Before you read this it may be worth reading my post on what is emptiness.
Emptiness Applies to Your Entire Inner World
If you really take emptiness as far as it can go, which I don’t believe anyone else has ever done before, the entirety of your inner perception collapses in on itself. You no longer perceive the world, you experience it.
In all spiritual traditions and religions, they have retained some sense of certain inner states and ideas being ‘wholesome’ or ‘correct’ and other states and ideas being ‘unwholesome’ or ‘unwelcome’ in some other way.
We are told to resist Mara, or the Devil, or our sexual desires or the parts of ourselves where we want to kill other people because they piss us off so much. We are taught to cultivate ‘good’ mind states.
But here’s the thing… what is perceived as good is one of the things that is most empty. And the thing about inner experience is that it’s actually not going to hurt anyone.
And if you take it all the way to the bottom, really as far as it will go, and validate everything in your experience, then the idea that anything has any fixed value or perception attached to it, completely dissolves.
If you are interested in what I might mean by this, it is worth reading my post on imaginal practice.
Please be aware that I am talking about your inner experience here and not outer behaviour. Our physical reality cannot be described as empty and our behaviour has real world implications, we should of course behave accordingly, minimising harm and maximising good.
When Emptiness Starts Arising as Richness
Once everything in your inner experience can be described as empty, i.e. it has no fixed value or perception attached to it, then things become worth what they feel they’re worth in that moment.
You can be there for your experience, without judgement, for everything.
Emptiness doesn’t mean that experience disappears completely – that would be absurd – it just becomes something that you are immersed in without an attachment of having fixed ideas about anything. You allow the world to impact you, in the way it is impacting you in that moment.
Things can still be painful and difficult and stressful. You can still hate things and be stressed and overwhelmed. You just have no fixed ideas or attachment to what this says about you or anyone else. It’s just a thing that is happening in experience.
This makes the entire realm of experience a rich and vast arena that we can explore. There are so many different ways of experiencing the world and interacting with it. It also gives us a clear compass for navigating our lives – instead of habits and conceptions driving our behaviour we are driven by how things actually feel and the impact that our actions have on people and how this makes us feel in this moment.
Emptiness is Scary
Our fixed perceptions keep us safe. When you really let go of all your fixed perceptions you end up in a world of pain and confusion while you sort through the information that your body is receiving and processing.
It’s actually incredibly dangerous to let go of all your fixed perceptions. This is why people don’t do it.
You Can’t Separate Inner and Outer Experience
Another element of this is that you can’t actually separate your inner and outer experience. So while everything that arises in your inner world can be perceived as empty – you are being literally impacted by your outer world in every moment.
They are continually in a conversation with each other, so it is confusing and difficult to validate our inner experience without getting tangled up in how that affects our outer experience.
We are also far less separate from other people’s experiences than we normally perceive. We are co-creating our experience with other people and picking up on their thoughts and emotions and experiences, too. How they both perceive us and treat us is being absorbed into our experience and affecting our experience.
Basically, you cannot underestimate the absolute clusterfuck that untangling this mess can become if you want to take it right to the bottom.
Who Gets to Decide What is Valuable?
The real conclusion to emptiness is that no-one gets to ‘decide’ what is valuable, worthwhile, meaningful, true or anything else.
Emptiness is a tool that is used to open to our lives in this way, it is not an end-point in itself.
Like I said, emptiness is an adjective not a noun. It is being used as a way to describe experience, it is not the experience in and of itself.
In the same way that everything could be described as empty – everything could just as easily be described as magical, free, rich or meaningful:
Magical: We have no ultimate scientific explanation for why we find ourselves here in this moment, in this Universe, on this planet, which is pretty magical. You can look at everything through this lens if you like.
Free: In the same way, nothing has been able to stop the unrelenting force of life exploding out into a huge creative expression. The life force that everything, including us, is made of can be perceived as inherently free and expressive.
Rich: There are so many dimensions and layers to life and the Universe that it can also be perceived as infinitely rich, impossible to take it all in.
Meaningful: There is no way to clearly delineate what is meaningful and what isn’t, so we can feel into the meaningfulness of everything and see if we can find a way of perceiving everything as having some meaning in it.
Empty: It is impossible for our minds to let go of any fixed truth or reality so that all of our ways of looking at things are actually just interpretations.
These are all just different lenses and descriptions. None of these adjectives are more or less inherently true than the others, but you can open to describing things (or everything) in each of these ways, to see how it impacts our experience.
For example, we can notice which lenses bring more joy or fulfilment into our lives.
If used skilfully and in the right environment, the lens of emptiness can buy us some freedom to express ourselves without feeling bad about what we find inside ourselves and allow us to see that life is an open book, just waiting to be experienced and explored in all its dimensions…