Where I Find Emptiness

Posted by Joanna Van Vleck on

Emptiness is coming up a lot in my life lately. It is mentioned and talked about regularly in the daily Tibetan Buddhist practice I do via zoom. It is talked about amongst some of my friends. For a long time I have thought of emptiness as something over there, outside of me. If I work hard enough, meditate enough, get joyful enough, I will someday “arrive” at emptiness. The gap between here and there never seemed to budge. 

Something this week shifted in that gap. Emptiness feels closer, like something I can touch and engage with. An actual feeling or mold in my body. A feeling of simple joy, regardless of my external circumstances. This week I traveled to LA. Uber cancelled twice and I was 35min late for a meeting. I surprised myself that I still felt this connection to joy and a feeling of being relaxed. Airport traffic that was horrific and unexpected mid morning. I may miss the flight. Ok, I would find the next one. No worries. This is not my typical state of mind in these circumstances. 

I’ve been mad at emptiness for a while. The seemingly simple concept I couldn’t get a hold of, always a bit out of my reach. I am good at efforting, doing all the right things while I slightly grit my teeth to make it through. A friend once told me that you can’t fake emptiness. It simply arises when it is ready and is undeniable. This week I felt the shift to a feeling of more, simple joy. 

There was nothing in particular that happened. No bold spiritual experience. No extra hours on the meditation cushion. There is a sinking in nature to the feeling of emptiness. That I am just below the wave and in the calm of the ocean. The wave (the almost missed your flight moments) pass over with little disruption to this place. 

Last night as I was hanging my new curtains, I asked myself, why am I hanging curtains at 8:30pm at night after a day of travel? Some sweat and a well used drill later, I sat on my bed and exhaled. The small things matter. This space and how it feels matters. The way I engage with my alter each day by lighting incense while it is still black outside my windows. All of this allows my body to sink in a bit deeper and one day this week, I found myself there. There is no fanfare. Nothing I could point to in particular. Only the small moments and the daily rituals of the every day that lead to a feeling of being sunken in to a place that already exists inside of me. 

As I spoke to our wonderful PR woman I saw a moment when millions knew how to access this place. That people woke up each day and when their eye caught their alter stand atop a cleared out surface they too exhaled. That the nightly ritual of lighting their candles brought them back to this place after a hectic day we call life. It isn’t a full renovation that is needed. It already exists inside. It is the clearing away and the simple, small reminders around us that this place, this spot, is right here. 

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