Void. Cloud of Unknowing.

Sister, be bare earth;
be a clean piece of paper untouched by writing,
that you may be ennobled by the pen of revelation,
so that the Gracious One may sow seed within you.

Rumi, Mahnawi V, 1963-1964, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.186.

If we worry we are not good or whole inside, we will be reluctant to stop and rest, afraid we will find a lurking emptiness, a terrible, aching void with nothing to fill it, as if it will corrode and destroy us like some horrible, insatiable monster. If we are terrified of what we will find in rest, we will refuse to look up from our work, refuse to stop moving. We quickly fill all the blanks on our calendar with tasks, accomplishments, errands, things to be done anything to fill the time, the empty space.

But this emptiness has nothing at all to do with our value or our worth. All life has emptiness at its core; it is the quiet hollow reed through which the wind of God blows and makes the music that is our life. Without that emptiness, we are clogged and unable to give birth to music, love, or kindness. All creation springs from emptiness: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void (...).

Emptiness is the pregnant void out of which all creation springs. But many of us fear emptiness. When we first glimpse emptiness, we taste the death in it. It feels like an abyss, a sheer drop into eternity, a dangerous negation of all that is alive, visible, safe, and good. We prefer to remain in the realm of form, surrounded by things we can see and touch, things we
imagine are subject to our control.

I stumbled on emptiness one winter in Massachusetts. I was a visitor at a three-month silent meditation retreat at the Insight Meditation Society, a Buddhist retreat center in Barre. ... One afternoon, completely unbidden, came emptiness. I felt a spaciousness beyond measure. For no reason I could fathom I felt how all things dissolve into nothingness, and arise again? people, buildings, the blanket covering my legs, thoughts, feelings, passion, ideas, my body, my loved ones, the earth itself all simply forms that would, in their time, inevitably dissolve again into emptiness. The terror of the void was not there; I felt more liberated than frightened. (...).

Kabbalists call this place the most intuitive and intimate relationship with God ... that place that is both full of God and completely empty because at that level there is no "thing" for God to be. There is only quiet, spaciousness, being. As the poet Paul Valery said, "God made everything out of nothing, but the nothing shows through." (...).

Our unspoken fears and sadnesses speed up our lives. We are terrified of the painful grief that is hot to touch, sharp and piercing, so we keep moving, faster and faster, so will not feel how sad we are, how much we have lost in this life: strength, youthful playfulness, so many friends and lovers, dreams that did not come true, all that have passed away. When we stop even for a moment, we can feel the burning, empty hole in our belly. So we keep moving, afraid the empty fire of loss will consume us. (...).

While our speed may keep us safe, it also keeps us malnourished. It prevents us from tasting those things that would truly make us safe. Prayer, touch, kindness, fragrance?all those things that live in rest, and not in speed. .... In the stillness there are forces and voices and hands and nourishment that arise, that take our breath away, but we can never know this, know this, until we rest. This is what Jesus talks about when he speaks of the Kingdom of God. It is the Promised Land of the Hebrews, flowing with milk and honey. It is the Pure Land of the Buddha, what all the saints talk about, this place of safety and serenity, available and prepared for us, if we will only stop, and rest. Wayne Muller, Sabbath. PP. 50-53. Submitted to Merton-L Discussion Group by Norman King.

The stoppered jar, though in rough water,
floated because of its empty heart.
When the wind of poverty is in anyone,
she floats in peace on the waters of this world.

Rumi, Mahnawi I, 987-988, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.186.

(...) to what does enlightened mind awake? Buddhist scriptures most often say that it awakens to emptiness (in Sanskrit, shunyata). This doesn't mean that the mind enters into some sort of existential void. After all, that would be a thing unto itself, if only "nothingness." Instead, the mind comes face to face with the unconditioned, the unknowable, the impalpable, the nonexistent, the nonapparent, the undifferentiated, or, for want of a better word, emptiness. Rather than being limited to grasping some thing, the mind opens up to experience total freedom. Jack Maguire. (2001). Essential Buddhism. P.78.

Last updated: 2003/12/09

See the related subjects: Alertness, ContemplationHumbleness, Meditation, Mind, Mystery, Purity, Renunciation, Stillness, Transcendence.