Another Look at Emptiness — a Western look at emptiness, and how different categories of “knowing” affect us
Many of the themes I write about on The Pathless Path revolve around the idea of emptiness, but one of the tricky parts about emptiness is that many Westerners equate emptiness with “meaningless.”
People think that to be empty is to lack feeling, empathy, and involvement. Now, of course, most people who say that are typically narcissists who have trouble with not being the centre of attention, so I guess that explains some of it. 😉
Nonetheless, one could be forgiven for thinking being empty is tantamount to being uninvolved in the drama of life. I’d likely agree with that view. As I wrote to a friend this past week,
No, there is nothing new in life. Please tell her for me that there IS nothing new. That’s the scary reality of this work. It’s all SSDD (Same Shit, Different Day.) That’s why people get so discouraged. SSDD. And why relationships fail. SSDD. It’s the same dance over and over again, in different guises.
Each of us has only one issue — it’s unique to us, and I call it our DRAMA — and it appears in different forms. Like Baskin Robbins sells 32 flavours, and it’s all ice cream.
Making it more complex than this is an ego game our minds come up with to keep us from dealing with our stuff each time, gracefully.
A couple of friends shared their recent dreams with me, and I’m amazed at how rich and complex (read DRAMATIC) their dreams are. The last one I was told about had three people in it, all interacting at cross purposes. Fights, disagreements and dances, oh my!
Imagine the DRAMA that 3 people with different agendas can create—and remember, the “three people” are really just the dreamer, who is actually a fourth participant.
Fritz Perls famously diagnosed dreams in Gestalt Therapy, and his theory was that each person and object in a dream is an aspect of the dreamer. In other words, every aspect of the dream is totally about and totally — the dreamer.
For instance, if I am remembering an experience from the past with someone I dated, I am both the “dat-er” and the “dat-ed.” How could I not be? As I play the role of the other person, I am only imagining their experience.
Waking life is the same. Lots of confusion, all there is, is me and my perceptions. But boy, is it easy to get hung up on my stories, and on blaming others.
Here’s a Rumi poem for you to think about:
Essence is emptiness.
Everything else, accidental.
Emptiness brings peace to loving.
Everything else, disease.
In this world of trickery
Emptiness is what your soul wants.
Jelaluddin Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)
So, what’s going on here? Well, the point of life is to be present as life unfolds, while at the same time being gentle with ourselves. What I mean here is simple.
Our mind creates stories, DRAMAS, which are both disturbing and meaningless. Thus, DRAMA is the opposite of emptiness. Emptiness is the willingness to simply be with what is in front of us, without creating DRAMA as an avoidance mechanism.
Rather than trying to analyze the Rumi poem right now, let me try an analogy. At Christmas-time, most of Darbella’s family gathered in front of her sister’s TV, there to discuss the “Android Box.”
I’m pretty tech savvy, but I hadn’t a clue. Turns out that it works like an Android device, but is loaded with software that makes it possible to watch movies and TV shows. I was intrigued.
Turned out the house we’re “sitting” has one; we’ve been using it for 2 months now, and we like it enough to order our own, which we lent to a buddy.
First, the two boxes look different, but do the same thing. Let’s call what the unit looks like its “form.”
Now, in addition to the “form,” there is how each unit functions. “Function” is slightly different from form, in this way. Unit 1 Has a simple HOME menu, and that makes it easy to shift between software. Unit 2 has (get this!) a simplified menu, which means it takes LONGER to get to software.
Therefore, if time is important to me, then the function of Unit 1 is more efficient than that of Unit 2. In general, though, their function is “similar.”
Lastly, there is content. Each unit can only access what is asked of it. I have to click on something to retrieve and watch it. So, what I’m watching at any point is entirely different from what my friend (or anyone else) is watching.
We therefore can say that the two Android Boxes have almost the “same” form and function, but different contents.
Here’s where people confuse themselves. They think that there is one more aspect to the “things of life” — “meaning.” Meaning, however, is totally personal, and has nothing to do with the form, function, or contents.
Meaning is never a function of anything. Meaning is imposed, is situational, and is fleeting.
I always have the ability to choose what to look at — to decide if I want to change what I view. This decision does not require that I create a DRAMA about what I’ve chosen to look at. In other words, I am “empty” of judgement about the rightness or wrongness of what I’m watching.
You likely get this as it applies to a show on the Android Box. I might like a show and you might hate it; that is not a characteristic of the show. Rather, it is a personal judgement.
The opposite of being empty is DRAMA and judgement. Many are caught here. They judge that their “contents” are faulty, lousy, bad, whatever — or they judge that the contents of others are faulty. They want the right, fixed, proper, good “contents.”
We suggest dropping the judgements, and simply doing something different. That may sound like the same thing, but it’s not.
Rumi says, “Emptiness brings peace to loving. Everything else, disease.” The last word is telling -— dis-ease. Lacking ease. And the emptiness to which he refers is being empty of judgement regarding the thing one loves.
We believe that one function of being human is creating a life based upon who one is and how one sees things, in the moment. While another person’s approach may not resonate for me, and I may therefore not chose to copy it, all I can say is, “That’s not right for me.”
Most relationship disputes, on the other hand, are based upon the judgement that one’s partner is not simply different, but wrong. People get up on their soap-boxes and preach at their partner, listing all their flaws and sins. And the partner does the same. The partners are full of judgement.
Emptiness is this: I am curious about your programming, and I continually ask you how your programming is working for you. In other words, I encourage you to explore how you see reality and how your view is working for you, and invite you to let go of views and actions that are not beneficial…to you! And I invite you to do the same for me.
I am dis-eased if I think that my way is the right way. I am empty if I live with integrity, and accept who I am and who you are, without judgement.
Not one person, living or dead, has ever been content (at ease) when living in judgement. And this includes both judging oneself and judging others. We are not suggesting compliance here, nor apathy, nor stupidity. What we are suggesting is the integrity to accept complete responsibility for what I can control—the way I act in the world.
Emptiness is the key. I continually empty my self of the accumulated sludge of anger, resentment, judgement, and regret. I empty myself of the need to fix others. I look at myself and my way of explaining, seeing and living. If I am not content with myself, I shift my behaviours and interpretations and look again.
To be whole, one must be empty.