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The mindfulness tool that helps you shift gears
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Pass it on
I'm reading
The mindfulness tool that helps you shift gears
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The mindfulness tool that helps you shift gears
Pass it on
Pass it on
8 September 2016

The mindfulness tool that helps you shift gears

Mindfulness has never been harder. No fear—the Third Space is here to help.

Written by Sophie Stone

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

When evidence around the benefits of mindfulness started popping up, I panicked. I am bad at meditation.

I now know that mindfulness isn’t just meditation—it’s about paying attention to the moment without any judgment.

Still, I struggle with slowing down my thoughts. There’s just so much distraction. We’re constantly contactable, we’ve got endless to-do lists, we’re juggling different roles. Mindfulness has never been harder, yet I can see how avoiding it limits me.

When we absently let the different roles we play in life leech into one another, we aren’t able to be our best selves. We can struggle to take off our work hats at the end of the day and put on our home hats, so we try to wear both and neither fit properly. When I mindlessly answer emails on the couch while chatting with my partner, I send terse and short responses, which I hate, and I disengage from him. He gets terse and sends short responses too. No one wins.

So how can we embrace mindfulness in the midst of our busy lives? How can we get better at committing fully to the different roles we play in life? Something I’ve found really helpful is a mindfulness tool created by psychologist Dr Adam Fraser called The Third Space.

The idea is that there are three spaces we fall into across a day. The First Space is the environment or role you’re in now (maybe it’s work, maybe it’s at home with the kids). The Second Space is the one you’re moving into (maybe it’s going home at the end of day, maybe it’s heading out to dinner). Most of us spend our time flitting between the two spaces mindlessly. What’s often ignored is the space between these spaces, the transitions, The Third Space.

Adam suggests that we can use The Third Space to properly prepare for our next context or role by taking three steps: Reflecting, Resting, Resetting.

In the Reflecting Stage, we can ask ourselves: “What went well?”, “What did I achieve?” and “What got better?” Concentrating on the positive aspects of The First Space allows us to close the door on that experience and nip any lingering threads that might pull our minds back into it.

The Resting Stage is break and recuperation time, a chance to put a little distance between roles. It can look like different things to different people. For some, it’s doing crosswords on the train. For others, it’s making a cup of tea.

The Resetting stage is about casting your mind forward to what’s next. You could ask yourself: “What’s my intention for this next space?” or “How can I best show up?”

I’ll speak to one recent experience I’ve had using The Third Space to move through everyday frustrations.

It’s late Monday and I slump into my hallway. It’s not been the best day.

While fighting with the coffee machine that morning I’d knocked a glass of abandoned wine on to myself and spent the day smelling like a bar. I’d offered to help out with a time-sensitive proposal, and then my computer gave me blue screen. I lost several hours of work, and potentially several years off my life. I topped off the day by sending the wrong presentation to the Director.

I’m cranky and tired when I walk in the door and just want to mope on the couch with a thoughtfully poured glass of wine.

Unfortunately, my partner just started his new job today and I’ve gathered from the steady stream of texts that he’s brimming with excitement to share it with me. I want to move past this funk. I want to show up for him.

So. I lock myself in the bathroom.

I reflect by telling myself what’s gone well today (I recovered the lost document), what I achieved so far today (I came through for a colleague) and what improved (my bar smell). I rest by closing my eyes and taking three deep breaths. I reset by working on my intention for this next space. I want to let my partner’s energy fuel me. I want to be authentically joyful and listen appreciatively. If needed, I want to dance around the kitchen listening to 80s music while we cook together.

I unlock the bathroom door, walk into The Second Space, and smile.

There’s very little that differentiates the top 100 tennis players in terms of the strength and speed of their serves. What makes the top 10 the very best is not their raw talent; it’s what they do between their serves. Whether they’re aware of it or not, it’s how they use The Third Space. They concentrate only on their body: what they can control. They use active breathing techniques to lower their heart rate. They don’t focus on the score. They stay mindful.

I may never be able to meditate. I’ll continue trying, but for me, using The Third Space is how I can effectively practise mindfulness.

Sophie Stone

Sophie is a leadership development consultant with a background in organisational psychology. She is passionate about developing others to reach their full potential, as well as bad 80s music, red wine and her welsh terrier Charlie.

Feature image by Amandine Thomas

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