Embodying Emptiness

Valuing and savouring emptiness can lead us to the potent reminder that we are full of possibility. By Lauren Bloxham

Reading time: 5 minutes

Exploring emptiness is a rare luxury in our busy modern lives…although we have an opportunity for it with every breath we take, and the capacity to consciously work with it, it’s something that can be undervalued. When we begin bringing awareness to its presence in our lives though, emptiness can be a precious and deeply life[1]enhancing reminder that we are full of possibility.

Emptiness is there at the end of every exhalation, it’s there at times when space opens up in our lives, either physically or mentally; emptiness naturally follows endings of all kinds.

The times in our lives when we experience the space between endings and new beginnings is a rich space which carries all possibility. It carries the excitement and anticipation of the next phase. The experience of emptiness is there in the space between every exhale and the inhale that follows. While we may experience fleeting moments of emptiness in our lives, consciously cultivating or savouring emptiness isn’t something most of us do willingly.

We are conditioned to value possessions, power, status, and achievement and so being active, doing, buying, and accumulating become our focus. In the process, our perspective shifts and we overlook what else exists for us. We may touch the sides on emptying ourselves when we begin to really value rest, when we carve out time for yoga practice or experience wellbeing treatments. But often rest is either forced or taken as a necessity because we’re exhausted, or injured, or as a prescriptive exercise, part of a ‘self-care’ regime. Rest, in these circumstances, at its heart remains either frustrating or uncomfortable for us, as we await the return of our usual busy full pace.

This discomfort is an important signpost on our inner journey though. When we rest, we begin the process of emptying ourselves. We begin to let go of our physical weight; we allow ourselves to be held by the support of the earth. In rest, we begin the process of reintegrating the breath, essentially allowing the breath to move without restriction, which is often easier said than done. As we rest, we may find we fall asleep, or find our minds becoming very active or even invasive. It’s often the discomfort of an active mind that leads us to move again. Many of us won’t get past being triggered by to-do lists, or the guilt associated with rest, and we feel the relief of filling our time once again finding value in a full day. When we see productivity as something tangible and measurable, rather than something more subtle, we overlook the value of empty spaces.

It's in the subtle realm though, that the power of emptiness exists and an alternative way of being is offered to us. As we drop through the layers of our being, the constructs of our minds, the habits, and patterns of being that shape us, our to-do lists, and the draw of the external world, we begin to meet what is less tangible within us. We come up against the discomfort of the unknown. We face the fear of uncertainty. We have to grapple with letting go of control in order to meet our most spacious selves, to meet emptiness. The groundless vacuum of nothingness, in which everything exists. It’s a place in which we are so empty we realise the fullness of being. A fullness which is void of attachment or possession. A fullness which is in and of itself valuable, yet also immeasurable.

“Allow the breath all the space and time it needs and be curious about its moves, its twists and turns, its fluctuations and variations.”

As we begin to explore rest and understand its impact on our wellbeing, and as we begin to explore sense withdrawal through meditation, we see frustrations and the fears associated with letting go, as the boundaries to dissolve in the direction of expansiveness. We begin to value the subtle within us. We have started the journey, culturally, towards a softer, more yielding way of being in the world. A way that involves a deep relationship with body, mind and spirit and the interconnected nature of being that naturally arises. This is the fullness and fulfilment that comes from emptiness. This is the possibility and hope that arises from emptying ourselves and savouring that space.

Finding emptiness within the breath

Find a comfortable seat where the feet are grounded, and the back feels supported.

Feel into the breath as it moves. Invite the breath to lead you, a sense that this life force can be free to expand and contract the body, to ebb and flow freely as the life-giving, life-affirming force that it is. Invite the breath to breathe you, so that awareness becomes like a loyal servant to the breath, like a student in the presence of a respected teacher. Allow the breath all the space and time it needs and be curious about its moves, its twists and turns, its fluctuations and variations.

Harness curiosity towards the exhalation now… following each exhalation as it becomes thinner and finer. Where exhalation becomes almost indiscernible, and the vacuum of space arises. There is a space between exhalation and inhalation. Become curious about the space between, as each breath arises and falls away, allow all of your curiosity to focus on the end of the exhalation and the space that arises.

This space, although as passing as each exhalation or inhalation, is as experiential as both, although often overlooked and undervalued. Whilst there is nothing here, there is also everything. All possibility arises from this space, all connection and interconnection. It’s a space of powerful pause and reset, which may even result in feeling grounded, connected, safe and at ease.

Notice the subtle forces at play in this space. Perhaps a sense of gravity moving through the body, maybe the downward flow of release.

Whilst the breath is an accessible place to explore emptiness, we can also harness our curiosity towards the space between endings and beginnings in all aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, and the cycles of life itself.

Valuing this empty space, rather than rushing to fill it or diminishing it by overlooking it, can be a powerful way to feel spacious, and a powerful place to remember that we are all so very full of possibility.

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.