'The Usefulness of a Pot'

Unless you're either still emo or a superbeing, emptiness does not feel good.   In an oh-so-ironic twist, however, feeling empty can actually be a surprisingly fulfilling experience.  

In fact, if you're feeling empty it just might be the best thing ever. Emptiness is a hard thing to feel because it feels like...

what's that word again?  Oh yea,

nothing.

Feeling empty can be so anti-climactic, so dull, so silent – a place devoid of even the smallest motion.  We are so (understandably) averse to feeling empty that we'll do almost anything to fill ourselves up, even if we know it's hurting us.  Avoiding the feeling of emptiness is part of the reason so many people overeat, for example.  "Comfort food" is not food that makes you feel energetic or lighter or cleansed, it's food that makes you feel full.

We long to feel full, not empty.

What’s not said enough is that feeling empty at times is natural, normal, incredibly common and (dare I say) healthy.  Particularly during times of transitions, feeling a sense of emptiness is par for the course -- a signal of opportunity and a clear space for something meaningful to enter into your life.

The challenge becomes tolerating the emptiness while finding and creating meaningful pursuits to fill yourself up with, which can be so much harder than it seems.   The temptation to fill the emptiness back up with meaninglessness (like Twizzlers and Law and Order marathons, for example) can be incredibly strong, resulting in those disheartening moments of regression that we mistake as failure and get stuck in.

The good news is that if you're able to tolerate feeling empty from time to time (i.e. you don't have to be perfect at it for change to occur), you're heavily rewarded by this amazing thing called genuine fulfillment.  You feel fulfilled because instead of distracting yourself constantly with random (and sometimes harmful) stuff to fill the void, you allow yourself the time it naturally takes to create and discover the person/job/hobby/city/passion/etc. that's genuinely right for you.

An important note: taking time to discover what's right for you can often be super annoying and tedious while you're doing it, but be warned that people sell it as this grand adventure that feels exciting.  Don't get me wrong, self-discovery is a beautiful thing, that I know for sure.  But when you're feeling empty and you're in the middle of the process, it usually doesn't feel beautiful and grand and adventurous.  It feels more on the eye-roll worthy/laborious/lonely side of the spectrum.

So, just managing expectations here, don't expect to want to tolerate the empty feeling or to get excited about anything right away.  Know that the beauty of it all is retroactive, you typically feel it later.  In the moment  you'll probably be more like, "Ok, I tried to just sit here with nothing but my thoughts for 2 minutes, this is stupid. I'm gonna go see if there are anymore of those chips left."

Keep trying.  Explore.  Take a walk, sit in a coffee shop or bakery you've never been to, begin a tactile hobby, listen to new music, cook Italian food, switch some things up.  You can't move forward if you don't learn to sit with yourself first.  You can't find what's right without stumbling through a lot of what's wrong.  

The idea of embracing emptiness is encouraged in a beautifully simple quote by Lao Tzu (whom I happen to keep on spiritual retainer) which reads:

"The usefulness of a pot is in its emptiness."

I love a good quote.  And I like putting quotes in my own words because depending on the time and situation, the quote takes on different meaning.  As I type this end bit of the post, here's my interpretation of Lao Tzu's words:

Your emptiness and your potential are the exact. same. thing.

Evading the emptiness with self-destructive or numbing behaviors is also evading your potential for a new way of being.  In turn, letting in the emptiness is also letting in the potential.

Wanna help someone who might not know that emptiness is part of the deal when reaching for what you want?  Share this post!