I visited my sister and her family during the year in London her husband pursued graduate work in play directing. My nephews hated British school, their American ways considered freakish and weird by the other kids. It was hard to eat well there as the produce offered in the grocery stores was at least a week old, but I loved visiting the places I’d dreamed of: Buckingham Palace, the Tate Modern, wherever it was the Bloomsbury crowd hung out, and Carnaby Street, the center of ‘60’s fashion. I cried at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey seeing the memorials of Chaucer, Blake, Keats, and other great literary figures, comparing the reverence paid to that of American popular culture which considers poets just above the level of dirt.
We took the Underground everywhere, also known as the Tube, London’s clean and efficient rapid transit system. The Tube was great for people watching – nearly everyone looked puffy and if they didn’t eat many fresh vegetables. There were signs posted all over that said Mind the Gap — a safety reminder for people to watch their step as they traversed from the platform to the train.
It seemed a bit more metaphysical to me.
Buddhists practice a meditation of watching the breath. It can be quite powerful to sit and observe the long inhale as it draws in, chest and lungs expanding, hopefully the abdomen and belly, too. Then to watch the long exhale, with its calming effect. When you sit with the breath long enough, you may experience an eerie sensation that you are not breathing at all — something is breathing you. In fact, it seems more accurate to say we are being “breathed.”
Osho, the great Tantra Master, however, said it’s really about watching for the gap between the outgoing and ingoing breath. It takes a little awareness but you can locate it if you slow way down, and if you look closely, you’ll notice a space between each inhale and exhale where nothing is happening. There’s a gap, a silence, a doorway to another reality. It’s like the silence between words, the white space on the page, the background murmur rather than the foreground conversation. That’s the gap, Osho said, where who you are really exists.
Another of my favorite memories of London was touring the Globe Theater, and our guide whose raucous stories split our sides with laughter. But the thing I loved most about London was these spiritual reminders appearing everywhere, all over underneath the town. Mind the Gap. Remember to find out who you really are.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth