Sometimes we feel an inner sense
of emptiness. When we look within, it seems like
nothing is there, so we distract ourselves with
something on the outside, like food or television;
and yet, these outer distractions only temporarily
take care of the emptiness, or more accurately,
they only temporarily keep our attention. When
the distraction is over, the emptiness returns.
What is it about emptiness that makes us want
to move away from it? Is emptiness really a bad
sensation? When you consider the literal meaning
of emptiness, how can it be a problem? Is it
possible for “nothing” to hurt you?
And with the inner sense of emptiness, is that
empty feeling actually uncomfortable, or is the
restlessness and activity of trying to avoid
it or distract ourselves that which is uncomfortable?
This is an important distinction. We are so
used to assuming that lack or emptiness or something
missing is a problem that we are uncomfortable
when that is our experience. But is the emptiness
itself the source of our discomfort? Or is the
action we take in response to emptiness the source
of our discomfort, including the inner activity
of distracting ourselves with ideas and judgments
about the fact that we feel empty?
It’s not our fault that we tend to avoid
feelings of emptiness. We were taught to do it
by everyone around us who was doing it. In fact,
there is a good reason to avoid one feeling of
emptiness—the feeling of hunger—as
it is important to eat when you are hungry. However,
we are so unfamiliar with the sensations of emptiness
that we often interpret a lack of something else
as a lack of food. Have you ever eaten when you
weren’t really hungry to try to distract
or relieve yourself from a feeling? It’s
possible to simply experience the sensations
of emptiness or lack and discover that they aren’t
bad sensations. Try it and see for yourself:
Exercise: What happens right now if you
just allow any sensation of emptiness or lack
or there not being enough? Are those sensations
painful, or are they just particular sensations?
Perhaps there is something in particular that
feels lacking: a lack of strength, energy,
or self-worth; a lack of excitement or interest;
a sense of there not being enough security
or safety; or a feeling that right now there
is no joy or happiness present. And yet are
the sensations unpleasant that let you know
these things seem to be missing? What happens
if you just let them be here for a moment?
It certainly would simplify life if we didn’t
have to do anything about these feelings of lack.
So much of our activity and effort and our inner
striving and longing is meant to get us more
of what we seem to lack. But what if it is okay
to lack something? What if we could just be here
feeling empty? What a relief! So much less to
Even more surprising is that the sensations
of emptiness can be enjoyed. There is a richness
to silence, to stillness, to space itself. We
have been overlooking the richness of the inner
silent spaces in our being. In a sense we are
quite unfamiliar with them because we have been
looking away from them most of our lives, so
we are not very discriminating about their nature.
Just as a wine connoisseur can make finer distinctions
in the flavor and quality of wine than someone
who has only tasted wine a few times, we can
become connoisseurs of emptiness.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is when we discover
that the very thing that feels lacking in an
experience of emptiness is often found in the
emptiness itself. For example if we are feeling
weak or lacking strength and energy, and we stay
present to that specific sensation of weakness
or lack, then we may notice a deeper more subtle
sense of strength appearing in the emptiness.
It is hard to say if the strength appears in
the emptiness or if it was always there, but
we were just to busy trying to avoid the emptiness
to sense the subtle strength within it.
Inner experiences of strength, joy, peace, and
love, which can be found in the empty places
within us, are much more subtle than the feelings
we generate from our usual attempts to feel strong
or happy or loving. However, as we focus on subtle,
inner strength, joy, peace or love, the experience
can become powerful and real in a way that far
exceeds our expectations. Who knew that there
was a deep reservoir of infinite peace lying
under the restless feeling of a lack of peace?
What a surprise to find abundant joy in the dry,
empty sense of a lack of excitement and fun?
This principle—that there is a true source
of strength, joy, peace and love to be found
inside our strongest feelings of emptiness and
lack—is a radical new perspective. But
this truth can only be known fully by diving
into each experience of inner emptiness we encounter.
It is so contrary to our conditioning and therefore
to much of our experience that it requires a
completely new habit of paying attention to the
feelings of emptiness in order to discover for
yourself the richness waiting there.
This would be easier if every time you turned
your awareness towards an inner feeling of emptiness, “not
enough”, or lack, you were immediately
filled with a sense of abundant peace or joy.
But the experience of emptiness is many-layered,
like an onion. So, as we move into a particular
feeling of emptiness we may find a deep inner
sense of strength or love, or we may just uncover
a deeper layer of conditioning. Initially, the
sense of emptiness or lack might get worse. As
we allow the feeling of there not being enough
or of being inadequate to just be there, painful
memories or a strong aversion to the sensation
of emptiness may be triggered, which can make
it difficult to keep your attention on the emptiness
itself. Each time we are distracted or find ourselves
avoiding the sense of something lacking, we miss
the chance to discover a little more of the true
nature of that inner emptiness, including any
subtle inner quality to be found there. What
is needed is a new habit of staying with each
new layer of feeling and memory and sometimes
stronger sensations of emptiness and incompleteness.
There is nothing you can do to make the deepest
feelings of peace and joy appear except to stay
with your experience until they do.
Exercise: Notice what you are feeling inside
right now. Especially note whether there is
any sense of emptiness or lack. It could be
a lack of worthiness or capability or clarity
and understanding. Or it could be a lack of
peace or joy or love. For now, just allow any
sense of lack to be here. Notice specifically
how you experience the sense of lack. Where
is it located? How big is the empty space?
What are the sensations associated with it?
Is the emptiness itself uncomfortable or is
it just empty? Keep paying attention to the
empty feeling and notice what happens next.
Are there thoughts or memories that arise?
Is it easy or hard to stay with the experience
you are having? Remember to drop into your
Heart or give space to the feelings, as this
can help you stay with your experience. Know
that whatever arises next is exactly what you
need to experience right now. If there is a
painful memory or uncomfortable emotion that
is triggered, then just stay with that as best
you can. Notice if there is an even deeper
sense of emptiness or lack in each emotion
If a strong desire or urge to move away
or distract yourself arises, just stay with
that urge. And again, notice if there is a
deeper or bigger sense of emptiness that lies
behind or beneath the desire to distract or
move away. Especially be curious about the
empty spaces or direct sensations of lack that
you discover as you stay with your experience.
Are the empty spaces painful or just empty?
What qualities does the space itself have?
Is it moving or still? Does it have a color?
Is it clear or foggy? How big or deep is the
When your attention is simply on the empty
space itself, you may notice something present
or moving within the space. What is present
in the center of the space where something
is lacking? Is there any peace here in the
emptiness? Is there any joy or happiness? Is
there any love? Set aside for a moment any
expectations of what that peace or joy or love
should look like and just be curious about
any that you find. Especially set aside any
expectations about how big or strong the feeling
should be, and just be curious about the smallest
sense of strength or clarity or peace that
is present right now. Notice what happens as
you pay attention to the center of the emptiness.
Does the feeling of peace or joy get stronger,
or does touching into a true sense of peace
or joy trigger an even deeper longing and sense
of lack? Stay with whatever arises for as long
as you can. If any strong emotions or desires
are stirred up by this exercise, take some
time to just rest and settle after you stop
exploring. This can be intense and difficult
work, and it is important to nurture yourself
in the process.
It is the most surprising and liberating discovery
to find that everything that really matters in
life, such as peace, joy, strength, power, clarity,
value or worth, support, nourishment, and love,
can be found within you—and not just when
you are lucky enough to be already experiencing
them fully, but also when it seems like they
are absent and have never been there. Once you
have discovered them in the sense of lack and
incompleteness many times, then it becomes possible
to just relax and know they are always there,
no matter what the present moment feels like.
This is the key discovery. Experiences of our
true nature come and go like every other experience,
but to deeply know that love is here in all of
its glory even when you are experiencing the
absence of it frees us from struggle and suffering.
To know that everything you could ever want or
need is already here, even when you are experiencing
the opposite, frees you from having to acquire
inner or outer experiences of satisfaction.
Satisfaction is available, whether an experience
is manifesting or just here in potential. Just
as the potential energy stored in a battery means
that you can be so sure of experiencing light
when you turn on your flashlight that you can
also turn it off when it isn’t needed,
so knowing the true potential of inner space
or emptiness means that you can trust that everything
is fine even if you are not experiencing any
peace, joy, or love. It is still here in pure
potential. In fact, the experiences or expressions
of love and joy can never capture the infinite
potential of the source of love and joy within
us. Unlike the physical battery, which has limited
potential energy, the source of peace, love,
and joy in the emptiness of space or Being can
never be exhausted. There is always more to be
discovered, so much more that the ultimate vastness
of it can’t even be conceived, let alone
experienced. So, you can finally just relax and
know that it is here where it can never be lost
or used up. Enjoy it while it appears, and enjoy
the stillness and spaciousness that remains when
there is not a particular manifestation of Presence
or Being appearing.
it is here
in the breath
it is here
in the stillness between breaths
it is here
in the active mind
it is here
in the resting mind
it is here
in the dream's panorama
it is here
in each moment of awakening
it is here
when all is well
it is here
when fear has nothing left to fear
there is pure noticing
there is no need for doing
no frantic searching
can find the obvious
no seeking needed
to find that which seeks
it is here
where it can never be lost
'Nothing Personal', is recommended in
PDF file of Part 1 of the book
may be downloaded - follow links from
the website. The
complete book may be purchased from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.]
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