PEARLS OF WISDOM: Exploring emptiness

This principle—that strength, joy, peace, and love can be found inside our feelings of emptiness and lack—is a radical new perspective. But this truth can only be fully known by diving into your experiences of emptiness

Sometimes we feel an inner sense of emptiness. When we look within, it seems like nothing is there, so we distract ourselves with something on the outside, like food or television. Yet, these outer distractions take care of the emptiness only temporarily; they capture our attention only temporarily. When the distraction is over, the emptiness returns.

What is it about emptiness that makes us want to move away from it? Is emptiness really a bad sensation? When you consider the literal meaning of emptiness, how can it be a problem? Is it possible for “nothing” to hurt you? Is that sense of emptiness, that empty feeling, actually uncomfortable, or is the restlessness and activity of trying to distract yourself or avoid the emptiness, what is uncomfortable?

This is an important distinction. We are so used to assuming that feelings of lack, emptiness, or something missing are a problem that we are uncomfortable when that is our experience. But is the emptiness the source of our discomfort? Or is what we do in response to the emptiness the source of our discomfort, including the stories we tell ourselves and the judgments about the fact that we feel empty?

It’s not our fault that we tend to avoid feelings of emptiness. We were taught to do this by everyone around us who was doing it. In fact, there's a good reason to avoid one feeling of emptiness—the feeling of hunger—since we need to eat when we're hungry. However, we often interpret a feeling of lack as a need for food. Have you ever eaten when you weren’t hungry to try to distract or relieve yourself from a feeling? It’s possible to simply experience the sensations of emptiness or lack and discover that they aren’t so bad. Try it and see for yourself:

Exercise: What happens right now if you just allow any sensation you might have of emptiness, lack, or there not being enough? Are those sensations painful, or are they just sensations? Perhaps there's something in particular that feels lacking: a lack of strength, energy, or selfworth; a lack of excitement or interest; a sense of there not being enough security or safety; or a feeling that right now there's no joy or happiness. And yet, are the sensations that let you know that these things seem to be missing is unpleasant? What happens if you just let those sensations be here for a moment?

It certainly would simplify life if we didn’t have to do anything about these feelings of lack. So much of our activity, effort, and inner striving are meant to get us more of what we seem to lack. But what if it's okay to lack something? What if it's okay to just feel empty? What a relief! So much less to do!

Even more surprising is discovering that the sensations of emptiness can be enjoyed. There is a richness to silence, to stillness, to space itself. We overlook the richness of the inner silent spaces in our being. Most of us are quite unfamiliar with them because we've been turning away from them most of our lives. Just as a wine connoisseur can make finer distinctions in the flavour and quality of wine than someone who has only tasted wine a few times, we can become connoisseurs of emptiness.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is when we discover that the very thing that feels lacking in an experience of emptiness is often found in the emptiness itself. For example, if you feel weak or lacking in strength and energy and you stay present to that sensation of weakness or lack, you may notice a deeper, more subtle sense of strength appearing in the emptiness.

The strength, joy, peace, and love that can be found in the empty places within us are much more subtle than the feelings generated from our usual attempts to feel strong, happy, or loving. However, when we focus on the inner strength, joy, peace, or love, the experience of them can become powerful and real in a way that far exceeds our expectations. Who knew that there was a deep reservoir of infinite peace lying under the restless feeling of a lack of peace? What a surprise to find abundant joy in the dry, empty sense of a lack of excitement and fun!

This principle—that strength, joy, peace, and love can be found inside our feelings of emptiness and lack—is a radical new perspective. But this truth can only be fully known by diving into your experiences of emptiness. Since doing this is so contrary to our conditioning, we have to develop a new habit of paying attention to feelings of emptiness in order to discover the richness waiting there.

(Nirmala, is a spiritual leader, based in the USA. The article is from his free ebook: That Is That: Essays About True Nature. Here is the link of the original and complete article: