“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
We are so full these days. Have you noticed? Our lives are filled with work time, family time, social schedules, the daily upkeep of life, not to mention the inner busyness of plans, worries, fears, and self-judgments. Throw in some expectations, relationship concerns, grudges, and unexamined feelings. Phew! It’s a veritable jungle in there.
The Possibility of Emptiness
Just for a moment, think of yourself as looking out through a clear vessel. Nothing is in the way of seeing people and situations clearly. Your mind is quiet. You are no longer confused, no longer sidetracked by mental stories or strong emotions. Infinite wisdom moves through you without being blocked or ignored. Creativity has an open channel for expression. Your familiar idea of “you” dissolves into space.
This is the potential for all of us – to be open, present, and available, to live from inner intelligence, to be in harmony with life. In fact, this is our natural state. Consider for a moment – who were you before all the “stuff” got crammed in there? Who would you be without it?
The Clutter of a Full Vessel
Emptying out the vessel might leave us on unfamiliar ground. The contents are there for a reason – they protect us by organizing our perceptions of the world and providing a blueprint for what to expect and how to respond. But they also deter us from seeing things exactly as they are. When our vessel is full, we are looking through old patterns and belief systems that limit the information we are able to actually take in. No wonder we feel confused.
Early on in life, a friend of mine developed the tendency to act aggressively to get her needs met. She grew up in a home where if you did not fight for what you wanted, you were sure to lose out. She learned to be controlling and even manipulative in her interactions. When she looked through her vessel, she saw people as pawns to be conquered. She was determined to come out on top.
Although this way of being usually got her what she wanted by force, it left her feeling isolated and dissatisfied. Now, with a beautifully empty vessel, she is warm, openhearted, and happy. People feel moved to be close to her rather than wanting to escape her domination.
From Full to Empty
Maybe your vessel is so full that you cannot imagine it being empty. Or perhaps it contains only a few remaining remnants of clutter that block your view. Either way, if clear seeing and inner ease interest you, if you are ready to turn back toward yourself, consider emptying out your vessel. Here is how to proceed.
A Few Points About Emptiness
- As we get started, take a moment to reflect on this essential truth: emptiness is our natural state. We have not always lived according to our personal patterns and viewpoints. Before they took hold, there was space, potential, limitless possibility. Remember?
- Being empty invites us to befriend the unknown. Once we subtract expectations, “should’s,” and projections from the past or into the future, we realize how much we do not know. Here is where wonder and openness reside. And perhaps some fear. When old patterns fall away, it is normal to feel afraid about not knowing. Meet this fear lovingly.
- Be careful not to confuse emptiness with boredom. Boredom feels flat and numb, whereas true emptiness is the capacity to be fully awake to each moment. When we empty out, we do experience less drama, a quieter mind, and a calmer emotional state. You might notice the loss of agitation that is familiar to you, and some people find this shift disorienting. As always, you have the option of deciding what you want, what you want your life to be about.
- Be compassionate with yourself. Every moment of exploration and letting go is a moment of freedom. If your patterns reappear, forget the times you have examined them in the past, and be fresh with what is being asked for now.
Step by Step
As we explore the tangles of thoughts and feelings that cloud our vessel, stay connected with your intention. Long-standing habits have a momentum that defies their dissolution. For a shift to happen, the desire to look through an empty vessel needs to be stronger than the desire to stay with one filled with debris.
Take a look at what is obscuring your clear seeing. With the willingness to be honest with yourself, what patterns and tendencies are preventing you from feeling clear and at ease? What mental and emotional habits are distorting your view?
Now, put on your curious explorer’s hat, and inquire into whatever you discover.
You might notice a thought pattern that comes in the form of an expectation, memory, plan, hope, judgment, “should,” or inner criticism. Sometimes a thought is so familiar that we do not even think to question it. In the spirit of openness and exploration, similar to the process Byron Katie offers, ask yourself:
- Is this thought true? Am I believing something that isn’t actually true?
- How do I feel when I think this thought?
- Could the opposite of this thought be just as true?
Next, explore feelings.
- Notice how you react when reality fails to conform to an expectation you hold.
- Notice how you feel when you are operating based on what you think you “should” be doing.
- Invite in all the hurts, fears, and resentments to be seen, felt, and held lovingly. These are your long-lost children who have been waiting for your embrace. You might even be surprised at how easily they subside.
Eventually, bit by bit, we begin to feel clearer. We are no longer bogged down by the past. We notice just a little more happiness, joy, lightness, and ease. We realize there is no difference among the seeing, the vessel, and that which is seen. All is clarity, peace is omnipresent, and love flourishes endlessly.
How empty or full do you feel? What has helped you empty out? What has challenged you? What is your deepest intention? I’d love to hear…