is empty the new full?: meditation on nothing

I seem to have all but mastered the art of empty

…which, of course, invites a powerful lesson around the fulsome harvest that can be found therein.

You may or may not want to try this at home. The Western human desire to quench every thirst, satisfy every appetite, fill up each and every drawer and cabinet, and somehow develop every square inch or foot of vacant space, is undeniably powerful.

We are programmed and prodded to acquire and reacquire. To gain vast amounts of information and insight, and then to cram our already-overfull brains with yet more. We gobble up sensory input and entertainment and other people’s conversations and static-filled energy, like caffeinated hens in a barnyard.

Then comes the paradox. You feel stuffed yet drained. “How can my life be so empty when my appointment book is so full?” you cry. Either way, you are lethargic, heavy of heart, rent of vitality, passion or purpose. Experiencing the void invariably propels most people into a frenzied search for something – anything – that will relieve the sting of emptiness. “Ouch,” you yap. “Where’s my pillow?

What if, instead, empty was seen as a desirable waystation? What if you could view empty as just another grayscale along the spectrum of full? Or, better yet, what if empty was full – and you’ve been looking at everything upside down, inside out, and back-ass-wards?

When you are without, you have no choice but to go within.

When you are stripped of the opportunity to taste-test 27 different options in every situation, life is simpler. When there are no voices available save your own or that of whatever or whoever you feel speaks to you in a comforting and direct manner in your quietest moments, listening becomes a gift instead of a Herculean attempt to beat back endless waves of incoming chatter.

Mark my words: You can choose empty, or empty will undoubtedly (and somewhat mercilessly, some might say) choose you. In my experience, the former far outshines the latter. Ruminate on this for a while: the choice of whether to swallow or not, is all yours.

1. When your refrigerator is empty, you will make conscious choices about what to eat, rather than reaching reflexively for whatever slumbers at arm level. When your choice comes down to potatoes or carrots or bread, the agonizing question of DingDongs or Doritos becomes suddenly moot.

2. When your bank account is empty, no restraint is needed to stave your compulsive shopping habits. No need to fret endlessly over whether to dip into your stowaway VISA: You haven’t got one, so there’s nothing to worry about. Take your newly freed-up energy and go for a walk in the moonlight instead.

3. What if you didn’t have 73 DVDs, 129 books, 67 CDs, 11 magazines, and untold projects in various states of non-completion to prop you up in a moment of boredom? What if you allowed yourself to freefall into the deep chasm at the edge of the uncharted land of no-external-entertainment? How you might luxuriate in the emptiness!

4. When you have no vehicle or no money for gas, and you’re too far from the bus to walk, you can receive the exquisite invitation to remain exactly where you are. Gadzooks! Might you discover that you are, in fact, an intriguing companion worth spending time alone with?

This is no survivalist claptrap. This is no wistful yearning to hole up in front a woodburning stove surrounded by nothing but stacks of tattered back issues of Mother Earth News.

At any time, empty “…comes on little cat’s feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. “(thank you, Carl Sandburg)

When you meet up with empty, embrace it fully. Dive into empty. Fill up your lungs with empty. Empty comes laden with gifts aplenty. Let yourself be surprised by the fullness of empty.

Confession: I have a penchant for empty. More here.

2 thoughts

  1. ‘You can choose empty or empty will choose you.’

    ‘You can receive the exquisite invitation to remain exactly where you are.’

    ‘Listening becomes a gift.’

    These are wise and difficult words. The CS quote is great, that’s how cats always make me feel. Inspiring stuff. And what was it Pascal said about all human misery stemming from the inability to sit still in one’s room? :-)

    -Notes from a room

    PS thanks so much for your kind comment.


  2. When I think about Empty, I think about wide-open spaces just waiting for Adventure to move in. Doesn’t Empty invite Creativity? It must. Whether Empty translates to Starvation or Possibility is just a matter of perspective.

    I have another name for Empty. It’s Freedom. My personal favorite.


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