Bring Emptiness with You When Facing Fear                           

Emptiness is Scary and Brave 

Before we can know what bravery truly is we must feel gripping fear. Terror, even. We are knocked down, shocked and devastated. And we must lose what we hoped for. We may feel we’ve lost everything. But oddly enough, to renew, to steady ourselves, we have to empty even further, pouring out our hopes and dreams for what feels like space, nothingness, in its place. We die to what was, and what grows in that place is emptiness.

Emptiness is scary. But we can choose to bring it along with us in our imaginary backpacks on our treks into daily life. And choosing a practice of emptiness as part of our mindful living is brave. Emptiness is like rich soil where we plunge our hands and dig around in the dirt of the unknown.

Emptying Ourselves of Former Hopes and Dreams

When my husband was declining in 2011 from grade four glioblastoma brain cancer, I began practicing mindfulness meditation more regularly than ever before. Part of that practice included emptying myself of my hopes that he’d live, and my desire for any particular outcome. It was a tough bravery tool to learn. I was not good at it and felt clumsy, tense and impatient as I tried. But it also felt freeing.

I was emotionally and physically strong at the time, but also ran anxious. My husband had gradually lost physical capacity, and the ability to control his emotions varied daily.  Afraid that I would be overcome by my pain, or kick into a major depression, I was reluctant to breathe in receptivity to whatever that day brought, afraid to let go of attachments to what I hoped and wanted for my husband. Of course, we still took every step possible for him to feel better: surgeries, various treatments, healthy eating, playing music, creative outlets, authentically connecting with friends and family, and time in nature walking or relaxing. But I had no control over whether he’d live or die, upon how he’d sleep, or cope with all the physical, mental and emotional changes he faced daily. Declining meant he had better days then worse days. I learned to take on each morning with as much compassion, love and gritty grace as I could muster. We still had teenage sons to care for and love, so our family all focused upon kindness and gratitude as much as we could, learning to be aware of magical moments as part of what kept us going.

Ease and Healing in Emptiness

My husband passed that year. Since then, I’ve continued deepening my own meditation and healing while leading clients in practicing mindfulness, emptying their attachments as part of their psychotherapy, trauma recovery and bravery training. I’m less clunky, and experience more ease. I find comfort in emptiness, and enjoy meditating.

When we empty, we stay with the discomfort of our pain, and break ourselves wide open into pure, raw receptivity. But from that place, confidence that we can do anything emerges. We’re stronger than before, and more flexible. Braver. We become more adaptable. We laugh more easily and freely. When we can handle intense grief and trauma, we are lighter, and ease arrives inside of us like grace.

Many of us fear that if we become completely void of desire and hope at any given time we’ll somehow get stuck there, staying empty, or lose motivation to be productive and effective. But the opposite is actually true: in emptiness, we fill ourselves up with the richness of this moment, and that fuels both the bountiful fullness of the day and our efficacy. We’ve found some control by being open and receptive to what Is, not fighting it. We find oneness with our inner beings, and truly embody oneness with one another, with nature, and with the universe around us, with God or source.

Becoming More Real

With emptiness as one bravery practice among many, I have been able to become more real. Since my husband died, I’ve taken on other huge challenges, namely the chaos, uncertainty, grief and loss that drug addictions have hit my two sons with. But during nine years of struggle, there has always been light in the darkest times. Our family has worked together to recover and heal. When I pause and breathe, being with whatever Is, emptying of what could be, I experience some saving grace.