Deliberate Emptiness

Earlier this week a friend invited me to get together with her. For conversation, which I know with her, is usually provocative and inspiring. A part of me really wanted to do this with her. However, another part of me, this time in my belly, knew that I needed additional emptiness. Space that isn’t filled, even by good things and good people. A space for nothing.

Saying no to a good thing is a discipline that I’m still learning about. It is ever to easy to fill all available moments in time with one thing or another that is “productive.” There is an adrenaline hit in it for many of us, isn’t there. And there is praise for many of us, that is rather satisfying. I thanked my friend but told her no. I told her why. I love it that she is a person that doesn’t need justification for one’s desire for emptiness.

I shared in a previous post that one of the books I’m reading now is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I continue to enjoy the impressions I’m getting from this book. In a chapter called, “Escape: The Perks of Being Unavailable,” (which in itself is provocative, right) is this invocation: “I’m talking about deliberately setting aside distraction-free time in a distraction-free space to do absolutely nothing other than think.”

This author had me at “to do absolutely nothing.” Even without the call to think. Now, to be clear, I love time to think. That’s a gateway itself that is crucial. But, my experience is that the “absolutely nothing” part is inherently valuable in and of itself. It isn’t easy. Oh, how the mind wants to get productive even with the nothingness. Plan the day. Plan the meal. Plan who to call. Plan the visit to the neighbor. These are all good things, and, to be clear, I use silence often to notice these kinds of things showing up.

However, the “absolutely nothing” part goes one step further I believe. It restores a kind of balance. A kind of third space. A memory that changes the experiences of “absolutely doing.” An emotional and physical release, that reminds us of an essential state of being that has been trained out of most of us — whether by philosophy of life circumstance.

Arg, it’s hard to describe. I join with other mystics and spiritual devotees to try to offer a few words. They can fail so quickly. But maybe that is the point. Just as not all experiences are fit to be put into words, not all “nothingness” is meant to be put into thought.

In a way, I suppose I did meet with my friend. On the figurative couch of “nothingness” that inspired these reflections today.

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