Over the years, I’ve had some thoughts on emptiness. A while back, I saw my daughter off at the airport, to catch a plane to who knows where. She wasn’t a baby, though she is my youngest and I say “who knows where” because she was spending a year away studying and she was right on the bridge between young adult and the rest of her life. It’s a time of changing directions, shifting friendships, growing new opinions and options; a time of choice. And that is as it should be. And I was left with an empty nest (I wasn’t counting the cat, who has subsequently and sadly passed on.)
To the Western mind, emptiness feels negative, lonely and drained of substance. It is associated with boredom and apathy. But is it always the case? While I felt the spaces my daughter used to fill and noticing her absence, I can’t say I’m feeling empty, although the house is a little emptier. Yet the expression “Empty Nest Syndrome” which probably grew out of the experience of the 1950’s and 1960’s mothers who gave their whole lives to their children and had extremely strong maternal bonds, and suddenly had a feeling of losing their purpose when their children moved out.
Even so, it is very real today and there are plenty of women who still feel this emptiness. As a Soul Coach® I look at emptiness differently. I look at it as uncluttered space and as breathing room. Within emptiness is stillness to hear what your soul wants you to know about yourself. A woman wrote to me, inquiring about a talk I’ll be giving on this topic. She wrote, “I think my soul is so cluttered I doubt it is even there!!!!” Her soul is not gone, just covered over.
The Buddhists have a lot to say about emptiness. To the Eastern way of thinking, emptiness is a goal to be attained, not something negative. It is through a peaceful emptiness that we can see clearly and liberate ourselves from the suffering that is inherent to the human condition. I think we can learn a lot from this attitude. How often do we rush to fill silences that feel awkward when we are with other people? We fill up empty spaces on walls. We arrange our stuff, so our counters or shelves don’t “feel” empty. We leave the radio on, even when we’re not listening so we don’t feel the sounds of silence.
If you would like to shift your relationship with emptiness, you might try some “quiet time” to learn to be comfortable with and within yourself.
- Don’t leave the radio or TV on unless you are really listening to it.
- Consider a media “fast” of a few hours or a few days. Try it for a week. The world will manage without you for a little while.
- Spend some time each day in silence, even if it’s just five minutes of quiet.
- Try listening for the voice of your soul and write down whatever pops into your head. You may be surprised what you learn about yourself.
- Practice meditation. Simply follow your breath as you deeply breathe in and out. When your mind wanders or begins to lecture you on how ridiculous an exercise this is, just gently pull your awareness back to your breath. Breathing in. Breathing out.
- Write down your dreams. When the voice of our soul is drowned out by the clutter of thoughts, truth will find its way to your dreams. Then find a trusted friend who will hold your dreams as sacred and share the dream. If there is no one you can trust to hear your dreams with respect, then find a dream group. There are many groups in cities everywhere.
Well, that daughter returned to fill our empty nest and now she is preparing to leave, this time for good. (Although as Baby Booming Parents, we are certainly aware of the Revolving Door Syndrome!) I find I’m looking forward to more emptiness. When we can embrace the emptiness, whether emptiness of nest or self, we then paradoxically don’t feel empty in our lives and we’ve made room for our soul.