The Gift Of Emptiness
Cover Photo By Simon Matzinger
By Bruce Davis, Ph.D.
Many people find brief moments of emptiness between their thoughts when they meditate.
The experience is so intriguing that they continue meditating just for glimpses into a vast unknown that is peaceful, expansive, full of nothing and yet full of everything. There is something in the emptiness between our thoughts, below our busy mind, that calls us. The monk or mystic inside each of us thirsts for this inner quietude.
How do we escape our busy mind and be in this infinite space is the challenge. Can we give up our need for stimulation? One of the least discussed addictions today is our need to be doing something. What if we don't have a quick answer to the question: "What are you doing?" Can we stop long enough and disconnect to connect to something other? How much do we have to pay, struggle, give, surrender to find something that has nothing of value? Shouldn't something as natural as resting in our heart be found without so much effort?
The road to our inner mystic is complex because our personality is complicated. We resist emptiness. We fear the void we sense within. We want to be productive, on top, in control. How can we be important and humble, have everything and be empty?
Emptiness is not just a concern for mystical seekers. Much of the pain we have involving relationships, finances, or health is related to our fear of emptiness and our attempts to control it. The stress we feel around relationships, finances and health change when we can rest in emptiness. Our personality by its nature has a feeling that there is not enough. Not enough love, too little money, lack of well-being -- our fear of emptiness keeps us in struggle and turmoil. When we embrace this inner vastness, suddenly emptiness is not an enemy but a treasure to value. We discover there is enough. There is much love, wealth, well-being in the abundance we find within. In the vastness within, our awareness expands and feels itself. Daily struggles lessen in the more presence we discover inside. Inner wholeness changes everything we think about what is necessary to have in the world. There is so much in the expansiveness we find in the heart inside our heart.
Life may squeeze us from the outside but when we embrace this vastness inside, there is more than enough, much more. In this inner space is true presence, real food that feeds our need for more from others, our work, our bodies. With this perspective, we begin to see what is lacking in daily life in a different light. Our inner abundance changes our feelings. There is an emptiness within, a great space that speaks of our soul, the great ocean, the wordless God of the heart in everyone and everything.
Sooner or later on the spiritual path many find emptiness. When emptiness is mixed with fear it can become a "dark night of the soul." When emptiness is mixed with our judgments or expectations of how we think it should be, the dark nights can turn into dark days, weeks or months, lasting a long time. When emptiness is embraced for what it is, sometimes a darkness without end, other times a space with no boundary, it is only being. When accepted and sailed upon in our awareness for what it is, the waves and currents change from one moment to the next. In emptiness time can be no time lasting forever and lasting one second. Sooner rather than later, there is a light, a brilliant light so powerful it burns through all that we are, all that we think and feel. When emptiness is embraced for what it is, our fear lessens, thought of all kind falls away, and a peace is present. Emptiness is a river of nakedness which when allowed, carries us, frees our awareness. Emptiness unloads our minds, unties our feelings and the strings of our attachments, unfolding, spreading our sense of self into eternity.
The secret is to embrace emptiness in the good times. Then when challenges arise we already know this refuge within, a place of perfect shelter. This empty place inside is in truth our inner sanctuary. Spiritual practice is a practice of receiving, absorbing the presence of our sanctuary. Then in good times or difficult, we have our inner temple to go to. Here we are not alone. The wordless perfect presence is with us, within us.
There are many gifts of emptiness. The clarity we discover is the natural understanding of our heart. We do not have to give up ourselves to find the greater self. Emptiness does not swallow us but calms the mind as it opens the heart. It receives our awareness and lets it expand into its own essence, not burdened with worldly things. When embraced, emptiness gives us a peace and wholeness which we have been searching for, working, struggling to find in the world. Emptiness gives space for trust which we lose in our crowded life. There is space for more choice and decision in every moment of every day. Emptiness is the calm our restless mind wants, the love our heart seeks. When our awareness settles into emptiness, the world does not push and pull us so much. We live in the reservoir of the greater self which is at home in the great emptiness.
In our emptiness, our personality, desires, worries, attachments and efforts are seen for what they are. They are just desires, worries, attachments and efforts. The deep realm of emptiness gives us an awareness of something more. We are so much more. Our personality can dig in, find distractions, thoughts and concerns to keep us busy, to stay above, separate, apart from the inner vastness. But there is always this other part of us. No matter how many mountains to climb, how many storms to weather, there is this peace inside. In the silence of our heart is a pure ocean of silence, emptiness. We rest here. Our awareness can be full of details and demands of the world and still in our awareness is a nothing, an emptiness, a room only for our no self. We all know this place inside where we carry nothing but the joy of this moment. The wonder of emptiness is how a simple moment can expand and connect to everyone and everything, spreading past planets, stars, expanding without end.
This is the reason we meditate. This is why we make retreat. We take a break from building a life in the world and make time to build our inner life. When we receive the vastness within, emptiness is found to be full of heart essence. Joy is more joyful, beauty more beautiful, life more simple, precious.