Those who know emptiness are aware.
Human Doing VS Human Being. A Note on Emptiness.
Once a meditation teacher dropped a phrase that often pops up in my head: "You are not a "human doing", you are a "human being"". It just clicked. In this post, I'm sharing with you how it over time integrated to become a part of my life, assisted by the Buddhist concept of emptiness.
It took me a while to create this post as I don't feel like posting a blog or sending out a newsletter unless it feels like it is truly relevant for me and will most likely be relevant for you as well. But all those Black Friday deals and general November panic eventually got to me too, and I realised I have to reach out and remind you about something that helps me find peace both in personally turbulent times and amidst collective state of "amok".
What drives us to buy things, to put more on our agenda even when it's already pretty busy? What drives us for "more", sometimes just for the sake of "more" rather than substance? What makes us believe that "doing" (or buying or having) is the answer?
I believe a lot of the time it's just human curiosity and drive, and there is nothing wrong or judgement-worthy about it. But more often than not, it's our firm belief that this next thing (item, activity, sometimes even person if you are a serial "dater") will somehow fill the void we have inside, will make us feel more complete, happier, less lonely, at least for some time.
When I lead meditation practices introducing the concept of healing emptiness, students sometimes discover that they have a negative connotation with the word "emptiness". In many cultures, empty automatically means bad, something to try and avoid at all cost. Fullness, instead, is something to pursue, even at a risk of over-filling ourselves.
What we forget, is that ultimately, we are already full, that we are already complete at birth, that our most precious possessions are already ours at birth: the human body, the human spirit, the human mind and heart. There is really no void to fill to begin with as long as our hearts are filled with love, which we can't buy anyway.
Cultivating emptiness is the pre-requisite for that feeling of fullness, as you can't fill an already full vase or vessel. There is simply no space available. Same goes for our lives: we have to systematically "empty" ourselves in order to stay mentally clear and to remain open to new insights and growth, in order to actually have the capacity to accommodate them without feeling overwhelmed.
Emptiness, according to the Buddhist meditation tradition, is where we come from and where we return. A space devoid of suffering as we let go of the identifications of our ego. We let go of "I" and "mine" which are labels we use to "box" things and even people and which feed out ego, According to the Buddhist and yogic philosophy, they cause nothing but stress and pain. Returning to emptiness through meditation reminds you that you can drop them. When you drop them totally, you discover a mode of experience that lies deeper still, way beyond the mundane. When we drop them, we go to a place which is way beyond our stories. A place where we are totally free.
Emptiness meditation reminds us that we are bigger than a "human doing" or anything that we populate our lives with. Activities and objects that are drawn to are not what we truly are. We are human beings, and our value is not defined by our busyness or our possessions or how many things we crossed off the to-do list today.
Emptiness is a gift in itself. Like a regular spring cleaning routine, emptying the mind through meditation, emptying the intestines and purging the toxic buildup through yoga asana practice, is a gift to our bodies and minds. Emptying ourselves of all the impressions, thinking patterns and recurring thoughts as we take a break from it all every once in a while, is one of the best things you can do to stay open to new inspiration, to positive change in life. All of the above is a means to be empty enough to really hear yourself through the clutter of external stimulation.
Emptiness is beautiful. We are so conditioned that "things" are beautiful, and no doubt they are. However, let's recognise the beauty of nothingness too. It's what is so needed in the world right now as an antidote to Black Fridays, Christmas frenzy and their friends.
So this holiday season, I invite you re-invent your idea of fullness and emptiness and what they really mean to you. I invite you to take an honest look at why you shop and what you actually prioritise. I invite you to be transparent, at least with yourself, about what is really driving you to make the choices that you make.
And last but not least, I invite you to try to meditate on emptiness and re-consider what connotations and meaning it has to you. Could you still be a happy you, or perhaps an even more fulfilled you, if your life was less full of things and activities, but had more space to breathe? Could you be grateful for more empty space to just BE you? Would it feel like a sacrifice to let go of some items that populate your life right now, or would it feel like a breath of fresh air? Could you learn to be more objective, more discerning, more equanimous in that process? Could you imagine doing less and being more?