Monday, January 19, 2009

Are You Empty?

Today I visited my friend the Buddhist monk.  It is always a wonderful opportunity to talk Dharma and ask questions.  I asked about something that came up for me as I wrote yesterday 's blog ....  the fact that when I noticed a former pleasure (shopping) no longer held any interest for me  there was a sense of loss, a sense of discomfort in this recognition .... a small sense of not knowing who I was anymore.  I have noticed this in other situations as I've gone on with training, that all of a sudden I will recognize that things that formerly brought me pleasure no longer do and there is some disappointment associated with this at first.

"That is emptiness," was her comment "and we're often uncomfortable with emptiness.  We try to fill up the emptiness with activity, with busyness."  It was interesting to me too that she called this emptiness, this uncomfortable feeling of not knowing... When I think about the Buddhist term "emptiness" it seems deep and mysterious and hard to comprehend but there it was explained as a simple phenomena of daily life.  When you don't know what to do, who you are, what to be .... you are experiencing emptiness.

That conversation led me to think about busyness.  It seemed to start in the 90's, everyone running around saying "I'm so busy".  I thought it was code for "I'm so important", but really it turns out it's just us expressing our discomfort with just being .... being by ourselves, with ourselves, as if we don't know how to do this or maybe we're afraid of what we might find, that we'll see our own human frailties, vulnerability and imperfections.  I read in a Buddhist book somewhere that busyness is actually a form of laziness which was kind a strange concept at first.  ...Took a bit of wrapping to get my head around that one, and then I could see the point, that being busy relieves us from doing that deep, difficult spiritual work.  We don't have time for meditation, we're too busy.  We  don't have time to study the Dharma we're too busy.  And so to amuse myself sometimes when someone says to me "I'm too busy" in my mind I substitute "lazy" and this entertains me because it is so opposite of what they seem to be saying to me.  (Man, I have a twisted little mind sometimes)

So in this modern world, the difficult, radical thing to do, is to just be, to unplug the pod, the computer, put down the magazine, turn off the phone and just sit.  Spend some quality time with ourselves, get to know ourselves the way we would a friend or a lover, learn the lay of the land.  What do we do when we're uncomfortable and what is that thought that continually pops into our head over and over?  Maybe it needs some attention.  And maybe we can just relax and hear the birds or the delivery truck or the kids playing outside or the sound of our own heart beating.  And maybe we will find this deeply satisfying or maybe it will scare the pants off us.  We won't know unless we try.

The abstract painting above bears the words "Form is" "Emptiness Is" "Form", which is from the Heart Sutra (the heart of the matter) and can be read altogether or as separate little phrases.  And what better to go with this than an abstract painting?  Where is the form in it?

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