Over the last week, I have received three different messages from three different people—yoga practitioners and spiritual disciples all—detailing the exact same worry: after years of practice and spiritual searching, they have all come to a point that could be described as “Emptiness.”
While the details of each message were different, the overall experience was the same: all three had come to a place in their practice and lives where they were no longer able to see the meaning and the value.
Sensing this tendency is probably in the air, I decided to share my thoughts publicly so that anyone else experiencing this might also be able to read them and maybe find solace.
This is a big shout-out to all of you shaking on the waves of empty waters.
I feel you. I get it. I’ve been there.
But hear me—this is not the end. This is not negative. On the contrary, this is finally a great start that you have come to. If you are esoteric, you might call it “A first Initiation.” If you are Christian, “A dark night of the Soul.” Or, if Buddhist, “A first shield.” Every spiritual tradition has a name for this phase because it is a needed and necessary step on the path.
Whatever you choose to call it, have in mind just one thing: this is only a transitional passage, in no way “the End of it all.” Every single soul on the path of spiritual growth has either already crossed this passage or inevitably will. Some will feel it as lighter, others as heavier.
But it’s always there.
This “Emptiness” happens when all the artificial meanings and values that were not ours to start with—but were placed on us (or picked up by us) from society—have fallen away, but new ones have not yet been formed to take their place. When this happens, when we no longer have any social reference points to follow, fake authorities to guide us, or false desires to motivate us, we start to get lost.
Everything around looks the same…or maybe even meaningless.
It can be easy to get dismayed with the feeling that you have come to an end, that this is a final conclusion to the chapter called Life, that this is the limit. Or, conversely, some rare and highly ego-floated individuals might, after reading a lot of Advaita, perceive emptiness and disorientation as a confirmation sign that they have ”arrived” and feel as though they have achieved Enlightenment in this phase, thinking, “I’ve reach the top. I know now that there’s no meaning to this material Life, that all is the same, that it all doesn’t matter, it’s all illusion, all the attachments no matter to what degree are totally unreal.”
Forget this New Age crap, people. This is merely an illusion of not being in illusion any longer.
This note is addressed to those who have reached the point of “Emptiness” and now feel bad or desperate—for those who struggle with all the symptoms of what modern psychologists would call “depression.” You are the ones I want to encourage. I want to say to you that this is not a negative phase. Nothing is “wrong” with you or with this “cold, empty, lonely World.”
It is understandable you would feel this way, though.
When all the orienters are taken away, how do you find true North or know if it even exists at all?
How do you find meaning when you can no longer see it?
It can be exhausting to drown in the ocean of emptiness without borders and lights to follow. It can seem like there’s no other direction except to simply sink down. My heart breaks knowing you’re wasting this precious life’s time being stuck at that place, not knowing what to make out of it, or even thinking of ending your “meaningless” life, which would be so, so very wrong.
You have arrived here for a wonderful reason. You have arrived here because you followed a plan—your Plan. And while this may sound like too much for you at the moment, know that this is exactly—exactly—the place you’ve been planning to reach ever since you stepped onto the Path of self-awareness. I can only congratulate you on this. You did it.
The Emptiness that you are experiencing is not the finishing point of your destination. It is not your enemy, wanting to show you how meaningless your life is or even take this life away from you. You have arrived at a step in the journey that needs to be passed by, conquered, transcended—call it what you prefer. This space simply hasn’t yet revealed its meaning to you, or perhaps you are not able to perceive the meaning at this very moment. But trust me, you will.
There is just one act needed from you right now, and that is only to open just a bit wider your eyes that are now narrowed from fear.
It is fear that keeps you from seeing this space for what it truly is.
Whether or not you can feel it yet, this space is not Emptiness. You are in an abundant place, full of meaning and potential. It is not nothingness but a “no-thing-ness,” a place where things have not yet revealed their forms and are not yet materialized. No-thing-ness is a potential Everythingness, laying dormant in its full potential, just awaiting a call to Life.
There is great meaning, but this meaning is hidden from the systematizing, structurizing, labeling Ego-mind that we use to live in the world of familiar concepts and fundamental ideas, a world of the “known.” In this new place, “unknown” is the only religion, and that can feel frightening and empty. But this is a Womb of Existence where Life germinates and where everything exists, already formed, waiting to come to you when you call it out by your Conscious Will.
If you’ve reached this state, congratulate yourself!
You have returned to the beginning, to your clear Self, where you are now free from all that has been imprinted into you throughout your life. For the first time, you are facing a blank canvas of what would be your main and most important distinguish, with a wide-open heart that doesn’t shrink under the weight of artificially-created, illusional burdens, with a wide-open mind that is already capable of making conscious decisions and being responsible for their outcome.
You are now free to paint not what you’ve been taught by the teachers of your “life school” in order for you to learn the process of painting itself, but whatever you consciously choose.
And you can start making choices with this very first and necessary one:
Choose to see this place you are currently experiencing as an opportunity.
Instead of being dismayed by what seems to be the absence of meaning, accept that you are not yet able to see the meaning that exists there…and then start creating anyway! These are benevolent waters—a Tarkovsky’s neutral, benevolent “Solaris”—that manifest every real thing you have inside you. So face this blank canvas of life without fear and start creating your life from scratch, from the very beginning but so much differently, with all the wisdom you already have.
You’ve been given a chance to get born for the second time. This is as scary as it is exciting.
Where you are right now, this frightening “Emptiness” that can feel bleak and meaningless, is actually exactly what you wanted when started your spiritual path: to arrive in a place where you are free.
Free to be whomever you choose to be.
Free to live the way you want to live: more fully, with a bit less falseness in you.
Free to love the way you want to love: more deeply, with a bit less egoistic attachment.
Free to enjoy as only the ones who have struggled so much that they almost died are able; the ones who lost but then found, and because of that are now capable of appreciating it truly.
So appreciate it. Appreciate the seemingly vast ocean you are currently swimming in, for you’ll soon discover it is just a puddle of rain and the land around you is rich and beautiful, the rainbow above you colorful and bright.
You are safe.
You are loved.
You are where you should be.
You are free now. So get up and go create.
Author: Nina Mel
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Helga Weber via Flickr