True Emptiness

Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return. . . .


--Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 11, version by Ursula K. Le Guin


Minds fear emptiness, imagining emptiness means being lonely, detached, unloved, unconnected, lacking. The psychological experience that many call emptiness is based on a sense of deficiency—being devoid of nourishment, connection, or loving warmth on the level of heart, or feeling a lack of purpose or meaning on the level of mind. To the conditioned mind that interprets sensation, emotion, and experience, emptiness is often regarded as a failure of love, worthiness, or purpose; and thus we try everything to avoid such feeling. We stuff our lives, our homes, our bellies, our minds, and our free time with "stuff," to keep from feeling empty, or we succumb to feelings of despair.

But have you ever allowed yourself to truly experience emptiness without a story line, to be undivided from emptiness, to be Emptiness? Emptiness is nothing like our mind's ideas or fears. There is a vast difference between the mind's peering into its idea of emptiness, and actually being Emptiness. Are you willing to investigate for yourself?

True Emptiness—which we could also call formless Spirit--fills the universe and is filled by the universe. It contains everything yet is not separate from a single moment's arising or dissolving. What I am calling Emptiness is simply empty of self, and empty of definition. The word "Emptiness" is not really it, neither are any of our ideas about it, including the ones I use to try to point to the mystery that is unnamable and indefinable. To be emptied of our attachment to definitions and concepts--especially our self-concepts—is to be unburdened, whole, fluid, and free to truly be.

To be empty means we are open; to be empty means we are available for whatever or whoever is in front of us; to be empty means we are not stuck anywhere, but can experience the fullness and flow of life unhindered. Our seeing is empty until it lands on an object, is it not? Emptiness allows the world to appear and separation to disappear. Our freedom, inherent wisdom and selfless love arise right out of Emptiness.

Some believe a psychological "emptiness" must be "fixed" before encountering or exploring true Emptiness. I have not actually found this to be true. In the moment we are undivided from emptiness (regardless of definition or experience), paradoxically, we no longer feel empty.

For a moment, just allow yourself to be the emptiness, open and without definition, yet intimate with the moment as it is. You might just discover a vast and spacious Presence that feels more real, more connected, more meaningfully and lovingly your truest Self than anything you could ever imagine. And even though the mind cannot say exactly what this is, something knows; something in you remembers. And what remembers tenderly holds anything that may arise to be seen, experienced, or liberated—including fear.



© Dorothy Hunt
Photo courtesy of Nina Cherington


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