This might seem like a strange way to begin my first blog for this New Year, but empty for me is an awesome space to be at in my life. I am not talking about the stressful kind of empty like when you run out of gas on the highway because you did not realize your gas tank was empty. Nor am I talking about that space when you may feel like you are running on empty because you have no energy left in your life. Nor am I talking about how you feel like your life is empty of love, life, and meaning, although that too would be a great focus for a reflection. Rather, I am talking about this state of happiness and bliss, which comes when one is empty, and in need of nothing.
There is a story about the Dalai Lama who when asked what he wanted for his birthday, said nothing. On his birthday, he was given a beautifully wrapped box. When he opened it up, he exclaimed just what I wanted. Nothing! This beautifully wrapped box was empty and those who loved and knew him had given him exactly what he wanted – nothing. Every time I hear this story, it reminds me of a Buddhist monk I once read about whose meditational mantra was “empty, empty, happy, happy.” This is how I begin my meditation every morning.
I have learned that this state of emptiness is a blessing. It comes when I am able to detach myself from all that which is not in my control or that challenges or troubles me. As I empty myself, I am ridding myself of all the illusions and expectations I have created which create stress and negative energy in my life. I am emptying myself of all things, which cause me suffering and filling myself with all that brings me joy. “Empty, empty, happy, happy.”
Just as one does not run out of gas in a few miles, neither can one detach and empty one’s self in a few days. It is a journey and a process of detaching from all things that do not allow you to align yourself with your purpose and calling in life. It is a process of detaching from expectations of yourself or others. It is a process of detaching and emptying one’s self of relationships, which create stress, trauma, and drama in one’s life. It is a process of emptying one’s self from all that which is self-absorbing and filling ourselves with love and compassion.
So much of our suffering comes from our struggle to hold on to things, which are impermanent. A few months ago, while reading The Buddha Walks into the Bar, I was reminded that nothing is permanent; everything is impermanent. Things do not last forever, nor do feelings. I can experience a feeling of anger at some act of injustice, but it is not a permanent state of being.
To be empty means harboring neither hate nor desire and being happy with who you are and where you are. This year, my wish is that each of us becomes emptier and happier and may our next birthday box be filled with everything we need – nothing