Embrace The Space

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My usual writing spot is a 10-minute drive. But on Sunday, I walked.

An hour each way. No cell-phone. Nothing. Just me, my backpack and a path that wound across a bridge from Da Bronx to Manhattan, through the woods, along a river and through a park.

Walking instead of driving, I lost nearly two hours of writing, to-do-listing, emailing, social-media-izing, conference-calling, outlining, building, designing and whole bunch of other getting stuff done yadda yadda. That’s hardcore productive time. Gone. Poof.

Pretty damn stupid, right? I mean I”m a busy guy. No time to waste. A launch deadline this week, people to serve, a legacy to build.


Because in the mindful window opened during my walking, not only did I get my exercise in, not only did I drink in a stunningly gorgeous fall day, not only did I absorb myself in the meditation of life as it unfolded and ramped my cognitive abilities and mood…I stumbled upon two awakenings.

One, a realization about movement, stillness and clarity and a very cool visual demonstration. More on that in a future post/video. And, two, an innovative solution to a seemingly intractable business challenge I’ve been grappling with. Something that kicked off a cascade of secondary realizations that may well lead to not only a substantial shift in the way I am building my professional path, but also in the experiences, products and services I create for others.

Last week, I talked about the power of embracing The Thrash.

This week, it’s about The Space. The moments of “in-between” that we increasingly fill with tasks, often enabled by the near-impossible to escape umbrella of digital connectivity. All in the name of supposedly optimizing productivity. Getting stuff done.

Thing is…

Life’s not about getting stuff done, it’s about getting the right stuff done.

It doesn’t matter how productive you are if the ideas you’re building on don’t represent the best you have to offer.

And the best you have to offer rarely ever comes when you’re filling every nook and cranny of mind-space, every waking moment of every day.

Genius comes when you disconnect from tasks and reconnect to source. Click to tweet

Kill the space, kill the dream.

So, a question and a challenge:

1 – How can you build a deliberate digital pause into your day?

2 – Will you commit to doing this in writing, here in the comments, for the next 30 days?

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64 responses

64 responses to “Embrace The Space”

  1. Chris Shouse says:

    I could almost feel myself walking with you and my life is in such turmoil right now in need something like this. Although a walk in the still hot Vegas sun would be different than yours if I open up to the nature around me maybe I will get some clarity and direction. Thank you Jonathan

  2. L'Erin says:

    I make it a point to go to the park with my dog and a blanket to sit in the sunshine for at least an hour, every afternoon. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just enjoy the sun on the soles of my feet. But I never bring anything electronic to distract me from this qt with the world around me.

    I’d like to uplevel this by spending some time in nature in the morning BEFORE turning on my computer. I think that’s my commitment for the next 30 days.

  3. Mark Gantt says:

    Thank you Jonathan for this post today. As I read I was thinking the same thing about the time wasted and tasks you couldn’t complete by walking. But then you of course revealed the amazing shift you had when you were not DOING stuff but instead, BEING. Really needed to hear this today and you always inspire me. Keep up the great work.

  4. Jonathan, ihave been doing the Artist’s Way every morning and it makes a huge difference for me. Get’s my creative juices flowing. Interestingly enough, I rode my bike yesterday to the GW Bridge (from 60th street) and discovered the Little Red Light House. How cool was that. Doesnt have to be a digital break. In fact it shouldn’t be.

  5. Norm Stoehr says:

    When I have the self discipline, I recline for thirty-one minutes of breath work. Yes, that means breathing practice, with deep belly inhales and slow, pursed lips expirations. Focused entirely on the breathing, sometimes I nap and sometimes I meditate, without trying for either. I always turn the phone off and awaken feeling refreshed. Most importantly, I am always more at peace. Haven’t done it for over a week, so yes, this is my written commitment.

  6. ashley says:

    I COMMIT TO CONNECTING TO SOURCE for the next 30 days. For the next 30 days, I’m building in at least 10 minutes every day to sit and do nothing 🙂 This will quite possibly be the biggest challenge ever in my entire life…Hold me accountable!

    • Totally in! Crazy that a digital pause is so challenging…but, it is. And it is always worth it. Especially when it involves some form of movement. So I am committing to a walk outside daily for the next 30 days. To unplug and to connect. 🙂

  7. Aah, the “deliberate digital pause” — how necessary it is.

    Sometimes I become overwhelmed by how much there is to do in a day, tying myself to my computer for 10 hours straight, racing through work at breakneck speed so I can officially check off everything on my to-do list for the day. Crazy.

    Getting all the to-dos done feels great, but at the end of those days where all the tasks get “checked off,” there usually isn’t any calming white space left over to think and create and plan for the future. And though I often find the solution to a nagging problem or question during my morning meditation, I often forgo that morning time and space so I can “get right to work.” But my day is never as calm and centered when I make that choice as it is when I allow myself to have it.

    Love this — “the best you have to offer rarely ever comes when you’re filling every nook and cranny of mind-space, every waking moment of every day.” It’s good to be reminded of this!

  8. I’m currently in the middle of a three-week artist residency out in the (comparative) country, a five-minute drive (or, my preference, 45-minute walk) into the nearest town.

    Although I’m supposed to be locked into the studio, working hard, I frequently find it “necessary” to get “something,” whether it’s dried fruit from the bulk store, a pint of the local hard cider, or milk.

    In the ten days I’ve been here, I’ve solved a major construction issue with the project I’m building for an upcoming show, sorted out curatorial issues for another, and figured out some serious plans for 2014.

    Much more productive than if I had borrowed a car or took a cab back with my groceries: three cheers for space!

  9. Tina says:

    Nice way to “work-in”. I too am committing to a regular yoga practice that gives me amazing
    energy for two days. The connecting to one’s “self” is so invigorating. Love the blog note.
    Keep them coming!
    With gratitude

  10. christian says:

    So true. The more time we spend as agents of calm, the greater our ability to help others do the same. Even in the chaotic, white knuckle world of life in Dubai, nothing breeds transformation and insight like the clarity you get from simply walking and being. I’m facing deeply stressful financial challenges at the moment, and even though it sounds counter-intuitive, it’s only when I am reconnected to source and the infinity of nature that I am able to feel at ease and confident in navigating my way out. And indeed, often discover a breath through…

    Good things, Jonathon, thanks for the inspiration.


  11. Ernie says:

    What is the Artist’s way?

  12. Jonathon:
    I am a huge fan and practitioner of the practice of ‘pause’, and have been advocating for its inclusion into our hectic lives for the last decade or more. My own practice is to start my day with a 30 minute walk along the riverbank that meanders along just two blocks from our home. I, too, meander, and my days are calmer and far more productive because of the time I spend moving at the pace of the river, or simply sitting momentarily on my rock for a bit of morning meditation. I’ve made it my business, literally. Pause on!

  13. Shannon says:

    I have gotten off facebook for similar reasons. On Saturday, I took my 2 year old on a walk without my cell phone, and was more connected to my experience than I have felt in a long time.

    I’m in. Great thoughts.

    There’s a gap between what we believe we SHOULD be doing and what we need that requires trust and self-care to be heard. It’s a journey.

    Namaste, y’all.

  14. Megan Everett says:

    I do hereby commit myself to building a deliberate digital pause into each and every one of the next 30 days.

  15. Justine Musk says:

    I was literally about to tweet this when my computer shut down, forcing me to take….a digital pause. The universe is trying to tell me something. 🙂

    I love this post. I was just thinking about how true happiness, well-being — which involves that deep true sense of our identity + creativity — and is what fuels a *truly* productive, successful life — is a discipline.

    It’s that inner body we need to nourish and exercise and do it consistently — and we know this, but it’s so easy to grab the chips and watch another episode of X Factor instead

    — or, in this case, remain wired in to our devices, get those little jolts of dopamine, and pretend we’re always accomplishing something real instead of seeking escape through distraction and busyness. When we use digital connection as another form of disconnection, as the mental equivalent of chips, TV and fast food, we’ve got a problem.

    My boyfriend dragged me off to a weekend at Esalen last year — chanting! naked people in mineral baths! and most of all, NO INTERNET ACCESS. At the end of the weekend I couldn’t believe how great and rested and restored I felt, and it wasn’t from sleep. I love the realm of the digital, but we need to treat it with respect, we need to keep in daily contact with the soul (use it or lose it…)

    Sometimes it’s not just a digital pause, but also a detox.


  16. Kathy says:


  17. Sometimes its good to check your email in the midst of the morning scramble. Sometimes you get a message just like this. Thank you.

  18. I love “The Space.” If I don’t get it daily, I spin my wheels. I found that being mindful of my need to unplug and stop thinking so much allows lots more room for great ideas to surface, and energy to get things done. Off for my daily walk now, in fact : ).

  19. Great timing! I too took some time out to do something similar and walked – to “think” but not to consciously think. I love to just stay in motion and let things distill in the background. I know I don’t get enough of this space. Can I commit to every day for the next thirty ….? I will. First thing in the morning is always my best time.


  20. Jack Doheny says:

    Jonathan… Well stated exercise! I too could picture you walking through the Bronx and Manhattan… I used to do it on the run. I thought getting out of the city was going to solve the “hurry up, get it done” syndrome but it doesn’t matter where I am.

    I live on the seacoast in New Hampshire and the beach is just down the street. I say all too often, I’m gonna take a brake and take the dog for a walk along the beach, right,as soon as I finish this! As we know… “this” is always waiting? I hope your writing today will remind me that there is nothing that important that I can’t take the time to take the time to clear the head!
    Thanks Jonathan!

  21. Christopher says:

    Committed through a mindful lunch.


  22. I rediscovered the magnitude of SPACE while taking a 3-week self-imposed break from technology and the internet earlier this year.

    By week 2, all the days grew infinitely longer. They felt like the days we had as kids, when “everything” happened. So many memories and revelations are traced back to single periods of time, because rather than being superficially “connected” to everyone and everything that isn’t really there, we can become hyper-connected to ourselves, the environment around us, and of course all those beautiful people in our lives.

    Really powerful stuff. Increasingly hard to manage as more screens make their way into our bedrooms and on to our nightstands.

    I believe it’s one of the true tests of consciousness: to be able to DECIDE to tune in internally versus externally.

    Technology is only a piece of it, but it’s a big one.

    Loved this piece. Love my space.

    Count me in. Here’s my plan:

    No screens before 7:45 am, and after 9:30 pm. This gives me at least a 90 min bookend at the start and end of my day to create the proper space.



  23. Rob Collins says:

    2 weeks ago I quit Facebook. I don’t miss it at all. I’m enjoying the extra peace and time it’s brought back to my life.

    I feel much less of a pull to fill those idle moments by fishing out my phone and checking Facebook or emails.

    Interestingly, only 3 people out of my 150+ Facebook friends have contacted me to ask where I’ve gone.

    I don’t use Twitter (never liked it). I’ve unsubscribed from almost every email newsletter (except the very few I really enjoy). Most of the time my phone is on silent. If people need me, they can leave a message and I’ll call them back when it’s convenient.

    Life feels… a bit less hectic. It’s really nice!

  24. Jonathan,
    It seems I need a steady reminder of this simple but powerful “task”. I actually have to put it into my calendar or set an alarm on my phone to do it. Or, my dogs will come and bring their leash and that forces me into a mental and digital break.
    I’m finding that when I do accomplish a break I can come back and start fresh, with a good dose of either fresh air, companionship, or change of scenery to inspire me forward.
    I appreciate your share.


  25. I unexpectedly get this pause now that I live in Paris for the year. I no longer have a car and must walk my boy to school each and every day and pick him up as well. The 20 minutes walk to/fro by myself is exactly what you described. Time to drink in the city and zone out (or is it zone in?) Eloquent post!

  26. AJ Leon says:

    Love this. Hope you are well, my friend. 🙂

  27. Paul says:

    Try to do this daily, but it’s an awfully good challenge. Seems like the faster this life gets, the slower we really need to go.

  28. Elle says:

    I seriously just came to this same epiphany yesterday!! Isn’t that crazy how themes just pop up like that? I had so much writing to do this weekend and instead I gave myself Sunday off. I went for a looong walk, took an even longer bath and today feel revived and full of fresh authentic ideas. It turns out that sitting in front of my computer just isn’t the best creativity booster. Enjoying life is!

  29. Beautiful, brilliant, utterly called for.

    I make meditation, solitude, and quiet reflection a cornerstone of my life. I love being in nature, walking, rock-climbing, etc. – and I find my life thrives much more when I make room for things like space, silence, and solitude.

    And interestingly … just this week I posted a Gift Of Space for my readers, and it actually resides in the Digital Umbrella you mention.

    I’m gonna go ahead and share it:


    Digital space 🙂

  30. I live 5 minutes drive from the city of Sydney, but there’s a beautiful harbourside bushland headland in walking distance here, where you can almost get lost. I walk there every day to meditate and breathe in the air and stillness. Some of my best writing ideas are conceived here.

  31. Hey Jonathan:

    Love this post. I walk every morning before writing and embrace the “fertile emptiness” (as William Bridges calls it in his book Transitions). No cell phone, no ipod, nada. Just me, my thoughts and the birds chirping in the background. Can’t recommend it highly enough!

  32. TJ Chasteen says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I do this everyday while working on my blog by taking my pup on a walk. I normally take him out twice and walk for about 15 minutes each time.

    Like you describe, I find that this space allows me to create solutions with a different mindset than I would of had by merely sitting in front of my computer all day.

    Also a note on productivity – we must make breaks for ourselves. Our “to-do” list never ends, the end of a to-do list is simply a spark for a new task. Without deliberately creating space, we will not have it. So yes… I commit.


  33. Marguerite says:

    I have made a practice of building that into my day every day for the last 6 years – I don’t want to know anyone or anything for my “zen time”. I also make it a habit to try to get in one weekend each quarter to disconnect. My friends and I call it our “No Tech Weekend” and it’s fabulous for re-energizing. Daily I take time to get away – go for a walk (getting back to running after the botched surgery), sit outside with a cup of coffee or some other way to spend at least a half hour with myself and nature. It declutters my mind (no easy task) and allows me a pause in a life that otherwise cruises along at Warp Factor 8. In my daily time I don’t even think about designing, what I have to do, appointments, deadlines, etc. It’s purely “me time” and it’s one of the best things I do.

  34. Flynn says:

    Thanks for this awesome meditation on how powerful the space “in between” can be! Its wild because I literally just posted my latest blog today on a very similar theme, and can totally relate to taking the long route in New York, and suddenly giving myself the space & time to come up with a creative solution problem I had not yet solved. Thanks!

  35. DaCosta says:

    There are days at the office when I leave my desk, I leave my smartphone behind. It reminds me that I’m still a human being and I don’t need to be tethered to a machine.

    Also a good book and solitude can do the trick too!

  36. Jan says:

    I fear that the digital world is too much with us…but oh how I love a good blog. Powerful thoughts…glad you took the walk.

  37. Rose says:

    I vow for 30 days not to turn on said internet in the morning until I have cracked open my manuscript. ‘Cuz this book is not going to write itself. Thanks, Jonathan!

  38. Emmanuelle says:

    Thank you Jonathan for this post, especially this sentence: “It doesn’t matter how productive you are if the ideas you’re building on don’t represent the best you have to offer.”.
    I have committed to reclaim my time, meaning the time I spend online too. I don’t read my emails first thing in the morning, or social media for that matter, and I want to make the time to do something entirely different at some point during the day. That’s why I schedule my runs in the middle of the day 🙂
    Thank you for reinforcing that commitment today.

  39. Irene Ross says:

    I either take a long walk every day or a yoga class, because I find I’m much, much more productive when I get a chance to “turn out the world.” Yoga is especially good for me–I tend to have “monkey brain” with all kinds of thoughts always rushing in, so I need that 90 minutes of quiet and total focus on one thing–and I know if I don’t do that in yoga, I risk toppeling over and injurying myself (I know this from experience–I did that once and couldn’t walk for a week! if I can’t get to a class, well, I still have one of your tapes from when you were an owner at Sonic!!

    I also try to meditate every morning, but I’m not as consistent as I should be.

  40. I am very fond of space. Most mornings I get up make coffee and journal (morning pages specifically) and I set an intention for the day. What I gotten out of the habit of finishing my morning ritual with even just a few minutes of meditation.

    I am committing to a daily meditation practice!

  41. Robert Rizzo says:

    I totally agree. Simplify, simplify, simplify. We have to regain the margin in our lives. But it requires intentionality. And we have to place a value on rest and space equal to, or greater than, what we place on task completion.

    Jack Trout wrote a book in the late ’90s called The Power of Simplicity. It’s still a good read. Peace.

  42. Eva Papp says:

    Pause and drift, pause and drift. Sometimes I can get into that “being, seeing” place after 10 minutes, sometimes it takes me an hour, sometimes two. Seems like nothing real happens until I drop in. Sometimes I long to drop out so I can drop in. That was so yesterday. Now it’s all about be it on the go. Interesting times we live in. Thanks Jonathan.

  43. Rick Cecil says:

    So, my challenge is that I have three young kids. My wife keeps encouraging me to get out and do some exercise, but I feel like I am either taking time away from work — or taking time away from the kids — or from my wife. That being said, I know that even a 30 minute walk would help me refocus and just possibly give me an extra energy boost and clarity to be more present in whatever I am doing. So, yes, I will walk for 30 minutes every other day for the next 30 days. Stretch goal: every day.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I feel you on this one, Rick! Your intuition is right, though. Interesting thing is that effective pauses actually making you so much better at what you do and so much more able to be present with the kids when you’re with them that they pretty much create their own time.

  44. About 4 years ago, I HAD to force myself into a corner and make time to prioritize. In the process, I developed what I call the 5 Key Areas of Success (Faith, Family, Fitness, Fortune, and Freedom), and make a point to target an action at least every other day that hits on each of these priorities. My thought is that if I let any of them go for too long, I’ll die in that key area (quite literally in a couple of them).

    So each morning before I even hook myself to my digital IV, I take time to work through the system I created to prioritize my day, clear my head, and keep me from going insane. So far, so good.

  45. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, I’m grateful that the “space between” is built into my days already. Because I work at home in a semi-rural area, which is a 10-minute drive from the beach or a 10-minute drive from pretty slough trails, I stop work before lunch every day to walk in the neighborhood, or at the beach, or at the slough for a half-hour or a bit more (and have a recumbent bike inside for those cold days too). What a blessing!

    I’m an anxiety loon anyway, so if I didn’t have those moments to count the clouds, I’d be headed for the straight jacket (though I would pair it with a nice bow tie).

    Thanks for the post!

  46. Phil Montero says:

    Jonathan – another great post as usual and others have said right on time! As one who lives and teaches about “The Anywhere Office” it’s easy to get caught up in always doing things. I have been finding things a bit hectic lately and thinking it is time for me to actually “build the pause” as you said into my day.

    Being a work at home dad there is no shortage of things to do and tasks that need attention. But as you stated I’m never giving my best (to my work, my family, or anything) if I am too fragmented and don’t recharge and center.

    This is my written commitment to honoring the space!

  47. Priyanka Majumdat says:

    ‘digital pause’ sounds beautiful. and though i am a freelance content writer (that’s no excuse not to disconnect) i will make time for this pause, or in your words, build this pause into each day, all through this month. i want to. thanks for this.

  48. Such a perfectly timed reminder Jonathan – thank you!
    I definitely plan to carve out time away from the rabbit hole that is my digital world and instead turn to either my yoga mat, or some other form of body movement — like turning up iTunes and going for it (booty shaking that is) in my living room.
    I commit to doing this. For the next month.
    Game on! 🙂

  49. Wonderful, wonderful post. Filled me with a peaceful feeling. Look forward to your future post on your other revelation while walking. Happy NY!

  50. Anne-Sophie says:

    Brilliant post, Jonathan.

    I started to meditate only a few weeks ago and have begun my days much earlier with a 30-day meditation, 30-day yoga routine. It’s drastically changed my productivity and, just like you described, I come to new realizations for problems or fair while being still.

  51. Thank you, thank you, dear Jonathan, for affirming the call I’ve felt since publishing my book to simply STOP. Not just for a few minutes here and there but every friggin’ chance I get. I know from hard-won experience that it’s in those empty spaces we create (or that get created for us) that the universe can waltz in and work its gentle, co-creative magic in our overwrought, overthought lives.

  52. Wow, I just wrote about the digital distraction of the sticky interwebs. After a weekend away for a wedding, I realized I need more hugs in my life. And I thought I was getting enough! Working in front of a computer all day for “the paycheck” makes it very difficult for me to go home and do MY things. (Writing, researching, connecting to others, all of which is higher yield when done on the web). My paycheck must start coming from MY things, I know, but until then, unplugging for an interlude of real likes, smileys, and hugs is what needs to happen.

  53. Beautifully said Jonathan! I’ve had the same kind of experiences. Having space to be me and experience life deeply and directly, I can create dynamically with lightness and grace!

  54. Rings so beautifully to me right now. I am also in transition, building a new business, in a new place.

    But it’s Maui. 🙂 I walk my dogs early every morning on the beach, I get to do empowering, spiritual yoga that’s all about strength, and I get to do my work here. I get to write and re-create exactly what I do while I sit outside with my dogs on my lanai in Maui. I also practice much gratitude about it.

    There is another side to this story where losing heart love and dollars led me here. Unplugging daily has been my re-building and it’s wonderful. I look forward to doing my best thing yet now.
    Much Aloha

  55. Bob White says:

    Several months ago I was involved in an auto accident and my auto was declared totaled (no injuries). While deciding what to do about transportation I began walking – to the grocery store, the senior center… and after a month of this I realized… this is synergy – i’m losing weight, the physical activity spurs the brain to become ever more creative, I buy only what I need for today at the grocery store, I’ve become a vegetarian… this goes on and on – I now have several friends who transport me to church and I’m saving to pay cash for my next set of wheels – life is good!

  56. cindy birdwise says:

    I have little dogs; maltese poodles whom give me lot’s of love. Everyday I let them out of the house into their run and I sit on the deck watching them play. I use a wheelchair and require oxygen so my movement is minimal but playing fetch and laughing out loud is a lot of fun. I really appreciate the postings and your blogs.

  57. Alicia Power says:

    Jonathan – just want to say that I LOVE your ethos, love your work. Love the point you come from. Love your courage to simply BE yourself. And then to share that BE-ing with us. Mmmmm Mmmmmm. Delicious. Meaning your willingness to ‘hold the space’ clearly in yourself – then model for us your centeredness and curiosity, is SO nourishing. Thank you.

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