Notes on a Buddhist path

Filled with empty

April 23, 2012 By | 3 Comments

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door. ~ Emily Dickinson

Walking home this morning after sharing sweet tea and conversation with a friend, I was reminded again of all the things I am happy without. Besides breaking up with my pernicious cell phone, I’ve let go of the notions of owning another home or a car. Partnering with a mate doesn’t hold the taut lifeline imperative that once bound me to its cinching loveknot. Letting go doesn’t quite describe the holdings in my desire vault when I inventory its lot and place in my life. So many things and people and dreams I once polished with regularity on those shelves have vanished over time like stones surrendering to their ultimate state of dust. I don’t mourn their loss and I wonder about that.  Where did the clinging go, the connection, the thought that I somehow needed it or them or that future still unconceived? Finding the storehouse of longing clean and sparse, I marvel at all the space that has been born and all the treasures I didn’t know I had.

Surrendering into the spaciousness of life is like moving into a new home. What we loved most about it when we first walked through the door was its glorious emptiness. Yet as soon as we move in we scurry around like worker bees moving faster and faster to stuff our hive with as many sweet treats as possible only to realize our efforts will never satisfy the Queen within us all that craves more and more.

In the movie, Out of Africa, the theme of possession punctuates nearly every frame of the film. Whether it’s the precious Limoge china carted from Denmark to Kenya by yet to be writer Isak Dinesen, known then as Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep), her rifting love affairs or her Kikuyu, the native people on the land she farms, having and owning lie at the doomed core of Blixen’s endeavor to hold onto all she contends belongs to her. In one of the final scenes after her affair with Kenya succumbs to the temperaments of weather, fire and politics, she sells off her Limoge and all the other grand fixtures that defined her and her home. Sitting in the empty womb of her cavernous living room with one remaining box of books, Karen says to her lover, Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), “we should have had it like this all the time.”

I came to that same appreciation this past week around something I’m particularly fond of: food. I’ve been on a restricted diet these past six months, eliminating a litany of tasty suspects in the hopes of finding balance and joy for me and my digestive tract. Earlier this month I was tested for my sensitivity to dozens of foods, all the while dreaming of results that would vindicate my captive diet and release me into the arms of a chocolate brownie.

It was not to be. Going over the findings with Jane, my naturopath, she pointed out with as much gentle grace as possible that my dietary regime was no longer a diet; it was my way of eating. Focusing on the handfuls of red-flagged no-nos, I gave sparse attention to the platters of go-for-it healthy choices. As Jane began to point out the plethora of delectable tastes that awaited me, something shifted. It was an Alice in Wonderland moment where the foods I was to avoid morphed from being the size of giant puff pastries to bite-size muffins. The yes foods lost their haggard plainness and became sensuous beauties courting me with the passion of an ardent paramour. In allowing the purged shelves of my food bank to be seen as space for enjoyments beyond indulgence I was able to open my arms and my mind to embrace a new course in my life.

Carrying fewer entanglements and fetters creates expansive breathing room to enjoy life in its magnificent emptiness in ways we could not have imagined in our cluttered museums to stuffdom.  With space there is time to be with our ourselves and this moment watching it rise as the pearl moon emerges from the mottled shell of the horizon.

In this moment I watch the mojito green horse chestnut leaves as they flirt with the wind like virgin petticoats at a debutante ball, their towers of crimson studded white flowers swirling skyward like so many Carmen Miranda hats optimistic of the fruits still to come.

Emptiness never felt so good.

The Absolute works with nothing.
The workshop, the materials
are what does not exist.

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.

“The Absolute works with nothing” by Rumi from The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

Image credit: Empty House Under the  Big Sky by jeffk. Some rights reserved.


  1. greetingsfromcoupeville says

    What a beautiful way to start my morning. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  1. […] written before about the horse chestnut tree that grows outside my window. Its leaves and flowers, its strong wide trunk and smooth weathered […]

  2. […] written before about the horse chestnut tree that grows outside my window. Its leaves and flowers, its strong wide trunk and smooth weathered […]

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