Pain lingers long after the injury. The automatic recoiling at any reminder of the wound, that aching throb that continues after jamming one’s thumb. It is easy to become mad at someone who “pushes your buttons,” and surely there are relationships in which our friends and enemies find our buttons with intuitive ease, stirring up painful reminders of past failures or unhealed wounds. Those reminders continue after the button was pushed. We might walk away from the person, the conversation, and hours later still ruminate on what happened. The button-pusher is not there, doing this to us. The pain is now about us, about what in us needs attention and healing.
We suffer, and we fill ourselves with beliefs to try to relieve the suffering or prevent further suffering. “Next time, I’m going to say this and really shut him up.” “I can’t be around someone like that.” “We need to change this policy so something like this never happens again.” The metaphor of emotional baggage is so easy to grasp. We drag all of our past hurts with us into every fresh experience.
Often it’s only when the well runs dry that we realise how thirsty we’ve been. We become aware of having lost a presence for life. We may find ourselves asking what happened to those magic eyes which saw poetry in the ordinary? Where went the wondrous self whose very countenance is invitational?
Put quite simply, the emptiness has become full.
(Go read the rest. Seriously.) Reading this was a wonderful coincidence, as yesterday I was in contemplation and got the message, “Empty your heart.” Every “should,” every expectation, every irritation with how life as it is does not measure up to an intangible, impossible perfection is a drop of stale water that fills the cup of the heart. All of this mingles with our blessings and grace, the love and compassion we are capable of feeling.
We can bring innocence back into our lives without losing the lessons. We do not need to become naïve and recklessly trusting. We can pour the contents of our hearts out as an offering to the world, all that bliss and pain, and become open. This is not as simple as willing yourself to let it go, but it is a practice to cultivate. Bringing presence to the pain, sharing it with a trusted friend or professional, making art with it, all of this provides the possibility for more space and emptiness.
We can start by setting an intention to become open, to become empty, to become innocent. When walking down the road, we can notice ourselves preoccupied with thoughts or stale feelings and choose to open our awareness. We can focus on our senses, notice how things really smell today, how they feel now, what sounds are occurring that we might not have noticed. Ask yourself, “What is happening right now? What am I not noticing?” Experience something as though you’ve never seen or touched it before. With practice, we can bring this innocence to our jobs, our relationships, even our experiences of self.
Beautiful sound emerges from the hollowness of the drum, the emptiness of the bell. We need space within to allow experience to flourish and emerge.