurvedic elements: earth, fire, water, air, and ether. These elements appeal to our intuitive nature and natural connection to the world, and they're said to appeal to all parts of a person’s personality.
Earth adds grounding. If possible, sit on the sand, grass, or outside surrounded by earth for your event, practice, or ritual. If you must be indoors, bring plants such as bamboo, flowers, stones, shells, and bonsai desk plants to help detox the air and add greenery.
Fire adds heat and warmth; it reminds you to look toward the light and think positive thoughts. Light lavender scented candles or incense, or sit around a campfire outside.
Water supports flexibility, the individual’s ability to be open to connection. Have a glass of water to drink during your program or ritual. If you’re leading a group, encourage participants to drink throughout the event, and try to host programs near the ocean or another body of water—even the pool by the resort’s conference center will do the trick. At home, I will have a warm bowl of water near my right hand, and during meditation I tap my fingers in the water and dab the water drops on my third eye (the space in between the eyebrows) to increase intuition.
Air is deeply important as it adds new breath into a stale room. Allow deep breathing to be an important part of your practice. If indoors, open the windows and welcome whatever air this season has to offer, from cold winter to a warm summer breeze. If nothing else, just have some fans blowing and a pick a spot with a nice cross breeze.
Ether, the space in-between, allows for each person to feel they have their safe space to explore the new information they’re learning. This refers both to having enough physical space to themselves and also the ability to meet the new information with a healthy head space. Before beginning a practice in search of meaning, I check in with my current thought patterns, evaluate my personal mental health, and mindfully try to choose a positive outlook toward the activity I'm about to engage in.
1. Practice in natural light.
Seek out natural light, whether outside in the actual sunshine or in an office near large windows. We are humans—we don’t want to feel trapped in a box! Natural light significantly improves overall mood and well-being, in addition to all its other countless health benefits (things like improving sleep and boosting your vitamin D intake). One recent study found increasing natural light in an office leads to a large drop in drowsiness, eye strain, and headaches.
2. Listen to calming sounds.
Play calming, acoustic background music or use a white noise machine to drown out distractions from outside the space. This will help you (and anyone with you) easily focus on the activity at hand.
3. Hold time for a pregnant pause.
Allow silence to fill the space during appropriate moments. Silence allow us to contemplate and tune in. These meaningful pauses hold space for something different and perhaps more divine.
4. Leave technology at the door.
Encourage yourself and participants to detach from their cell phones and social media for a few moments to allow deeper connection with the world instead of deeper connection to the WiFi. Technology has become another layer of stressful distraction, and we need to take periods of digital detachment to properly observe ourselves and our experiences.
5. Smile, make a joke, act human, and lead by example.
If you want your participants to be relaxed, then relax. Embody what you most desire to receive from your participants and from your experience. Whether with others or alone, authenticity is the door to experiencing meaning. When I lead a group, I start with personal narrative storytelling—participants want to know why they should trust you to lead them. Tell them who you are and how you got to this point in your life, and lead with truthfulness.
Above all, come with an open heart.
Be open to deepening your connection to your self, others, and the world around you. When it comes to creating space for wonder, our greatest work is to simply show up for that meaningful moment. Know that when you seek and share from goodness and authenticity, there is a ripple effect allowing every person around you to also connect in a good and authentic manner.
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