Mind The G a p

By Dr. Carlos Salazar

You look around a mildly packed compartment riding the Piccadilly line to Arsenal, unsure if the stale, sour odor of one too many pints and kabobs is native to the cart, or hitching a ride on someone’s coat. In either case, your nose wrinkles at the slight affront to its senses. The train comes to a slowing halt, a squeal of the brakes ringing through the cabin as your momentum arrests, but not before being slightly jostled in the reverse direction. The doors open and the scent redoubles its efforts on your nose with a warm whoosh of air, now carrying the smell of slightly damp concrete. What was once a nuisance is now a foul insult. Seems everyone had too good a night. As you step from the train into Arsenal Station, careful not to step in a puddle of… well, you’d rather not guess, you see the famous words on the floor: MIND THE GAP. Finally, you step up the stairs, grateful for a breath of fresh air.

Take a second before we go over what all this has to do with mental wellbeing, and think about any reactions you just had.

Maybe you shrank back a bit at the smells. Or you identified with the physical feeling of coming to a stop in a train cart. Maybe the sounds connected with you. Whatever it may have been, chances are you put yourself in a London Underground cart as best you could. If I did this right, you had a genuinely disgusted reaction. Let’s focus on that. Did your stomach drop or flip a little? How about your salivation, does your mouth feel a little drier than it did before? Yes? Why? “Well that story was gross!” Ok, yes. But. Why? Where are your feet right now? This particular Underground ride never happened, none of us were there. It wasn’t real. Really think about that. Your mouth dried up because for a few seconds, your mental environment was more real than wherever you may be now.

You see, we tend to prioritize what happens in our mind over what is actually happening in real time. This has been a boon to our survival as a species. No other animal can “what if” their way through a problem. But do you mind the gap? How many times have you acted out in anger? Or been so happy, you splurged on something? Been so sad that you cancelled all your plans for the day, or the week?

You didn’t mind the gap! It is worth repeating, your mental environment is more real than your physical one. If you experienced a reaction from the brief exercise above, imagine what you do to yourself from hours of worrying and ruminating day after day.

Austrian neuropsychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, is credited with this quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Noticing and connecting with that space is minding the gap! To be more precise, we are talking about being mindful of the gap between a stimulus, both external and internal, and our response. Dr. Frankl was being generous in calling our behavior a “response.” A response, to me, requires choice. If you are not mindful of the space, then I would say you react to a stimulus, not respond. A reaction is mindless, it’s when you set yourself to autopilot and fall back to base programming. And our base programming is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. When we mind the gap, we have the ability to acknowledge the situation as it is, acknowledge our own internal experience, and then choose how we want to respond. So, how do we mind the gap?


Wait. That thing where you breathe and pay attention to your breathing? Yes! I love mindfulness, but far too often mindfulness is given as the solution to helping cope with anxiety, depression, fear, that terrifying last minute when you’re pulling into your home and really, really need to use the bathroom.

Here’s the deal though, mindfulness is a means to an end, it is a vehicle, it is a tool, it is not the goal. Mindfulness exercises help you be more aware of the gap, so the next time you get upset, or start down the rabbit hole of “what ifs,” you are more likely to stop, pause, and consider how you would like to respond, instead of react to the situation.

So, how do you engage in mindfulness? 

The simplest exercise is to sit back and breathe. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest and shoulders. To the air coming in and out your nose and those pesky thoughts that interrupt you. Yes, really. Notice the thought, give it a second of attention and bring your attention back to your breathing. If anything, be happy that you noticed that thought! You can’t notice that you are distracted without being mindful, so every time you recognize you are distracted, you’re working out that mindfulness muscle. 

Practice this, do more challenging exercises and soon enough you will have built up the mental muscle memory to bring your attention back when you want to. Check back next time for a few resources for you to take advantage of and get your (mental) workout on. You can do this.

Just. Mind the gap.

Written by Dr. Carlos Salazar, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Salazar is a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology and currently resides in Georgia. When he’s not chasing around his young son; he enjoys traveling, cooking food from all over the world, and anything to do with cars. He also revels in mindful moments🧠, matcha lattes🍵, and is an amateur photographer📸.


Purpose. No, not the Justin Bieber album. The type of purpose I’m referring to is the type that wakes you up in the morning or gives you an endless supply of grit because you feel that you have a belonging in this world. The word purpose comes from the old french word purposer and was eventually adopted into the English language sometime in the early 1800s (history buffs, whaddup?). It’s a seven letter word that encompasses the search most people embark on during their lives. Some find their purpose in being a parent or having a thriving career (or balancing both!). Some, like myself, have searched for their purpose for years and thinking one thing was it to only realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I was put on this earth for. I find it both terrifying and exciting to realize that there is much more to discover and many more people to help.

Mission: Possible

See, my life hasn’t been the cookie-cutter life I had imagined as a young girl growing up as a military child. My timeline of finishing college at 22, marrying at 25, and having my kids before I’m 30 just didn’t pan out. I graduated college at 23, worked odd jobs, experienced devastating heartbreak, graduated graduate school at 28, and I’m single at 29 with no children or prospects for a husband. It’s taken me a couple of years to accept that my life didn’t go according to ‘my plan’. I hit a dark part of my life where I felt like a failure and I felt like I had let everyone down because I couldn’t live up to society’s expectations to find a husband and have the 2.5 kids before I’m “old”. In my own mind, I had failed to find purpose according to the serving size of the American recipe.

What’s the name of the recipe? Asking for a friend

    Sigh. I don’t know how many people feel this same way or have before, but there seems to be this unbridled pressure to acquire the perfect career, perfect family, and to never, ever get old. You’ll be happy if you have the facebook-perfect marriage and you’re the Pinterest-perfect spouse, have an amazing career, and your child is instafamous all before they’ve even said their first word. I often wonder what social media has done to our purpose as human beings and what exactly we are teaching the younger generation. It elicits concern due to the overwhelming data of depression and anxiety rates throughout the U.S. Are we better to be virtually ‘connected’ all the time? 

The particular unchecked box of purpose in my life and yours may look differently and leave us questioning our questions and sometimes, the answers. I think sometimes the idea that we have to have one purpose is a product of what is preached to us from a young age. We strive to find a single denominator in this world that can bring us happiness, joy, and an endless supply of excitement everyday. Looking at the Bible, we see the lives of so many who are highlighted to show their purpose that Jesus assigned them. However, it often crosses my mind that Noah’s purpose was to build the ark, but also to be a father and a husband, a carpenter, and an example of who God is. Mary found her ultimate purpose through giving birth to Jesus but she was more than a mother; she was a wife, a Christ-follower, a homemaker, a woman. A woman who made dinner for her family and had multiple children to raise into functional human beings and a woman who fought with her husband and didn’t have a Target or farmhouse decor.

Before (and after) google maps

Look at Rahab, one of the most (in my opinion) surprising characters we see throughout the Bible. She was a prostitute and someone that everyone in society looked down upon given her profession. She, however, was a survivor and her heart was kept soft and vulnerable. Her single most exemplary deed in the Bible was being a good liar. Yes, a good liar. I’ll try to sum it up, but basically there were spies that were sent by Joshua to examine the fighting force of Jericho (cue veggies tales) in order to gauge what they needed to prepare for. The spies were found out and Rahab hid them in her house. When the Jericho authorities came to her house to get them, Rahab hid the spies under bunches of flax on the roof which protected them from capture. She lied to the Jericho authorities in order to keep them safe. Later, she begged that the spies show her and her family mercy due to her unbridled kindness; she knew who was going to win. They instructed her to place a red cord out the window when the city was conquered to spare her and her family. When Jericho fell, her whole family survived. However, let’s dive into history for a bit. Why was this so unusual? Back then women didn’t have many rights and were expected to marry from a young age, but the reason she was a perfect candidate for the task? She was a harlot, people were used to seeing men come and go from her house so it was business as usual for her neighbors. So what was so good about her? She had faith. She had a soft heart and she knew who God was. She had faith that she had a purpose and that she was a daughter of the King.

We never hear anything else about Rahab until we get to the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, yes, God included Rahab in Jesus’ ancestral line. That means, Jesus and Rahab became humanly related. God included her into his ultimate plan, just as he includes all his children. Wow. What hope that gives to us today when we think we’ve messed up our purpose or somehow think we aren’t good enough to be used for the glory of his plan. Jesus called himself the ‘friend of sinners’ and his 33 years on this earth was marked with leading that example. I’m never going to have it all together nor will I ever be the perfect Christian, but I want to strive to change my response to my purpose. I want to try and change how I view the world and make it better align with what Jesus’ was. How he saw people and how he loved people. How he viewed his purpose. I want that. Maybe you’ve never heard that story or maybe you’re not a Christian, I would encourage you to just read about who Jesus was (check out the New Testament first) and dive into who He is. I sometimes wish I could have conversations with these influential women in the Bible to hear their faith, to feel their passion, and to learn from their experiences. I’m thankful I have the ability to at least read the stories of their lives and impact.

Purpose. Purpose isn’t found in materialistic things scattered throughout a huge house or rather or not your life (er, my life) goes according to plan. Purpose can be many different things in your life that may or may not be that exciting. Maybe purpose is making dinner for your family or being there for your coworkers during a stressful day. Maybe your purpose includes the small moments in life that we overlook as mundane but that is all God’s plan to lead you to that “a ha okay, I see you God” moment. Maybe he’s planted you in those moments to lead you to become more reliant on him. Maybe the reasons we feel we have no purpose is because we want to skip the mundane parts and get to our big “aha okay, I see you God” moment a bit too quickly. Maybe we need to be faithful in the mundane to be given the responsibility of those big moments. Maybe we need to be more like Rahab and strive to have faith despite our circumstances, or Noah and have faith despite our friends and family telling us we’re crazy every day. Maybe we need to stop seeking validation from everyone else or trying to perform for the audience that lies behind screens and start seeking Jesus. Yeah, let’s unplan our plans and revel in what Jesus has for us.



What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or connect with us at bethinkgrowco@gmail.com

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