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Divine Emptiness

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

I thought the same thing at first, that I fell asleep. I hear that again and again from new meditators who sit in silence and lose track of everything, finding themselves floating in comforting unconsciousness. Our brains don’t know how else to define this space of being except “falling asleep.” I still can’t define it very well, but I do know this emptiness allows me to feel calmer and gives me space in my head to be more present. This emptiness helps me be in the world, in my life, in my day. I feel fully present and yet empty. The words don’t make sense but the resulting calmness is accumulative and enticing.

Some emptiness comes with an ache and yearning for change, for needing something more in life outside of ourselves. I would imagine this need comes from the ego looking for fulfillment from a place of lack. A need so deep within lack that it’s a life or death need boundaried by the mind.

A divine emptiness springs from the heart and brings me to an edge of wonder and trust, fulfilling something deep within helping me feel whole and solid. My breath allows for the give and take of trust through the pores of openness.

The experience is vast and yet the words to express my experience are limiting.

Ellen Dionna a Celtic Shaman, Spiritual Teacher and one of my mentors, shares her words on emptiness in her book, Spiritual Sampler:

“Emptiness is a state central to meditative practice in Eastern spiritual traditions. When you sit in silence and still your roving mind, you invite emptiness. Emptiness is very difficult for Westerners to understand and develop. Its sweetness steals upon you as you attune to your breath and enter a state of allowing, simply being. Emptiness is cultivated over time, and while it is not the same as the Western tradition of prayer and listening, to invite emptiness enhances other practices.”
“Spiritual emptiness is akin to bliss. When you allow yourself to become empty, you are in a perfect state of receptivity. You become the curved scallop shell upon the sands of eternity, you resonate with the booming surf, fill with the endless skies.”
“Becoming empty you are attuned with the Essence of Spirit. From your emptiness you fill with the bliss of union with the Divine.”

In the Tao te Ching, #11, Lao Tsu says:

“We mold clay into a pot,

But it is the emptiness inside

That makes the vessel useful”

“We fashion wood for a house,

But it is the emptiness inside that makes it livable.”

“We work with the substantial,

But the emptiness is what we use.”

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I loved the piece from the Tao: that paradox of emptiness as opportunity is great!!!

  • I have felt during meditation that I was sleeping several times. I told myself that I must be sleeping, but I was upright and my head was not bobbing. Today, in meditation, I went with it, and it felt wonderful. So maybe I am doing it right.

  • During today’s meditation, I experienced something similar. A calmness, a fullness, filled with power and capability. A real sense of calmness. Thank you.

  • During the meditation, I felt a spaciousness, full of oneness. A union with all beings. It was an empowering place, a place where thoughts are irrelevant, like a lid on a teapot. When you get there to that place, the thoughts don’t get in, even if you had them as you traveled to that place.

  • It’s mental floss. It’s making more space, like dental floss

  • I am in the process of getting the gunk out doing a lot of inner child work. I’ve been in the moment finding my powerful self in the past. Today, I thought of that empty space. In that space, she came out and screamed. She found me.

  • Showing up is a discipline. During the meditation, I had images, floating, reminded me of my childhood. A child can lay in the grass, staring at blades and clouds, being present, not worrying the way adults do about tasks. This Eastern concept of being and flowing. The discipline is showing up regularly and then these little miracles happen.

  • During meditation, I feel familiar things and capture it. It’s an accumulative experience.

  • This was helpful for me. My husband died many years ago today. Just before I shut my eyes to meditate, a butterfly came by and fluttered by the window. I felt that my husband was here in meditation with me. Holding the empty space. In the meditation, I held a bowl in my hands, surrounded by darkness. I was floating. In a bubble, knowing and feeling the energy of a hurricane coming through. It’s like the hurricane that came days before he died. It was profound, this energy coming again. In the meditation, I wasn’t tossed around, I was grounded.

  • I loved the quote from the Tao: it's the emptiness where everything takes place. It’s these amazing visions of paradox I love.

  • I’m new at meditation. I can’t settle my mind down. After the gong sounded, I heard crows, which I am drawn to. There were lots of them. I don’t know if they were happy or in distress. I was grateful to hear them. Then they settled down and were quiet. I am glad I don’t have to do this meditating a right way, but as I can. It’s a reminder to settle, even for brief moments. To calm the turmoil in my mind.

  • I found it refreshing to be in a stark empty room. It reminded me of a trip to Canada where I stood on a frozen lake: there was no wind, no cars, just nothingness.

  • Sleep is also mental floss, a time when the brain clears and organizes the sensations and perceptions and experiences from the day. That's why meditation feels like sleep, it sounds like it’s another way to clear the brain and mind.

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