"˜I've got an emptiness deep inside and I try but it won't let me go' (Neil Diamond)
Many of us are familiar with that empty feeling. It manifests as a sort of gnawing that won't go away; a little nagging voice that either asks, "What is life all about?" or else states "There must be more to life than this, surely!"
Often we don't know what to do with this voice and the uncomfortable feelings that accompany it. Often we try to ignore it, deny it or suppress it. We try to avoid the empty feeling by filling our lives with all manner of things. We get busy. We go shopping. We buy things to fill our lives with. We throw ourselves into work. We study. We think up things to do. We fill our calendars with socialising. All these strategies keep the emptiness at bay for a while but they cannot erase it completely. As the lyrics of the song say "“ it just won't let us go!
Many of us have grown up believing that emptiness is bad and something to avoid at all costs. We were taught at school the nature abhors a vacuum and we treat our lives the same way. Whenever the familiar, empty feeling comes upon we rush to fill it. Many of us I'm sure can remember as children the feeling of being bored and our parents telling us to go and find something to do! But what if filling the emptiness is actually counterproductive? What if the emptiness we so dread is not really empty at all but full of something that is actually life giving. If that were true then the very act of trying to fill the emptiness would end up depleting us rather than completing us.
What are we made of?
Scientists have been telling us for years now that the atoms that make up our body are composed of 99.9% space. This space (this emptiness) is not useless but fulfils a very important purpose "“ it is the very living, breathing energy full of the blueprint of life and it enables us to live and move and express ourselves here on earth in physical form.
No one likes to be ignored.
The space within us is a living part of us and as such it wants to be recognised, felt and affirmed. The space inside us wants us to embrace it not ignore it! We are more than our physical bodies and when feelings of emptiness arise in us it is just our inner space, our inner, energetic body (some might call it our Spirit) trying to get our attention.
Recently a friend called round to talk about his current life situation. He was in that awkward space where one long-term relationship had ended and another one hadn't yet materialised. He was struggling with what he called the "˜quiet time'; that is the time when he couldn't think of anything to do, had nowhere to go and no one to be with. He talked about how he wanted to fill up his life so as to avoid these quiet times and he was uncomfortable about my suggestion to sit with the quiet and find out what it might have to say to him.
Yet I am a firm believer that the space within us has its own intelligence. After all it knows how to support our physical life here on earth – something that it does minute by minute without any intervention or input from us!
When we feel emptiness dancing within us I believe the best thing we can do, rather than rush to fill the emptiness is to allow the emptiness to fill us.
How do we do this?
I think the best way to begin is to try to begin to understand what spaciousness looks like in the first place. What are the qualities that we associate with space? Once we identify them then we can begin to pay attention to where these qualities are lacking in our lives.
Here is a list I started.
I encourage you to continue adding to this list and then to see how you might incorporate more of these qualities into your life and less of those that oppose them.
For example let's look at the quality of openness and try to see how this manifests in our own lives or not as the case may be. We might find that we are open to some things but not to others. We might find that we have selective hearing – listening only to things that we want to hear and ignoring those things that are not to our liking. Perhaps we find that we are traditionalists and oppose new ideas and ways of doing things. Once we establish the ways that we close our selves down to life then we can begin to experiment with ways to address this. We may still have our own firm views but we can at least give more room and space for differing ones. After all in the realm of space there is space for all things to exist side by side.
Nothing matters unless you believe it does.
One thing worth noting about emptiness "“ it does not hold onto things. In the realm of emptiness there is no matter so there is nothing (no- thing) to matter about. Literally in the realm of emptiness – nothing matters! Befriending our emptiness can encourage us to let go of our incessant need to make things matter. Befriending our emptiness offers us a real and valuable gift "“ that of a different perspective.
There are a 100 ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
That saying is attributed to the wonderful Sufi poet Rumi and I would like to suggest here that the same is true when it comes to dealing with emptiness. Anything that aligns you with spaciousness, gets you moving, releases trapped tensions in the body or mind, makes you feel spacious, light, free, unbounded and magnificent is good.
Your inner spaciousness needs light and spacious things so get creative and find ways to feed your soul/spirit rather than just your physical being.
Here are some examples that work for me.
Dancing, singing, laughing, crying, T'ai Chi, walking, running, stretching, meditating, prayer, music, poetry, listening, nature, giving attention to others, offering kindness where I can, practising voice awareness.
I encourage you to make your own list.
Decide to live abundantly.
Try doing things differently. Scientists tell us that doing things differently helps connects us to the hemisphere of the right brain where creativity and inspiration live.
Try something new "“ read a book by a new author, visit a new place take up a new hobby, it is not the doing so much that matters but the fact that you are breaking old patterns of behaviour and thought and allowing space for new ones.
Ask questions. Be curious.
Cultivate a playful approach to life. Let go of your need to control and organise every little thing "“ including how you are going to dance with our own emptiness! There is no room here for strict rules, regulations and schedules. Spaciousness is flexible "“ and it allows for mistakes too!
Remember there is no weight to space "“ your attempts to realign yourself with it must take this into account. Emptiness dances with ease and grace. Emptiness dances lightly. So whatever you do, do it light heartedly, with good grace and with love for what you are doing.
Nothing else really matters at all.