In mindful practice – the stillness meditations, the ‘in the flow’ active meditations, the breath control and the non-thinking is all asking you to empty your mind and become whole. If that sounds a little bit Zen well that’s just because it is.
Remember that mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition even though we may also recognise it in aspects of other faiths – For example the Christian ‘consider the lilies’. In emptying our mind we neither toil nor spin – we simply are.
In this uncomplicated state of being, we fret not, we are devoid of anguish and desires, we are not fractured and scattered by thoughts, feelings or behaviours – we are our whole self – unburdened. Becoming empty is not devaluing – it not lessening your self – it is finding yourself and true value.
I have been engaged with Zen Buddhism and Taoism since a teenager and collecting the collective wisdom in my dog-eared notebooks between how to prune a rose and how to make burdock and dandelion root beer. Quite a few entries were from the writings of Lao Tzu – the founder of philosophical Taoism born 604 BC. I would like to share one here (which I noted down as ‘thirty spokes’) as it beautifully states the value of emptiness – and offers a contemplation on how existence renders actual but non-existence renders useful.
Thirty spokes. Thirty spokes unite in one nave; but the effectiveness of the cart depends on the hollow centre in which the axle turns. Clay is moulded into pots and vessels but because of the space where there is nothing you can carry water. A room is made by cutting windows and doors through the walls, but the space that the walls contain is what measures the room’s value. Therefore while there is profit from what is there; the ultimate usefulness is from what is not there.
三十輻共一轂，當其無，有車之用。埏埴以為器，當其無，有器之用。鑿 戶牖以為室，當其無，有室之用。故有之以為利，無之以為用。(original version from the Tao Te Ching)
Oh how we fill our days. Many peoples greatest fear is to be non-existent, they strive to be seen – to be valued or recognised (as they perceive it). Some put all their energy into it. Some are so noisy about it. Some their desperation to be valued is almost felt before they even turn the corner.
In the modern world – especially with social media, consumer marketing and reality television it seems that proof of existence is not just a 24hr pursuit but that you are nothing without it. Maybe you are more without it, perhaps you are the less for it. This frenetic uploading of every thought, every meal, every moment – leaves no time to be in the moment. All this virtual leaves no space to be real. All this me me ME! – where is the ‘be’.
So put down your devices and your vices (the old French etymology of ‘vice’ originally denoting a failing) and step out into the garden. Breathe there, be active there, be there. Breathe in acceptance of your self, breathe out (and away) the negative need to self-rate. There is no judgment here – by you or by others – just a loving compassion for your self. There is nothing to think, nothing to feel, nothing to act out. In this nothingness is the fullness of your true potential – Your liberated self.
Go empty your mind and become whole.