Renewed Practice of Emptiness

Considering the idea of “emptiness” during my meditation time. The most enlightening explanation of how to meditate was when I heard that we were not clearing our minds of thought, we were simply staying focused on one activity and letting thoughts go for the time being. That’s when I first began a serious practice of sitting in mediation each morning.

Over the past few years, I slowed and then stopped that practice. I felt like I didn’t have time and maybe that it was a waste anyway. And now here I am unable to step between the trigger and response again. This book is reminding me to return to the practice.

Notes on emptiness and meditation.

Side note: I wonder if you could track your moods and reactions to things by tracking your penmanship? The top part of this picture is from the day before yesterday. The bottom part is from today. It’s like two different people writing. And I feel like two different people most days, sometimes three.

A few days ago, my energy was flowing outward, searching for connections and input. Today, it ebbs, seeking peace and solitude. I need time to process and recharge.

From “Returning to Silence” by Dainin Katagiri,

“After careful consideration, just do it! Next, forget it! All you have to do is return to emptiness, which is pure activity.”

Thinking on the idea of emptiness as pure activity. I never would have put it that way, but that’s what we are practicing when sitting in meditation. We are not “emptying” our minds, we’re simply sitting.

We made the plan to sit for so much time, we’ve created the environment, and now…we sit and let everything else go for a moment.

Interruptions come. A dog barks, a siren blares, a housemate is doing something in the kitchen. Those things are not sitting, I let them go.

A thought comes to my mind. Hello, thought, we’ll talk later.
A feeling stirs in my heart. Hello, heart, take a rest.

It can be the same with going for a walk, doing the laundry, or washing the dishes. Nothing else matters at the moment. I am not hyper-focused on my activity, just deliberate about what I’m doing and only doing that activity, not planning ahead, judging the activity, or reacting to outside stimuli. It is a rest.

I just did it while I was writing this. I made the plan to spend this half hour writing these thoughts, but the phone is there beside me. “Oh, yes, I should remind him that today is my day off.” Text. Set it down. Write again. “Buzz. Buzz.” My train of thought is interrupted, and I pick up the phone to see the response, smile and set it down again.

That is not emptiness, not pure activity. I am not only writing, but I’m also thinking about the people on the other end of the phone, the chores I think I’ll get to later, and whether or not it will be too warm to be outside tomorrow.

Emptiness will be my practice this week: set aside blocks of time to do only one thing and let all else go. Start with quieting my phone. Cliché, I know, but being alone here so much, I tend to use the phone as my lifeline. I keep letting it interrupt my moment. For now, I will set it to silent and leave it on my desk. I’ll have a note on it to remind me. My friends and family love me and will not stop loving me if I don’t answer immediately to every inquiry.

Read more about the book in my first post about it, “New Read: Returning to Silence.”

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