“In ancient times, if you put your hand up and asked ‘how many?’ they would say ‘Nine’. Five for the fingers on your hand and four for the spaces between them — the space around us is as important as the space inside us,” says Chungliang Al Huang, the highly regarded authority of Tai Ji, Taoism and the founder of Living Tao.

One of the the biggest problems we face in our time is our difficulty being still. We are surrounded by noise, entertainment and the clamour of all that claims our attention. Being surrounded by noises of all kinds can be not only tiresome but addictive because its absence leaves a space that is hard to endure. This includes music, television, or the chatter of people, all good things. Some people find it difficult to study without listening to music, some cannot work without television on, many people find it difficult to spend time without listening to human voices all the time. When sounds fill our lives, there is no room for silence and quiet that are necessary to nourish us. Yet the sounds we hear are more enjoyable against the stillness in which they are framed.

Another problem that most of us suffer is the over emphasis on activities of all kinds leaving little time for rest. Even when we know we need to stop, there is just that one more thing to do. If it is not work of all kinds, there is the mind that is over active, chattering and planning. One sure sign of a neurotic mind is its inability to be still. Activities that are surrounded by stillness and quiet are wholesome.

Space within and space without are essential for the wholeness of life. A page can be read only when the words in print are sounded by space whereas a page full of black ink is not legible. The words we speak are intelligible only when there is space between words, pauses between sentences. There is music only when notes are followed meaningfully by spaces.

Meditation is the awareness of the space within and the space between things. Meditation is discovery of the space between notes so that music is heard. It is listening to sounds so that silence makes sense. Meditation is the understanding of life in the coming and going, in the arising and falling and in the spaces between.

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