Enlightenment is the wisdom of the empty. Empty is not what you think it is.
I’m sitting in the lounge at the Newark airport, excited about an upcoming month in the Far East and all the adventure it promises.
At the same time, I am hanging on to my old life like the proverbial monk trapped on the side of the cliff, tigers above and tigers below.
I travel annually, so it is a familiar feeling. As soon as my husband drops me off at the airport, I become the traveler. I can feel my life falling away like autumn leaves.
For me, though, change does not come without fear and it does not come without feelings of loss. Logically, I know I am not losing anything. I know I am journeying to fill myself, but at the beginning I must face emptiness before I am born anew.
Back to the monk.
A wandering monk finds himself chased by a tiger. He runs until he is pursued to the edge of a cliff. The monk jumps in order to escape the clutches of the hungry carnivore. He tumbles down the rocky slope but is saved by a vine growing out of the mountain’s side.
The monk, hanging in terror, looks up and sees the tiger waiting. He looks down and sees another tiger below. The monk returns his gaze to the vine and sees two mice gnawing at his lifeline, one white and one black. In desperation, he raises his eyes to God and asks for help.
He hears nothing, but notices a strawberry growing on the vine. It is bright and red and plump. The monk reaches out, plucks the strawberry and eats it. How sweet it is!
Guidance comes in many forms. It may come in the form of a tiger chasing us off the edge of a cliff; it may come in the form of two mice, one black and one white; it may come in the form of a strawberry—don’t miss it. Below are a few tips for accepting guidance more easily:
1. Emptiness is not what you think it is. Jump off the proverbial cliff! Here is where pure awareness abides.
Science has proved dark matter has form. Black holes turned out to be full. There is nothing that is truly empty.
Emptiness is sublime. Though it is a void, it is transparent and vivid. See if you can find a way to allow some emptiness into your life. Reflecting on a fear or a recent loss can bring you to a place that feels like the edge of a cliff. Instead of pushing those feelings away, find a safe way to experience them for a moment or two.
2. Identify your vine.
Your vine is as unique as you are. It is as unique as your current circumstance. The vine might be deep concentration or rigorous yoga practice. It might be complete relaxation, love or service. Identify your vine with kindness and compassion.
3. Name the tigers above and below.
My tigers are often called “abandonment” or “not good enough.” I often find that when I name them, they become less ferocious. They seem to be satisfied by my acknowledgement. Does this work for you?
4. Notice the mice.
The mice represent the light and the dark, the two sides eating away at your lifeline. For example, during my travels, my lifeline might be connection to my friends through texting, and the mice might be my dying battery and lack of signal in the airport. The mice might be my decision not to log on.
5. Eat the strawberry.
In the silence that follows, I experience emptiness. It is not really scary. I find I am not alone. I find I am good enough and that I am love. Nothing can be seen, yet seen are all things. I reach the pure land without arrival. How sweet it is.
“Out of many thousands of men, hardly one endeavors for the perfection of self-realization, and of those who endeavor, hardly one has achieved the perfection of self-realization, and of those, hardly one knows Me in truth.”
~ Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 7, verse 3
Kim Manfredi began studying yoga and meditation in 1988 to facilitate healing from a severe fall that resulted in four broken vertebrae. Although she had limited mobility in her spine and permanent damage to her right leg, the benefits of yoga were apparent to her even during her first class. She and her husband, Chris Blades, own Charm City Yoga Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The studio boasts six locations, 12,000 student visits per month and has won Best Yoga for 12 years running. Kim runs the 200 and 500-hour teacher trainings and offers her own public classes and nutrition courses. She is dedicated to remaining a student as she dedicates her life to helping others. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook, and visit the Charm City Yoga page too.
Editor: Jayleigh Lewis
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