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In Western culture, emptiness is considered to be something negative.
It has the connotation of absence.
When a person claims to 'feel empty', they are usually expressing displeasure and seek to find what they lack.
People look outside of themselves in a desperate search to fill this inner void.
In Taoism, it is different.
Empty & full
Consider a cup...
When empty, it has purpose, it can be used. It has potential.
When filled, it has completed its function and cannot be utilised again without being emptied once more.
A room is an empty space bordered by walls.
It is the space that we use.
When the emptiness is filled, the room becomes confined.
If your mind is already filled with thoughts, memories and chatter - it is full already.
Until you empty it, your mind is not ready for use.
How you live is a reflection of how you think.
If your house is littered with junk, messy and cluttered, then ask yourself what inspired this.
If your home is a showcase for metal, glass, plastic and gadgetry, then it will be most evident to other people.
You cannot hide who you are.
A quiet, reflective, disciplined mind requires a living environment that encourages calm.
Soft colours, warm fabrics and wood.
Unpretentious, modest, relaxed and comfortable.
If you want to build a ship,
don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Clarity is cultivated by reducing stress, dealing only with what needs to be done, saying NO, adopting healthy habits and making space for yourself.
It is your life after all.
We live in a world of fast-food, conveniences and high-speed transport yet people claim that they have too little time.
This is an amusing statement and seems to suggest that they have been denied their allotment of time.
We all have as much time as one another - it is all a matter of what you choose to do with it.
Things take time to grow
We live in impatient times.
People expect everything to happen at the push of a button.
Nature does not work this way.
Things take time to grow, develop and change.
People just as much as trees and plants.
The myth of multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is a jargon word appropriated from the computer industry.
It refers to the process whereby the computer rapidly flicks from one activity to the next in quick succession.
When a human attempts this, they typically become vague, stressed and diffuse.
Single-tasking is now considered to be far more productive and realistic.
Stress inducing activities
We are constantly caught up in speculative activities that upset our sense of balance.
Driving is one of the worst culprits.
It involves countless variables, very real danger and a limited margin for error.
Careful driving requires your nervous system to be very alert.
You may be in a condition of 'fight or flight' without even realising it.
In this world there are two times.
There is the mechanical time and there is body time...
The first is unyielding, predetermined.
The second makes up its mind as it goes along...
Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.
Out of joint
Modern life is filled with distractions that distort your perception of reality and make you feel strung out and tired.
Television, computers, junk food, noisy neighbours, work, videogames, mobile phones, driving and family problems can all make you feel unhappy and agitated.
It is important to find ways to earth yourself. To be centred once again and complete.
To find stillness and quiet. To rest. To stop.
Exotic practices are not required.
You do not need to join some esoteric meditation group.
You can find tranquillity and balance without even leaving your house.
Apparent chores such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening and ironing can be tremendously rewarding for the stressed individual.
What is so satisfying about washing dishes?
You begin with a mess.
You deal with the immensity of the task one piece at a time.
There is a tangible starting point, a process and a completion point.
When the task has been finished, you can step back and appreciate the work.
The value can be found in the doing part of the endeavour.
Washing dishes is a tactile endeavour.
You use your body.
You must feel for dirt, for encrusted food.
And you remove the problem systematically.
To do the job well, you need to keep your mind on what you are doing.
Yet, it is not mentally taxing in any way. The very simplicity of the activity is its appeal.
There is something truly wholesome about cooking a meal from scratch or planting your own vegetables.
Hanging out the washing or organising the drying is relaxing.
Be slow. Be thorough.
Incest yourself in the work.
There were nothing else in the world to do but this.
So-called mundane tasks are opportunities to take a break from the bustle of driving or the flickering of the internet and television.
You can find peace in the very simplest of activities.
The inevitability of them, the predictability, the surety of the enterprise furnish you with calm.
Adopt the 'constructive rest' position on the floor and close your eyes.
Gentle music soothes the nerves. The sound of the birds outside and the feel of the breeze calms the mind.
The tension sinks into the floor.
The student stops.
For many people, this is the first real rest they've had all day.
People set time aside to watch television, but are not prepared to invest in rest.
The 15 minutes spent resting on the floor may well be the most important 15 minutes of the entire day.
Being in the moment
Lying on the floor and doing chores will help you to collect your thoughts, calm down and stop.
Hanging out laundry and cleaning are considered 'beneath' many people.
This is a foolish conceit.
No one is any better or worse than anyone else.
What standard could you possibly be applying if you feel that you are 'above' other people?
18 March 1997
Last updated 29 September 2019