From Silence . . . Sound
From Stillness . . . Flow
From Emptiness . . . Form
OK. Time for a pop quiz: If it were possible to remove all the “empty space” from your body, the actual physical matter that remained would fit:
A. Inside a bread box.
B. In a wine glass.
C. On the head of a pin.
D. Inside an amoeba.
Here’s a hint. Think small. Really small. No, even smaller than that. Think down to the subatomic structure of your body: Protons and Neutrons, Quarks and Gluons. When you get down to that level of matter, the relative space between the actual, physical “stuff” is so vast that if it were possible to somehow remove it all, what remains would fit comfortably on the head of a pin. In fact, quantum physicists have determined that all “physical” matter, whether a human body or a hunk of granite, is 99.9% empty space!
I don’t know about you, but I find that a bit mind boggling. That means that most of what makes up this body of mine is simply empty space. Nothing.
We’re told that water makes up more than 80% of our bodies and that we should, therefore, drink plenty of that cleansing liquid. By that same logic, the fact that we’re 99.9% empty space means that we should “drink” a lot of . . . nothing.
Lets explore the concept of nothingness a bit since it tends to get a bad rap. It’s easy to understand why: When we think of nothingness, associated thoughts of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and even death tend to arise. Not the most pleasant topics for consideration.
Getting past those negative connotations can be a bit challenging. It’s perhaps easier if we change the terminology. After all, what we’re really talking about is not nothingness, it is, more accurately, No- Thingness. It’s not that there is nothing there, it’s just that what is there cannot be grasped with our hand or even our mind. It can only be grasped by entering into a relationship with it, by going into that space of No-Thingness.
But why is it important to develop a relationship with No-Thingness? What do we get from it? How does it help us in our daily lives?
The first thing it does is help us clear our senses. Modern life is filled with stuff: Things to do, people to see, places to go. We are constantly confronted by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations as well as input to the more subtle senses of our intuitive awareness. Without taking time to connect with No- Thingness, our senses-all of them-become clogged and dull. We begin to miss important pieces of input, critical signs that would help us achieve our goals in an easy and graceful manner.
When we make a conscious effort to “retreat” from our daily routine, we give our senses a chance to cleanse and detoxify from the constant barrage of stimuli. We restore our ability to perceive important but subtle bits of information that we might have otherwise missed. It’s like rebooting your computer; all the files get closed and put back in their proper place so that when you start it up again everything is all clean and fresh. “Order shall return!”
In The Paradox of Success: A Book of Renewal for Leaders, business consultant Paul O’Neil puts it this way. “You can use solitude and introspection for greater self knowledge and vital clues to direct your future learning ventures, discover new sources of energy and creativity, find ways to rebalance your life, reset your clock and redefine what success means to you.”
Think of retreat time as a spa treatment for the soul. Connecting with No-Thingness helps you to envision your ideal life, discover the path that will lead you to it, and tap energy sources that will fuel you on your journey. Not bad for a bunch of empty space!
In order to connect with No-Thingness you must actively step out of your daily pattern and routine, remove yourself from the usual stream of sensory input and provide the No-Thingness with an opportunity to blossom into your awareness. It requires both short, daily moments of silence as well as regular, extended retreats that take you out of your normal life for hours, days, or even weeks.
Perhaps the most important and simple thing you can do to connect with No-Thingness is to take regular No-Thing breaks throughout the day. Periodically, stop and take a moment to breathe and be silent. Let yourself disconnect from the activity and stress of the day. Allow the No-Thingness to replenish you, clear your senses, and help you return to your day with renewed energy and effectiveness.
No-Thing breaks do not require any additional time. There are hundreds of built-in opportunities for them throughout the day. Here are just a few: when you are stuck in traffic or stopped at a traffic light, when you are on hold, when you are waiting for your computer to turn on or reboot, when the person you are meeting is late. In each of these instances you can choose to be frustrated, twiddle your thumbs and look for other things to pass the time, or you can use the opportunity to connect with No-Thingness.
If you wish to do more than just get by. If you wish, rather, to embody your full potential, it is absolutely imperative that you make silence and retreat a regular part of your life. The chaotic world of our modern culture makes it far too easy to forget your purpose and to neglect the things, people, and activities that have meaning for you. Connecting with No-Thingness helps you remember the deeper meaning of your life. It restores the strength you need to hold onto your truth and sense of purpose in the face of the distractions of daily life. blow all around you.