I am writing this week from my annual retreat at the Casper family cabin at Priest Lake, Idaho. It is truly a unique space with beautiful views, magical sounds and the most soul-stirring strains of silence. It is a place that runs on a different cadence and flows at a different pace. The Priest Lake cabin is simply a different kind of space that leads to different thoughts, different conversations, different interactions and different impressions. Wayne Dyer framed it this way, "It has been said that it's the space between the bars that holds the tiger. And it's the silence between the notes that makes the music. It is out of the silence, or 'the gap,' or that space between our thoughts, that everything is created — including our own bliss."
The space between can be transformational — for individuals, relationships, organizations, families and even communities.
Wise people have learned that real life is what happens in between all the things we think we are doing to create the life we think we want. Life is simply not a checklist or a destination. The exhaustion and divine discontent we often feel is the result of our never-ending chase of buzzes and beeps, meetings and messages, tweets, texts and to-dos. The constant stimulus of technology prevents our discovery of the depth, meaning and substance found in the stillness of in between.
Holocaust survivor and world-renowned author Viktor Frankl taught that the space in between is what differentiates humans from all the other animals. He wrote in his classic book "Man’s Search for Meaning," that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” There is something ennobling, empowering and freeing about that space.
Biathletes understand the power and importance of the “space between.” The biathlon consists of all-out dashes on cross-country skis followed by quick stops to fire shots at targets. The transition from a rapid, in-motion sprint to a space that is settled and still in order to shoot a 1.6 inch target is difficult.
Sara Studebaker-Hall, a two-time Olympic biathlon competitor for the U.S. said, “The example we give to people is it’s like running up a flight of stairs as fast as you can and then trying to thread a needle.” Biathletes are known for being able to quickly slow their heart rate and quiet their mind. The best biathletes say they are more precise when they are so still and focused that they can pull the trigger on the shot in the space in between heartbeats. Olympic gold is usually found in that hidden space.
When I meet with young people, I always emphasize the need for lifelong learning that transcends formal education in high school and college. I often tell them that the real learning that happens in between learning is what matters most. I suggest that when they are reading good books, religious texts or any important work, that they read what is in the white space.
It is easy to read the words — not too big a challenge to see the black ink on the paper or the letters on the screen. The difficult task is to read for meaning, intent, ideas and wisdom. That is where the magic of reading happens, where knowledge is transferred to memory and moments of inspiration are created. Learning rarely occurs at the time of reading, or even hearing — it takes place in the space in between.
Dynamic relationships don’t happen between people; relationships occur in between people. My wife Debbie and I recently had the opportunity to attend a seminar with the brilliant relationship coach Matt Townsend. He described that magical space between a couple. Relationships are not about all the tasks, to-dos, events or even interactions. Townsend teaches the importance of focusing on being one in the in-between moments of a marriage. His words caused me to think how often I am focused on process, projects and commitments and the things that take place day to day. Learning to be present and not listening just to words or phrases, but the meaning and intent in the in between of a conversation is a game changer. Such skills and focus don’t just apply to healthy marriages or families.
Getting to the in-between spaces can change the way a team functions, a relationship is fostered, a government is organized or a business is run. If we are chasing the activities of the checklist or the motion of endless meetings and business messages we will forever miss the in-between moments that matter and can make all the difference.
Paraphrasing my friend and mentor Denis Waitley:
People are so busy living with their spouses, they don’t take time to build a meaningful marriage or relationship.6 comments on this story
People are so busy living with their children, they don’t take time to build an individual.
People are so busy with their job or work, they don’t take time to build a career, a business or a future.
People are so busy living life, they don’t take time to build one.
People are so busy with life, they are missing the in-between.
On weeks like this in a location such as this, I find myself wanting to spend less time going places or doing things and more time exploring the space in between. Dyer was right — in between is bliss.