Mindfulness meditation on emptiness

Breathing space versus vibrant stimulation. In reality, we need both in our lives. Is one more elusive?

Cluttered mind, empty mind © Laura Eades 2013

Cluttered mind, empty mind © Laura Eades 2013

Yesterday we went to a friend’s daughter’s birthday party. Of course they’d made their apartment all clean and tidy for guests. It was such a lovely feeling – the clarity, the space around the objects. I’ve always loved and felt inspired inside other people’s tidiness.

Then I think of how I feel to go to a wonderful designy bookshop like Magma, and pore over all the delicious notebooks where every page is a wall or a sky; where every book promises a world of stimulation and that the sparks of your imagination will fly fly fly.

They are both kinds of inspiration. Both worth breathing in deeply. But I don’t create the feeling where there’s space around my thoughts and actions in my own life as easily as I fill it.

Emptiness of the stomach

My friend is doing the 5-2 diet, where you eat a very limited amount on two days of the week. She said she’d discovered she wasn’t that averse to the sensation of hunger after all, that she found ways of going along with it, having a cup of tea, or distracting herself. I know what she means because I too have occasionally accomplished (when I’ve managed to lose weight!) befriending the sensation of hunger. It’s something I aspire to, because:

  • Food tastes better when you let yourself get hungry. I’ll never forget, for example, the cheap icecream we bought from a garage after a 40-km bikeride, or the biscuits on a hike.
  • I tend to graze because I’m almost alarmed when hunger starts up, as if it’s gonna ‘get’ me. But it’s mostly the mind wanting to wander, I think. In general, I treat signs of hunger as some kind of emergency. But there’s no panic. Fortunately, in my life, there’s always been food just round the corner.

Today, when hunger comes, I’m going to try to go mindfully into the feeling, and explore what it actually is like. Is it that bad?

Emptiness of the mind

Click, click. Opened a few more windows, browsing a few more online sites, purchasing some more literature on iTunes… stimulate stimulate. But it takes clarity to concentrate. Clarity. Being clear. Clearing a space.

We are taught that the value of ourselves comes from our productivity. Having lots of really brilliant thoughts. But does it?

Here’s a lovely meditation, from the audio accompaniment to Jan Chozen Bays’s book Mindful Eating (I recommend it)  that describes visualising the mind as an empty room full of leaves blowing in that collect in the corners. On the outbreath, you imagine a very quiet leafblower that whooshes your thoughts away. Give it a go. A blow. It’s under 8 minutes long.

Today, I’m going to try to create a little clarity around the tasks I concentrate on. I’m going to relish the sense of being immersed and engaged. I might even use the Self Control app to block certain websites to help me.

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NB. I’m at week 6 of the Palouse Mindfulness Self-guided Mindful-Based Stress Reduction course. It’s free, online and you’re welcome to join me in exploring it even at this stage. I’ve been working at my own pace, with some extra reading sandwiched into it, such as the Mindful Eating book mentioned above, and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. And once or twice I’ve felt like I’ve ground to a halt. But have been very grateful for the online encouragement, both from people I know who’ve taken mindfulness into their lives already, and others around me who want to adopt it. It has helped me to keep it in mind! So please, keep up the dialogue around this topic – it’s really really helpful!

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How do you experience emptiness? Fullness? Do you tend towards a crammed schedule and cluttered space or are you at the opposite extreme, doldrumming through and needing more colour and inspiration? Do you have any tricks for cultivating each in your life? Click on the