What if I asked you right now to find yourself? To close your eyes and scan your body from the inside out and locate the exact place YOU are. No doubt every one of you would Would arrive at the same conclusion; there is no you to be found.
This isn’t only true about you; this is true about everything.
Look at a door in your house and find the thing about it that makes it a door. Is it the handle? The wood? The paint or lack of paint? The hinges? The frame around it? No, it is none of those things. Door is just a word we have given to a concept, the physical representation of which, at its very core, is completely empty.
You may or may not have thought of yourself this way yet, but this also holds true for your self-identity. At the core of YOU there is nothing, only emptiness. The name that you have and the person you think you are, these are just concepts. As such, they are as illusory as the reflection of the moon on the surface of a still lake. Wave your hand, and the image disappears.
Emptiness is a fact of life.
When we understand emptiness, we are better able to withstand the ups and downs of experience as they come and go on their own. This is because the knowledge of emptiness fractures that reflection of the moon, deflates balloons of perceived importance and gives it all of those issues, those problems, those pleasures, less gravitas.
If door is just a concept, and concept is essentially meaningless, what you do or do not think of as a door becomes essentially meaningless. This means you can think of a door any way you choose, there is no rule, no certain way door has to be looked at. And of course, once again, this is the same for you.
The thing about emptiness though is that in the beginning the idea of it can feel uncomfortable and vague. Emptiness can be a hard truth to grasp. Without fully grasping the concept of emptiness, it can be challenging to use the idea to free you from taking life so seriously. Therefore, let’s invite ourselves to explore this concept in greater depth.
A too serious outlook on life creates huge challenges for this world. When we take our religion too seriously, we start wars. When we take our international borders too seriously, we refuse help to our brothers and sisters in need. When we take our jobs too seriously, we lose the human virtue of compassion for those we work with and for. The list goes on.
Think of something now that you take very seriously. Bring it to mind in this moment. How has the seriousness you have given to this thing increased a perception of rigidity in your body or mind? If you become very sensitive to yourself, when you bring awareness to the things you take too seriously you begin notice that it naturally creates some sort of constriction in your body. Somewhere in your physical form a tightening is now present; just from thinking about what you tend to be overly serious about.
This tightening we feel in our bodies when we bring to mind the overly serious way we look at aspects of our life is a symptom of a tightening that is simultaneously occurring in our minds. When our minds are tight, we become anxious, depressed, closed down, defensive, and are more directly in contact with the negative emotions that lead straight to suffering. Perhaps suffering for others, but certainly suffering for ourselves.
This is the sort of tightening that we want to do away with in our lives. Our wellness practices and spiritual endeavors should be creating space for this tightening to relax. If they are not, we are choosing the wrong practices…or perhaps we are just taking those practices too seriously.
If you want to reap the benefits of a close relationship with the natural reality of emptiness, then you have to develop practices that bring you more in touch with it on a regular basis. You did not learn to drive a car by getting in a car once and driving for 20 minutes every few months. You had to drive regularly, day after day, and eventually driving became second nature.
You do not even need to think about driving any more. We have all experienced a time when, while driving home, we lose touch with the entire drive and arrive at our destination with no memory of making the proper turns. This automaticity is what we eventually want to cultivate with the experience of emptiness. Only emptiness is driving, and we are just along for the ride.
When we become friends with the knowledge of the empty nature of reality, we easily begin to loosen around the edges. Not just our bodies, but our minds become more relaxed. When we are relaxed, we are better able to be with others, naturally more joyful, and in touch with the positive emotions that lead us to the peaceful lives we are all after.
There are many ways to practice emptiness. Traditional ways like formal meditation and contemplation practices, as well more nontraditional ways, such as by abstaining from aspects of life we typically take for granted, like food and technology. I personally practice emptiness in all of these ways and more, and of course I also teach these ways to the thousands of people I work with one on one or through contact with my guided meditations and other services.
This month, we have decided to bring more emptiness practices into the work that we do via a monthly opportunity to fast with us during the new moon. Fasting is an excellent way to come up close and personal with empty nature.
Fasting is not so much about food as it is about freeing ourselves from the constant “doing” that allows us to stay in the dark to our neurotic, compulsive and destructive behaviors. When we go without something we need, something we want, something we crave, we force ourselves to confront and examine our patterns of behavior and beliefs that are directly contributing to our own lack of joy.
Combining this experience of fasting with the powerful symbolic nature of the new moon brings an amplified opportunity for insight, rest, and reconnection with our empty essence. The new moon is, for many cultures around the world and throughout history, a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings. When we fast during the new moon, we prime our minds to look at life anew or afresh, and to explore our inner desires and intentions for the coming weeks.
While this all sounds very romantic, fasting and especially fasting on the new moon, can bring up a lot of improperly digested food. Not just the edible kind we consume at lunch and dinner time, but the emotions, thoughts, and beliefs that we consume every minute of every day.
When we do not properly digest aspects of our life like our emotions, they accumulate in negative and destructive ways in our mindbody. Fasting loosens these improperly digested emotions and thoughts, and often brings them to the surface. This can feel overwhelming. For this reason, fasting in a community way, with the knowledge others are there with you and that support is available if you need it, creates a safe space to begin to properly digest our neurosis, compulsions, beliefs and emotions in new and more adaptive ways.
If you did not have the opportunity to fast with us this past week for the May new moon, consider joining us for the new moon in June. To sign up for this community fasting experience click here. Once you sign up you will be given access to the Mindful Island New Moon Fast PDF Guide, an exclusive new moon meditation, and other resources to help make your fast as safe and effective as possible.
If you are looking to dive deeper into the essence of emptiness, the Mindful Island 21 Day Self Transformation Prescription Meditation Plan: Overcome Restlessness was created for this purpose. This plan is not for raw beginners and those entirely new to meditation, if you have some experience already and are looking for more depth with your inner work, then you are fit for this prescription. If you are still new to the process, begin with End Physical Stress and Tension and make your way slowly towards greater and greater experiences with emptiness. Practice patience on the endless path of self-transformation.
These self-guided programs and experiences are wonderful ways to bring more emptiness into your life, but sometimes a more personalized process is desired and needed. If this sounds like you, consider our one-on-one guidance programs like Ultimate Wellness, or Guidance with me, Sarah. Through these very individualized programs you are able to work on your unique needs to develop personalized strategies and tools necessary to live your best life.
We have dedicated ourselves to helping people transform their lives for the better. If you have any questions or comments or desire support in any way, please know that we are here for you. In the end though, there is no we. There is only us, connected through the empty nature of reality and moving in singularity in an ever-evolving way. When you become friends with this truth, transformation happens to you, no effort is required.
I will leave you here, with a short prayer for the coming month. Say it out loud to yourself now, copy it down and place it somewhere visible to remind yourself regularly. Have faith in what is. Be empty.
“May the precious view of emptiness arise where it has not arisen.
And where it has arisen may it not diminish,
But increase further and further.”
- Tibetan Buddhist Prayer
Until next time: live mindfully, be well.