08 | Create Margin For Inspiration

I don’t know about you but sometimes I push myself to the limit and something that would normally inspire me feels like an overwhelming noise. We often stretch ourselves to life’s edges. And we squeeze the margin for inspiration to breathe and grow. 

Margin is a characteristic of gentleness. It softens the blow of unwanted change and allows inspiration to flow without overwhelming us. But the world often demands productivity, efficiency and the elimination of waste. And in such a place there is little margin for deep and healthy inspiration to truly land.

In this episode of the Gentle Rebel Podcast, we explore what happens to our creative spirit when we live without nurturing margin for inspiration. We will look at the signs to look out for that tell us we’re too close to the edge. And we consider the role of rest in life; asking whether it’s more than simply the opposite of activity.

Triggers and Inspiration | 8:29

An inspired surge of emotion can be overwhelming. It might be hard to tell whether fear or excitement is running the show. It might be a little of both. But unless we leave margin for inspiration, we don’t have the capacity to inquire. While we often associate emotional triggers with negative stimulation, they can come from desirable sources, too.

A trigger is a prompt that causes something to happen. It might be a deliberate part of a physical device like a switch on a kettle. Or it might be harder to spot like sensory stimulation such as a taste, smell, visual, sound, or texture that prompts a conscious or subconscious memory.

If we’re feeling exhausted, inspiration can seem overwhelming. But there’s a difference between being and feeling inspired. When inspiration overwhelms us, margins provide a cushion to hold and absorb whatever is emerging. Even when we don’t feel ready to do anything with it just yet.

Trigger Warnings | 10:12

On her Instagram, Dr Susanne Wolf talked about what to look out for when recognising emotional reactivity to external stimulation.

  • Sudden Physical Changes (increased heart rate, fast breathing, muscle tension, stomach clenches, feelings of tightness in the chest, nausea).
  • Sudden Cognitive Changes (confusion, overwhelm, irritation, indecisiveness, distractedness, unresponsiveness)
  • Sudden Emotional Changes (fear, frustration, anxiety, despair, sadness, grief, yearning)
  • Sudden Behavioural Changes (becoming argumentative, alarmed, alert, lashing out, giving up, withdrawal, procrastination, agitated, shutting down, blaming others, restlessness)
  • Sudden Irritation By Seemingly Unrelated Things (touch, noise, sound, people, textures, scenery, places)

These sound like signs of an overwhelmingly negative situation. But the responses don’t necessarily distinguish between positive and negative stimulation. We might even experience many of them when we’re inspired.

Why Am I Emotionally Reactive? | 14:49

What is causing this heightened state of emotional reactivity? In the post, Dr Wolf shares observations we might make, like feeling dismissed, ignored, attacked, afraid, insulted, manipulated, humiliated, excluded, offended, betrayed, alone, ashamed etc.

I would also add some other triggers for emotional reactivity. If we don’t create space to become aware of what’s going on beneath the surface, we might confuse these for negative triggers. Feeling uncomfortable, excited, anxious, moved, sad, concerned, connected, disappointed etc.

How To Cope When Feeling Triggered | 16:38

Dr Wolf’s advice is to remove attention from the external object and focus inwards. She suggests naming the thoughts and feelings and noticing how the body is expressing the emotions. Speak with inward and use practical actions such as deep breathing, journalling, movement, and talking with someone to process the feeling.

We might be tempted to eradicate the triggers, be it the situation that gave rise to a feeling, or even the feeling itself.

What if triggers could show us solutions instead of just pointing out problems? What if they could help us develop a deeper relationship with our own creativity and voice? Having margin in our lives – so that we can experience triggers without getting burned out or derailed – is powerful. It allows us to absorb them if and when they happen.

The Power of Margins | 19:58

Margin and rest are both vital elements of the Inspiratory System. They allow us to absorb and respond to all kinds of triggers in and around our lives.

Margins Bring Focus and Clarity

The space around the page draws our focus to the words.

Margins Keep Grubby Fingers Away From The Words

When you pick up a page or a book you want the words protected from finger smears. A margin keeps the good stuff away from where fingers might naturally reach in order to pick the thing up so there is no inadvertent or accidental smudging.

Margins Absorb Excessive Inspiration

Margins give us a place to capture our thoughts as they come. When we’re inspired, margins give us the space near the scene of the inspiration to develop and untangle what has been triggered in our minds or bodies.

Margins Cushion Slips and Bleed

When printing things can slip sometimes. We might feel slightly off-colour or be going through challenging circumstances. If we’re not attempting to print life right to the edge we have margin for things to go wrong and for it to still be ok.

Margins Make Things More Comfortable

Margins on a notepad make it much easier to express yourself. When you’re not having to go all the way to the very edge you don’t have to worry about falling off the edge of the page.

Margins Protect The Core

The edges of pages can get nibbled by rats and mites. Margins mean that even if or when that happens, there is protection around the words.

Margins Allow Holes To Be Punched

We might get holes punched in us so that we are easier to store in files and boxes. But margins allow that to happen without it changing who we are. Without margins, the holes cut straight through the words.

The Power of Rest | 26:03

There are margins everywhere we look – not just around the edges of a page, but woven into and through it. Rest is what makes everything meaningful. It’s the silence between the notes, the space around the letters. The pause as we look around, observe, notice, and experience flow.

If we’re always living right up to the edge of our capacity, we leave no space for inspiration’s waste (the important bit!) We can become unreceptive to the small voice within, we don’t listen to our bodies, and we’re at the mercy of ‘busyness’.

Rest is Not One Side of a Binary Divide | 27:38

Rest is not the flipside of action. It’s not simply a thing we do. It’s baked into the WAY we do. We don’t rest in order to do anything. We rest because we’re human.

The 7 Soul-Freeing Sources of Rest

Sandra Dalton-Smith (Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy and Restore Your Sanity), argues that “sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two”. She outlines 7 types of rest that we all need, many of which are not prioritised in a world that leaves no margin.

Physical (Passive and Active) | 30:11

Passive rest comes in the form of sleeping or napping. Active rest comes from physically moving our bodies.

Mental | 32:03

Mental rest might come from things like mindfulness and meditation practices. But also by engaging with things that help our minds think in more restful ways. For me, reading, playing and listening to music, writing, and playing golf are all ways to find mental rest. It’s about opening channels for the mind to be active without force or control.

Emotional | 33:21

Dalton-Smith says that many of us are skilled at hiding, even when we want to be found. It is massively draining to conceal who we are from the world and so emotional rest is a moment of integrity in the sense of integrating who we are inside with who we are outside.

Spiritual | 35:11

We find rest from the sense of belonging that comes from transcending the desire to fit in and to come to a place where we understand that we belong simply by virtue of the fact we are here.

Spiritual rest is about connection to something bigger, deeper, or beyond our physical and mental state of being. It might be plugging into the story of humankind or our place in the universe in a meaningful way. Contributing to something, being involved in a community, or any practice that helps raise our awareness that we are part of something more than our own immediate experience.

Sensory | 36:27

Noise and clutter fill our world and “our senses yearn to be quieted”. This really speaks to the idea that rest is silence, stillness, and space around the notes, letters, and brush strokes. We need to both rest our senses and give our senses more enriching experiences.

Social | 38:40

Not all social experience is equal. We know that as introverts and sensitive people. There are some people in whose presence we find restorative energy. While other people have strong internal energy vampires.

Dalton-Smith says that we often face the issue that “our social reach exceeds our social capacity. However, in the presence of a trusted confidante, an atmosphere of rest is created. Their expressions of acceptance, understanding and compassion become needed nourishment to conquer loneliness.”

Creative | 41:15

We find creative rest in environments that allow our creative spirit to flow. This is a simple place where we can observe without judgement, notice what we notice, and allow everything to move through us for a moment.

Conclusion | 45:26

Designing margin into our lives is an act of vulnerability. It is discouraged and questioned. But our physical, mental, and emotional well-being need rest, margin, space, silence, stillness, and pause. This is not just important for ourselves, but also for the sake of humanity and the world as a whole.

So margin is necessary if we want to make room for inspiration and creativity to take root in and around our lives.

A Short Meditation on Rest | 47:18

This comes from a series of short reflections about the nine parts of the Inspiratory System. They are all available inside The Haven community.

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