Empty is the New Full
By Isha Judd
A Japanese Zen master once received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is long and complex, and the scientist became increasingly impatient as the master went calmly through the fifty-four steps of the ceremony. When the tea was ready, he began to fill his visitor’s cup. When the cup was full, he continued to pour. The tea began to overflow, and the professor could restrain himself no longer. “It’s already full. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and ideas. How can I teach you if you have not first emptied your cup?”
In the modern world, we have been taught that by accumulating things—ideas, possessions, knowledge, experience—we will find completion, but in reality, true, vibrant living comes from being empty.
By cramming as much as possible into our every waking moment, filling our senses with an endless barrage of stimulation and distraction, we bury the greatest treasure in existence: our self. Deep down, beneath all the ideas, preferences, opinions, fears, and memories, is your true, eternal being—that which I call love-consciousness. It has always been there and always will be. It is who we are at the most fundamental level, yet we have lost sight of it, hidden it from view behind the “stuff” we prize so much. Only by emptying ourselves can we rediscover this most precious of treasures. Emptiness is full of what we deeply want and need.
We cling to the structures that are familiar to us because we think they define who we are. Even if they make us miserable, the alternative seems much less desirable: our fear of change is ultimately the fear of losing our identity—without our belief systems, political affiliations, preferences, and indeed, our very personalities, who would we be? These ideas about the world and our place in it give us a sense of control; we know where we stand, and we know how to position ourselves in relation to everything and everyone else. But has this illusion of control brought us happiness so far? For the overwhelming majority of us in the modern Western world, the answer is no.
And so, if we wish to find a new vision for life, we must be willing to let go of our old opinions and ideas. Rather than clinging to them—remaining rigid, stagnant, and resistant to change—we must be open to receive. We must be willing to evolve. Evolution is the nature of love-consciousness. And what drives evolution? Change. Without change, there is no growth, no life. Rigidity—the lack of, or resistance to, change—is death. Life must adapt to survive: if we wish to move forward we must be willing to transform, to leave the old behind.
Throughout history, greatness has come from shaking out old opinions. Jesus broke with tradition, as did Buddha. As we evolve, opinions and judgments that we once accepted unquestioningly come to feel antiquated and irrelevant. It’s time to empty ourselves of that which we cling to—to relinquish the ideas and opinions that have filled our awareness.
How freeing it is to be empty. To not have opinions, ideas, boundaries, or resistance. To say yes to the universe, to say yes to all of creation from a place of joy. It comes from embracing life without interfering; from sweet surrender to what is; from falling in love with our present reality. This is the true love affair—the love of an individual for life itself, for oneself, for the joy of being.
Emptiness comes from destroying all the chatter—the ideas, opinions, judgments, and concepts that fight for the forefront of our attention. This white noise, this static buzz is what keeps us distracted, blinded, and unaware of our true nature, of the glory and beauty of the self. Sitting in self is where the wonderment comes. Being—without anything else, just pure being—is where satisfaction arises. In that emptiness we discover the elusive and achieve all that we have been fighting for, controlling, taking, and complaining about in the effort to make it, to be somebody, to rise above. It has been there all along, waiting for us to throw up our hands in exasperation and finally stop seeking completion outside ourselves.
When we find that inner state, the joy of love-consciousness begins to pervade our every moment, our every action. We become artists, creators, giving our own unique expression to the world. We are not trying to take; we are not focused on how we can benefit. We are giving, adding our own flavor to the mix. Within that sharing of self, we begin to find joy and fulfilment.
Beacons to light your way
As we walk the path toward emptiness, we can prepare ourselves by cultivating certain mind-sets and releasing others that hinder us. The guidelines that follow will set the foundation for a life in love-consciousness. Whenever you find yourself confused or full of doubts, you can return to these guidelines to re-ground yourself in receptivity.
Focus on joy
The first thing we need to do is to start focusing on joy—on the beauty, innocence, praise, love, and gratitude inherent in every moment. Isn’t it time we had a bit more of that?
How does joy look? This is the wonderful thing about joy: it has no fixed format. Its form is an empty vibration. Joy is like a mountain spring: its effervescence bubbles, teeming eternally from the depths. Its constant spontaneity nurtures and refreshes, flows and replenishes.
Joy doesn’t look for what is wrong. It doesn’t criticize the external, seeking a culprit for its trials and predicaments. If it did, its waters would soon become stagnant, discolored, and lifeless. Joy is open to love, and to being that love. It doesn’t have a preconceived idea of how love should be, and to whom it should be given.
Rather than waiting for external fulfilment—for pleasure, for the next best thing to consume, or a new game to play—instead, become that joy. Then, move out into the world to share it with humanity.
Let go of the need to be right
When we become attached to our point of view, it can become more important to us than anything else. As a result, we feel an urgent need to be right, which often requires proving the other wrong, thereby generating conflict. Whenever we feel this need to prove a point, we lose touch with the joy of this moment.
“I don’t know” is one of the most powerful expressions on the journey of inner growth. When you realize that you don’t know something, you are open to receive.
Observe yourself. Where have your opinions become more important than peace, than harmony? Ask yourself, Am I fighting for my ideas, or am I open to seeing a new perspective, to evolving beyond my current understanding? I am suggesting, not that we abandon our ideals, but that we keep sight of what is truly important: to come always from a place of love.
Lighten up and be playful
One of the saddest things about modern society is that we all take things far too seriously. We feel impelled to conform to that which we “should” be, that which we think the world expects from us. We think, Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t speak without being asked. Don’t be immature. Don’t say what’s really on my mind—what will they think? Self-control and self-criticism have become our way of life, and they drain us of our playfulness and capacity for free self-expression.
We must relearn how to flow from our hearts—to let ourselves look silly, to dance freely, to stop and remind ourselves that life is about laughter and light-hearted joy. Try it. You just might like it.
Listen to the voice of your heart
The human intellect has many benefits: it has birthed myriad discoveries, conveniences, and inventions that continue to improve the world we live in. Yet, for all its marvellous complexity, it is bound by the constraints of duality. Positive and negative, predator and prey, drought and flood—these opposites form the tenets that the intellect is ruled by. If we wish to experience emptiness, we must go beyond the realm of the intellect. We must get out of the known, and into the void.
There is a knowing that is beyond the mind. Unlike intellectual understanding, which always sees two sides of an argument, this voice never doubts. It trusts itself implicitly, and speaks with absolute clarity. When it comes, it will come without warning; suddenly you will find yourself speaking without even understanding why. Yet you will hear the truth in your words. You will feel it. Listen. It’s there, lying within. You’ll hear it. It speaks from omniscience, with the energy of unconditional love.
When you watch a movie, do you wonder how the image got onto your television screen—which satellite is reflecting it, how the millions of individual pixels combine to create all the different colors? No—that would make the movie really boring! Then, why is it we cannot watch life in the same way, innocently embracing the wonderment and mystery, the unexpected chapter waiting around the corner? Why are we always analyzing and dissecting? Analysis mires us in density and complexity, whereas love-consciousness is quite the opposite: it is simple, light, and joyful. It opens us up to change, while analysis creates greater rigidity and inertia.
Try just witnessing your life, instead of obsessing over the whys. What if there is no why? What if it just is, and all you have to do is simply be? If you try too hard to understand, you will only end up more confused! Instead, try being lighter, more innocent. You will start to understand things from a deeper space, beyond the doubts and uncertainties that inevitably accompany the reasoning of the intellect.
Embrace the journey
Imagine you are at the feet of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Andes. Aconcagua means “sentinel of stone” in the native Quechua language, and the mountain stands as a beautiful example of conquering the fears of the mind. To rise to the peak of the mountain, you must rise above your fears and focus on appreciation and joy. Then you will be able to witness the world from a transcendent vantage point, in exuberant celebration of the beauty laid out before you.
Yet in order to reach the pinnacle, you must take the journey one step at a time. If you’re obsessed with getting to the summit, you will trudge along solemnly toward your future goal without noticing the beauty all around you or the flowers at your feet. Yet, each step is the journey: the love, the joy, the abundance that we’re experiencing here, now.
As you journey through life, focus on the joy around you all the time; and you will find that you have already reached your destination.
Isha Judd: Born in Melbourne, Isha Judd has become renowned as a spiritual teacher throughout Latin America, where she is considered an Ambassador for Peace. The work of her international foundation, Isha Educating for Peace, has brought her teaching to thousands, including high security prisoners and communities shaken by natural disasters.
This article was adapted from her latest book, Love Has Wings: Free Yourself from Limiting Beliefs and Fall in Love with Life. For more information, visit www.whywalkwhenyoucanfly.com
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