A little under two years ago I underwent a journey of change but when I reflect and try and recall the moment it began it becomes almost impossible to locate. How about you? Can you recall a major life changing moment in your life? Can you truly pinpoint the day/moment? Think about it for a second, can that idea that brought about change really stand independent and be pinned down? When I really start to examine and look for that moment closely it begins to become unstable and shifts further into the past and every other direction. I think, “Oh, actually this happened first.” I then quickly realize it was preceded by an early event, and I am going to speculate that if you look hard it will become increasingly difficult to pin down your moment.
So what is emptiness anyway? You may vaguely recall hearing it tossed around in old kung-fu movies, or maybe you heard the term no self. Emptiness is lacking an intrinsic independent self, or in other words no “I” can be located, no self. If you think think there is an independent self I will ask you to locate it. Where is it? Where is this “I” that we so often speak of? Point to it. Your brain? What region in your brain does it reside? Can your brain operate completely independent? Is it your whole body then? Can you live completely independent (in a space of nothingness)? What about aspects that allow you to live, like air? So maybe this “I” is the air, but Co2 is converted to O2 by our trees, which live because the soil, water, sun and a wide variety of other ecological and biological factors, and on it goes.
If you sit down and ponder emptiness for a moment it really is easy to see and understand intellectually. What begins to emerge is a vast interdependence. Seeing that you cannot live independently; seeing zero degrees of separation between us and everything else; seeing that “I” becomes blurred; seeing that there really is no self and when you try and locate it (the self) it shifts upon examination.
All our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and our very being are not really ours if you look at it through the lens emptiness. Our feelings belong to our ancestors that have been passed down through the generations. The feelings and emotions we carry are their feelings and emotions; we carry their torch. Our thoughts and ideas are formulated by tens of thousands of factors, some internal but most are external factors. Just ponder that for a moment… Again, this is very easy to see and understand intellectually but merely knowing this for a moment here and there will not really change anything. What will alter your life and create change is practice seeing permanently through this paradigm. I enjoy seeing life this way as I know I am not simply believing something that may or may not be true. I can validate this paradigm with direct personal experience. As you begin practicing and begin see the world through this lens more and more you will have more love, compassion, understanding, empathy, feelings of well being, connectedness, be slower to anger, and a variety of other wholesome attributes arise naturally (don’t expect permanent changes overnight).
A couple of ways to start practicing.
- Start every morning out with 5 minutes of analytical meditation (purposeful concentration)
- While driving contemplate on the roads while driving: think about absolutely everything that is involved in making the roads: city planning, engineering (blacktop and cement are inventions too), man hours to make and maintain the roads.
- Contemplate while eating about the entire process of having this food in your house: from seed to home.
- Walk in nature and contemplate on your breath and everything involved with providing you oxygen: trees, soil, bug, insects, water, sun, seeds, storms, and so on.
- Have a mindfulness bell chime , every hour, half-hour, or less. Upon the chime contemplate on emptiness.