August 24, 2017

Why our Lives are so Full—But we Still Feel so Empty.

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Void (noun):

an empty space; emptiness:
something experienced as a loss or privation:
a gap or opening, as in a wall.
a vacancy; vacuum.


What has been taught by Buddhist monks for thousands of years has more recently been scientifically verified by physicists—that most of reality is characterized by space.

Even objects that seem solid, like the kitchen table or the human body, are in fact made up of dancing electrons and tiny particles.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we get glimpses of this emptiness every day. The feeling of the space of being can be referred to as “the void.” It can be an unsettling and uncomfortable feeling that drives many of us to try to fill the space with comfortable thoughts or habits.

For me, the fear of the void has shown up as a pattern of fleeing (or at least trying to flee) things before they come to completion: jobs, schools, ashrams, and a yoga training on a remote island of Nicaragua. I always try to save a bite of food in order to avoid the feeling that comes from finishing it all.

It’s made me love Mondays and loathe Sundays. The feeling can creep in after a long day at work, on the drive home after a good hang out with friends, after good yoga class, or long trail run. It’s a feeling of fullness that is still so very empty.

Most of the time, I am trying to escape the void by incessantly checking Instagram, Facebook, email, and LinkedIn. I’ll listen to podcasts, one after the other, and immerse myself in activity and habitual patterns that range from (un)productive to destructive.

Why am I so afraid to feel it?

It’s not an inherently good or bad feeling; perhaps it’s feelingless or ineffable.

The void is a space of rawness, openness, total vulnerability. With no pretense or expectation, it’s a state of pure being.

Maybe recognizing this space is the root of true love.

Allowing in and experiencing the void lets us finish what we started in faith that the next step will appear when it needs. It enables us to fully experience life without grasping for comfort or security. The void primes the present for future goodness to seep in. It provides space to process and digest.

Rather than fearing it, maybe it’s possible to face and befriend the void.

“The beginning of love is a horror of emptiness.” ~ Robert Bly

Ways to practice befriending the void:

>> Simply stand in line—without checking your phone.

>> Practice five minutes (or longer) of sitting silent meditation.

>> Walk or bike to where you are headed, taking in the sounds and sights of the places you pass.

>> Go for a run sans headphones, and listen to cars swoosh by, birds singing in the sunrise, and your breath showing up for you again and again.

>> Take three conscious breaths before answering the phone, sending an email, or responding to a text.

>> Notice the space between you and the car in front of you.

>> Start a gratitude journal.

>> Walk down a new street, visit a place you’ve never been, or explore a different trail.

>> Do a random act of kindness or donate anonymously, letting go of any expectation of an outcome or attachment to recognition.

>> Learn something new—open to possibility with a beginner’s mind.


Author: Kristen Buchan
Image: Author’s Own via Instagram
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell


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