How Can I Embrace
When I’m Not Full Yet?
Essence is emptiness.
Everything else accidental.
Emptiness brings peace to your loving.
Everything else, disease.
In this world of trickery emptiness
is what your soul wants.
Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Why do these mystics keep going on about emptiness?
Most of us feel empty
and are trying to fill it up. I gotta get more stuff, more sensations,
If I don’t, I’ll feel inadequate, lonely, at risk of getting hurt. I
want any pain, so I’m gonna do what I can to keep away from it. If I
some pleasure, I won’t feel my pain. The pleasure ends, so I’ve got to
some more. Maybe I need to get it from you. Maybe I need some of your
to make me happy. I acquire. I hide from pain. I block out reality to
the hurt away. I cling to my plan--the plan I came up with as a little
It’s true, I didn’t know much about people or relationships or the
or psychology as a child, but I’ll stick to that child’s understanding
my place in the world no matter what. It served me well then. Well, it
really serve me well, but it served as well as I could imagine in my
mind. Why change now? If I change now, I’ll have to feel the pain I’ve
avoiding all these years. I’ll have to give up my protective shell of
blind spots, and prejudices. They are precious to me. They let me feel
They keep out the hurt. Well, they don’t really keep out the hurt, but
think they should. It makes me angry that I have to feel pain. I think
must be your fault.
At some point, it may
clear to us that what we are doing isn’t working. Trying to avoid pain
hiding from life or by getting more things and more pleasure or by
up our ego isn’t going to work. Grasping at things and experiences,
attached to our image of ourselves and the world, clinging to the
quo, fleeing from our aversions; these never give us what we hope they
Instead, they are likely to foster suffering, ignorance, and a heavier
We would be better off loosening our grip. We could be less attached
to the illusions we fashion to explain this confusing universe. We
our conceptions of ourselves that paint a pretty picture, but are no
a real self than a portrait on a wall. We could stop living in the past
throwing that past into the future so that we can pretend to know how
Give it up. Take a breath and let it out slowly. Open your senses.
without judging. Be yourself. Be not your fake self, but your real
Don’t try to think about it. Don’t evaluate or criticize. Sit right
you are at this moment. Take this moment fully. Take this next moment
Take this one right now fully. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Breathe. Fully
now. This moment.
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© 2002 Tom Barrett