Buddhism, spirituality

Repost: Why it can be good to feel emptiness

Emptiness if freedom - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

 

When you begin to realize that notion of loving and gentleness in yourself, and at the same time you begin to give up the notion of trying to find out the real truth.  And there is the real notion of where shunyata [emptiness] experience begins to happen.

Chogyam Trungpa

Around three years ago I was homeless for 5 months, I lived in a garage. It was my choice I suppose, I had walked out on a broken marriage and made myself homeless so that I could give all of my financial support to my family. This left me with a meager budget and I could not afford accommodation. This experience was hard at times for sure, but it was also very liberating.

You see, a lot of my life I had been operating with a background motivation of avoiding losing things: my possessions, my job, my relationship, my kids and always in the background my life. Losing things was always very painful for me. I think we all try to hold onto things in the belief that they will secure our happiness, its a very human tendency, one I think is wrong and conversely causes more suffering. In our attempts to avoid losing things we form this defensive position which is quite exhausting and extremely limiting. Like a dog defending a bone, growling, tense and upset and unable to do anything but stay with its bone. How much happier the dog would be if it could leave the bone and go off and enjoy the rest of its environment.

My experience of near total loss brought about some insight for me. I discovered that when you do lose things, there is a period of suffering as the mind grumbles in a very real and painful way about the ‘unfairness’ or ‘sadness’ of the situation. The fundamental basis of this feeling is probably the loss of some deeply held belief about oneself and the one’s future, in other words those self constructed beliefs that form our ego.  But, the revelation  that came to me from my loss was that when there is nothing left to lose, when you really are stripped back to the basics of having nothing, then since there is nothing left to lose, there is also nothing left to fear and that is a really nice place to be.

Loss the fear of loss - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

So the emptiness of the situation when fully embraced  contains no fear of loss and is quite free. Like a soldier that accepts the hopelessness of his situation and his certain death and at that point loses all fear.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all

Hamlet, Shakespeare

My understanding of emptiness is that its a wonderful feeling that we can have when we accept each moment with a total fearlessness and acceptance of what ever might happen without judging of good or bad. I am not saying that in my circumstance of loss I was able to be in this feeling for long. It was a challenge to avoid the tendency to keep objecting to the unfairness. However, there were these moments of beautiful acceptance and freedom that washed over me like a cool wave of water on a hot day.

Walking with freedom - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

So how does that work now, well, when I remember I try to bring that feeling back into the day. I try to set out with a feeling of whatever will be will be and in doing so I find a more expansive feeling, something I think is closer to my personal Shunyata.

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  1. Gedankenwende

    Yes, it gives freedom.
    I like to get rid of material things and set me free…

  2. I am enjoying reading your blog. Emptiness can be a tremendous gift (when it’s not scaring the heck out of our ego-selves.)

  3. Well done, Simon! I very much appreciate your insights here. This is the emptiness, or via negativa, that John of the Cross talked about. It is the first step in being released from the burdens of what Thomas Merton called the “false self.”

    • Thanks, it was a precious experience, something I am grateful for. Thanks also for your kinds words.

  4. Yes, I have had moments of panic like that too. It’s scary, because they can disappear so quickly! Glad he was just hiding.P.S. That closet is very clean and organized!! I wish mine looked like that Rurennmom-jen recently posted..

  5. Hey hey hey, take a gadenr at what’ you’ve done

  6. Yeah that’s what I’m talking about ba-ni-ybce work!

  7. Very well stated. And gosh we choose some harsh realities to learn our truth. In light and love

    • Thanks Molly, sometimes like a slow boiled frog its hard to notice the badness taking route, extreme but the forest fire of events at least provided fertile ground.

  8. This is beautiful – that you can find that freedom in extreme loss – indeed, it’s the only thing there is sometimes.

    • Thank-you for the kind words, I don’t begrudge the experience as I found out a lot about myself during that time, I was not one of these wise 20’somethings that had it all worked out straight away.

  9. ALL MY LIFE ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO BE ALONE,NUMB AND AN ISLAND. NOW THAT I AM 59 AND SINGLE I REALIZED THAT I HAD SUCCEEDED. IT IS NOT WHAT I DREAMED IT WOULD BE. NATURE HATES A VACANT SPACE. IT WILL FILL IT WITH SOMETHING. I GOT A GRAND BABY 8 MOS AGO. NOW, HOW I FINISH MATTERS.

    • That’s so nice to hear, thank you for sharing a bit of your story. Peace to you.

    • “Nature hates a vacuum” interesting thought. Some spiritual teachers have always said, when we stop wanting things in life, life delivers things. I don’t really believe in law of attractions and the like, but I do believe in perception and subjectivity, thanks again for the thought.

  10. I truly enjoyed reading this post. It caught my eye because I recently wrote a post title Dried Up talking about how being emptied is actually a good thing. I am glad you posted this.

  11. Jan

    Great thoughts. I hold on SOOOOO tight. When I lost my son, I thought nothing can hurt me now. I began to live freely, ok somewhat recklessly and the freedom of that was liberating for sure. I lived my life like it could be gone tomorrow. Fast forward a few years and I find myself once more clinging to a job that wants to quit me; to my beautiful sanctuary ranch where I feel nurtured and safe and hanging on to a retirement that I have worked a lifetime to enjoy. And, I know one thing, you can cling all you want but there is no such thing as security….it can all change in a moment. The place where we cling and worry is simply a catalyst unhappiness. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Yes, I feel that too. Thankyou for sharing your experience. I truly wish you well, peace and happiness.

  12. Dawn

    This reminds me of that old song…..”Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…and nothin’ ain’t nothin….if it ain’t free…”

    • Thank’s Dawn, who sang the song?

      • Wayne Snowden

        Freedom’s just another word….”Me and Bobby McGee” is a song written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, originally performed by Roger Miller. Janis Joplin did a very popular version.

        Also, Bob Dylan wrote “when you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose”.

  13. Nice share. Good, thought-provoking post. Part of it reminds me of the insight I picked up a number of years ago…..in life, pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional and self-imposed.

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