Summer is in full swing. And you may already be feeling the effects of the go-go-go pace that many of us adopt during these fun-filled months of sunshine and activity. However, while the sun beckons us to keep going and doing, it is important to remain grounded and balanced. By remembering the importance of being centered, we can fully enjoy spending our time with loved ones and friends while enjoying everything the summer season can offer.
Lao-Tzu refers to our ability to become empty and enjoy space in his famous text the Tao Te Ching. In verse eleven, he demonstrates that while we may not always recognize it, what we are after is harnessing the benefits of space instead of form. Emptiness is more useful than substance. While many of us intuitively understand this idea, we often overlook its power in making decisions about our time and energy. Sometimes we fill up every speck of free time with activities thinking that if we can just squeeze in one more thing to do, that we will be even happier. We fill up our houses with things because we believe if we just get that one next item, then we will be truly happy. This idea is why we feel better in a clean, organized room rather than a messy room. We tend to get this idea but often struggle putting it into practice in our hyper-connected modern world.
Lao-Tzu is hoping to remind us that what will benefit us the most is not more form, more things, or more activities. Lao-Tzu invites us to carve out time for non-doing or being: time for reflecting and for getting to know ourselves. He brings up the example of a jar, and while the jar has the sides of the jar made from clay, what’s useful is the space the jar creates. He uses the example of a window, and while the form of the window encompasses the four sides of a wall, the window is useful for its inherent emptiness. By using these examples, Lao-Tzu demonstrates the power of space in fulfilling our needs. What we are searching for is not more, but is instead understanding and self-awareness.
Space allows us to settle and arrive. By doing less and being more we can dwell in our true nature of self. As distractions fall away, we can remember who we are, what we want in our lives and how we can contribute to the world. And from this place, we can clearly see a path to happiness and it rarely involves packing another activity into our already overloaded summer schedules or ordering another item from Amazon.
I invite you to create a scheduled time for spaciousness in your life. Notice those times you have “nothing” to do, and how do you usually respond? Typically, we like to dive right into our favorite social media outlet to fill these gaps of space rather than sit with them. What if we just did nothing instead? What would we notice or realize?
My teacher Rolf Gates says, “If running around and holding on isn’t working, how about we try sitting still and letting go?”