Emptiness

What comes next? If we wait in the darkness, if we succeed in opening our heart to awareness of the present moment, we may discover within us certain empty feelings, a kind of spiritual hunger. That does not mean we have failed in our search. Rather, it means we have found the next step. An experience of yearning may feel like a hole deep in our being. Hole in RocksWe may be tempted to try to fill it quickly with some new type of ritual or escape into some other sensation. It may feel painful and lonely, like an absence of something we need. But this emptiness is itself a kind of window or doorway.

The Buddhist teacher Kinrei Bassis says:

“the deepest form of prayer is really just the willingness to be still and let the longing in your heart go out without defining or understanding where it is going. Meditation is the willingness to let go and learn to trust so that we may enter into this seeming darkness.”

The emptiness itself, if we embrace it fully, can become the doorway into the larger reality. The practice of paying attention to the present moment helps us to cultivate the capacity to remain present to our feelings. We grow more at ease with anger, fear, sadness, and longing. We are able to breathe into these feelings, rather than run away from them.

If we breathe into the longing, breathe into the emptiness, there comes a time when it may open up into an experience of communion, an experience of our connection with the earth, with each other, with the Mystery within all reality. It may feel something like dissolving into Mystery. This experience goes beyond the capacity of words to describe. We may feel deep joy, even ecstasy, an intense awareness of being one with Love. An old hymn described it as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

Sometimes, that feeling may come unexpectedly, without any spiritual practice at all. The Mystery is funny like that. It surprises us. Sometimes it comes when trouble or grief has opened a chasm in our hearts and the pain of yearning fills our being to the core. It has been in the lowest moments of my life, that I most experienced the presence of the Mystery, holding me in love and connection and carrying me through.

Quote from “The Buddha Calling the Buddha,” by Kinrei Bassis, in Parabola, Summer 2006.

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