NPW Self Curious: Is heartspace the new headspace?

People’s reactions to this blog will probably fall into one of three categories: the Alleluias, the Slow Burners, and the Poppycocks. So let’s get on with it and check in with those three teams at the end…

The idea of headspace is here to stay. By and large, it feels like British society and business has accepted that there is benefit in sitting down with the voices in our head and having it out. To tune into the level of chatter in our heads and cultivate that cacophony into a helpfully intoned mixtape at the appropriate volume is recognised as A Good Thing. Mental health is vital, not a “nice to have”.

To call the nation’s awakening to mental health a revolution isn’t overstating it. We aren’t there yet: any change takes time as evidence is found to support ideas, and disbelievers change their minds and their ways.

So what’s next, horizon scanners?

I have a disruptive idea. An idea that has been coyly sitting in the corner twirling its hair around its fingers while we all look at our shoes and shuffle from foot to foot with our hands in our pockets, wondering whether we will ever be able to make it through a 20 minute mindfulness meditation without finding something super important we need to get off the mat and attend to.

Heartspace is the next headspace.

Physical healthcare allows us to say how when our body isn’t happy – the “what”. Mental healthcare allows us to say when our mind isn’t happy – the “how”. Heartspace is about the in between place. It’s about the “why”.

Heartspace is the alchemic mix of our beliefs, values and hopes for ourselves, our loved ones, and – sorry to be a bit woo – the earth and our fellow custodians of it. It’s sort of religion… except that not everyone will agree that religion is really that important, while heartspace is universal.

Unlike physical health, cultivating heartspace won’t take science. Unlike mental health, cultivating heartspace won’t take silence and tuning in. I think taking responsibility for our heartspace takes guts. It takes feist.

We can’t cultivate heartspace without the leaps of imagination that are given to us by art, and – more than anything – heartspace takes love.

Can I observe my heart and be a better custodian of what I allow in and what comes out, just like I feel I (almost) can with my head (some of the time)? That’s the knack of heartspace.

OK, so that’s my crazy idea. Now let’s check in with our studio audience.

First, the Alleluias. These guys and gals are all aboard. They are your tribe. “I just wish people understood that they need to be vulnerable with what they feel and own it and they’d be so much happier! We need a policy at work to give people the time and space they need to cultivate heartspace!”.

Let’s go to the Poppycocks next. The idea is utter poppycock. “POPPYCOCK!” they shout in your face. “MY HEART IS ABSOLUTELY FINE! NO HEARTSPACE FOR ME! POPPYCOCK!” There will be a small amount of useful, if unhelpfully expressed challenge here. There will also be enough negativity to scare you into not opening your mouth with a vulnerable idea ever again. Needless to say, I don’t like them very much.

Lastly, the Slow Burners. I love this gang. These are the people who listen with a look that says “I’m sold”, but then raise an eyebrow and ask you ten really hard questions in a row. They say they aren’t sure… and the topic is dropped. Then, some months later, you hear what sounds a lot like your theory played back to you. The Slow Burner is talking about their relationships and their values in the most open-hearted way, and people are listening. They are making the world around them a better place. Someone asks them why, and the Slow Burner’s words make a lot more sense than yours did back when your crazy idea was green, new and untested. The Slow Burner didn’t say those things to steal your idea – you sowed a seed that grew in them and left them changed. This is bigger than an idea – it’s a transformational shift. You did that with your wild and precious dream.*

If there’s a moral here it’s this: if you are a dreamer, don’t stop dreaming. Because there will be Slow Burners out there turning poppycock into alleluias. Whether or not heartspace has been jargonised and written into government policy by 2030.

*Mary Oliver, a writer of some of the most unbelievably beautiful and transformational poetry of our time died on 17 January 2019, including “Wild Geese” and “The Summer Day”, which includes the lines: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” A good question to live by.

Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.

Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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