Today I’d like to talk about emptiness. What does emptiness mean?

In terms of awakening and enlightenment well emptiness, of course, refers to a thing that is empty of something like a cup or a glass – it may be half empty, we say – so emptiness really refers to non-self and to impermanence if you will, co-arising and interdependence.

So, for example, the wonderful zen buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh talked about seeing the emptiness in the flower and it’s one of the most beautiful teachings that I have ever encountered. Now I’d like to provide an understanding of it to you as well.

So for example, if we look at a flower (Vibeke looks at a flower on the table). At first glance, we will… we’ll notice the color is white or orange and we might notice the scent of the beautiful flower also we like looking at flowers it appeals to us in some way. There’s something about a flower that just pleases us we like to look at it. But all those things are at the surface of the flower so what we might learn here is to look deeper into the flower so, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us, what do you see if you look deeper into the flower?

Well, if we take a really good look to see, what has gone into this flower, we realize that this flower has is a non-self it is nothing in itself we see that it’s a conglomerate of different elements that have come together to make this flower and once we understand that we can start seeing in the flower the entire cosmos.

For example, let’s make it more concrete. You look at the flower and you see the clouds, you see the rain clouds and therain that has nourished the. In the flower you see the dirt that it has come out of, you see the sunshine from the universe that has given it the heat that it needed to transform itself and use its universal intelligence to grow. 

Because the flower is never in doubt about how to become a flower. There’s a universal intelligence that guides it so we’ll. You start seeing that different parts such as the rain, the sunshine, the dirt, the nourishment from the leaves that have fallen on the ground – and perhaps there’s been a gardener taking care of it perhaps all these different things come together and are all elements in the flower. Without these elements, the interconnectivity of these elements, there would not be a flower. 

So if you calm yourself – and by that I mean: you quiet your mind and you are attentive to nature, your greatest teacher about understanding that ’All is One’ …including the interconnectivity of everything and the impermanence of all things.

Now I am aware that saying the words ‘All is One’ has become a popular thing for people to say. It’s like saying ’oh yes I understand’. But what I also notice is that most people understand it at an intellectual level. However, understanding ’All is One’ in view of the interconnectivity of all things, in light of the unity of ’Being’ – understanding it as an experience based on a practice or the embodiment of it and thereto feeling it and furthermore moving into beingpart of that unity – that’s a different day. That is what we want to work towards. 

Again, if you look at the forest – now I live in denmark, am from the northern countries and come March April May, it’s going to be an explosion in nature, right! Everything comes out and like zillions of leaves are going to show themselves, but not one of them is at a single moment in doubt about ’how do I become a leaf, how do I become a flower, or a bush’? 

And the oak tree is not sitting there thinking ’ah I wish I was a birch tree’ right. It knows what it is and it just is. Not that I’m implying that it has that kind of recognition but it just is and this is a very great place to be. 

A place where you and I can practice to be as well as just understanding that you just are not that you (you may think you) are: a teacher, a business person, a mother, a father a friend so forth. 

These are the roles you play, the roles you take on in this life and that’s fine. I mean, there’s a place for that as well, but that is in the external life. In the internal space, I invite you to create that space where you just think of yourself as being

When we look deeper, we start understanding that perhaps we have misinterpreted a lot of things in the past. So, let’s take an example: a person comes in the door and starts yelling at you and saying that you’re an idiot and so forth. Really being mean and saying nasty stuff. 

Now, what do we do? If you are not aware and you’re not in tune with your inner being in a conscious state of mind and in the present you’re likely just to react to what’s in front of you by saying something like: ‘who do you think you are’,’ how do you think you can talk to me like that’. In other words, you just react immediately to the person. 

And it might seem fair at first, but what really you are responding to or reacting to is the surface of what’s going on. You’re just responding to the color of the flower, to the scent of the flower, and you have ceased to look deeper, right? 

Because what happens when we look deeper? Well, we don’t know but we can say that an angry person is almost without exception a sad person. So why is a person sad? Well, a person – and sadness may cause anger as a result but to begin with, the person is sad because the expectation in the mind of the person is not corresponding to what is in the external world. 

So, there’s a mismatch between what is inside (expectations in the mind) and what is outside (lived actual life). Therefore, the person becomes really sad and it causes great emotions. The only way some people feel that they can get let go of these emotions is through anger and that’s when we become unconscious, right. Because anger is an unconscious reaction to what isYet, if we understand that as being the receiver of the anger, then instead of escalating it, we can look at it for what it actually is. 

Okay, so we have a person here that is really angry. I understand that this person is really sad and disappointed in some way –  that the reality of things is not what the person hoped for it to be… and now you can turn your own reaction – your own anger, that which you might first have felt because your ego has been hurt by the being called these mean words – now you can turn it around and say: oh this person really needs a hug, you know, because otherwise the personwouldn’t be feeling all these strong emotions. 

You can tell how the person is totally wrapped up in these emotions. That’s why -when we say that an angry person has ’lost it’ – that’s a pretty good expression because the person has completely lost connection to his or her inner being.

So, you see, when we look deeper, we get a completely different understanding of how to interact with the external world. 

To Connect to Your Inner Being – You must go Beyond Concepts as Concepts are Creations of the Mind – not of Consciousness

Now, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist that I mentioned earlier, lived in Plum Village in france where he created a monastery community and they would invite people in for meditations and learning mindfulness and so forth. 

At some point, the monastery had invited a kindergarten, so he tells the story that he was walking with this group of kids out in the forest on the trails and he noticed that a little girl has been quiet for a while and she seemed rather contemplative. Then suddenly she says: ‘grandpa monk, what color is the bark on the trees?’

And Thich Nhat Hanh, who’s also called Thai, knew that if he said to the girl: well, the bark on the trees is brown, then he knew that he would stop her thinking process – he would stop her creative thinking process and she would stop being curious. So instead, he says: what color do you think it is? The girl continued to think about it..hmm, as she was curious. He doesn’t (give her a category – a label, which stops her contemplation) …and the story ends there, but as you can imagine the little girl continues to be curious about the colors of the bark on the trees, right. 

So now you can also imagine she’ll start seeing different nuances; she won’t just see one color that can describe alltrees. She will open her eyes to see, and find a multitude of colors – in some places there’ll even be moths on the tree bark and there might be insects that leave their little footprints, and so forth. She’s now exploring and continuing to become wiser and more knowledgeable about trees and the bark on the trees. 

Hence, the learning from this is that once we call things something, then we sort of stop being curious and we create the illusion now we know, right? That’s why words can be a hindrance to thinking rather than a help for thinking. Labeling things is one way of stopping thought, so you have to remember that you have to keep thinking beyond thought. 

So, once you think that you know that things are like they are – realize that is not the case. Very likely, you can look much deeper because there’s the non-self of the tree as well as -just as in the flower – so in the tree you’ll see all the different elements. You will see all the things surrounding you – your apartment or your house or wherever you live – all things around you have a non-self, they are impermanent, they are made up of different parts just as we are as a human beings once we start to practice this understanding, we realize that our interpretations of things have been wrong. 

We have been too soon often to judge, evaluate, and conclude what is actually going on around us and we have to remember this when we do that. When you judge somebody or something – or you are opinionated, then you are viewing the world through your own eyes, through your own perception. These glasses, sort of speak that you are looking through, are conditioned by the country you’ve grown up in, your family, you know, culture, the local community, I mean, your parents, your immediate family,  and so forth. Including all the stuff going on as regards social media and on tv … all these things come together to make you look at the world in a certain way. To put specific labels on things. 

If you don’t stop with the labels, as we discussed just before, then you know that you are veiling things and you see very limited – your site is very limited hence, your perspective on the world is lacking much. That’s why we talk about living in an illusion of things

Once you start looking deeper into things, understanding what’s below the surface, and opening your heart to understanding and seeing right – that’s an important part of opening your heart to understanding and seeing/looking deeply. Because, oftentimes, we can easily be too quick to judge, which pleases our ego. 

What are we actually saying when proving somebody else wrong? We’re actually just patting ourselves on the shoulder saying ‘I’m right’ and that’s very satisfying to the ego, right?  Yet, in the long run, it’s not going to be good for you. It’s detrimental to your long-term understanding, because somewhere deep inside you – in your inner core being – you know that this is not right, it’s not right to judge.

Can I truly understand the other person, you may ask yourself? Because if you cannot, then how can you judge another person? Very few times can we say that we have the privilege of truly understanding another person. We don’t know their background. We don’t know their context. 

In this sense, we can free ourselves from this kind of judgment and free ourselves from pretending to know what kind of reality another person lives. 

Connect with your Inner Being – Your Inner Wisdom

It is moreover an invitation to always look deeper, to always be searching for more in that sense, you know um …search for that greater understanding… connecting your knowledge to wisdom since knowledge in itself can only get you so far.

We see that now right …these days (referring to what goes on in the world) knowledge without wisdom is a dangerous cocktail, right. 

So, you want to be sure that you tune into that greater being – your inner knowing and access that wisdom – for you to make wise choices about how you want to go about living in this world, how you want to go about unveiling the path to your soul, which is as such not a path, because your soul and your enlightenment is there – it’s just been covered by all the conditioning and you believing different narratives about your life. 

You are free to let go of these narratives, right, and in the end, you are free to gather all the information about how to open up to this greatest source – your higher being and your all-knowing self and stand comfortably in that knowingof your inner being.

When you do that you connect with your inner peace, the collective soul, which you will find inside and you will find with that an inner peace and joy, which you are searching for. A lot of people are searching without being able to exactly pinpoint what they’re searching for, but they just feel like there’s some kind of lack in their life. They need something more! 

Once you connect to your inner being, which is what you’ve been searching for – once you connect to that and calmyourself – do the training and the practice – the search will stop.

Do some Seconds of Practice, Tune in, Let Go, and Take your Energies Home

It’s a fantastic feeling. So, I invite you to do a little bit of practice, to be quiet, you know, sit in stillness, no telephone, no tv, no computer. Sit with yourself and breathe. We breathe continuously throughout our lives and yet, we don’t pay much attention to breathing. 

Just quiet your thoughts, don’t judge your thoughts, just quiet your mind down and you’ll start feeling yourself. You can start feeling your body right and all of a sudden you allow yourself to tune in to that …and it takes a little bit of practice. You can’t just (snap your fingers),…there’s no quick fix! We like quick fixes these days right; we like efficiency, quick fixes you know, 10 tips for doing this and learning that – learn a new language in 10 days right we’ve all seen it.

It does take a little bit of tuning in. You don’t have to sit for a half hour or so. No, just take a few seconds during the day and make it a habit perhaps when you get your coffee. 

Make it a habit that every time you pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea just ahh..breath… tune in, let go of everything you’re holding on to, and just tell yourself: all the energies I have …when I was angry at my boss, my friend did this, my husband or girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever did that – you have all these energies ’sitting’ out there – spending your energies, you know because the thoughts continue to roll in your head. 

So then just, when you drink your coffee, make it happen, just take that second and say I’m gonna take all my energies home, because you need those energies right, to be in a positive state and a high frequency (state of mind). 

It’s all energy right, everything is energy. 20 years ago people would say that’s mumbo jumbo. Today we’ve given a nobel prize for it (evidence of all things being energy), so if you don’t know about things being all energy, we can talk about that another day if you like, but (for now) take your energies home.

Every time you have some kind of a talking thing going on in your mind, you know, you’re a little upset about somebody or something that happened or drains you – then you’re staying in the past. You’re worried about the futurestressed about the future: oh, I need to do this and this and this…

You’re fine without those worries, I mean, let go of them for a while, they’ll be there in 30 seconds to return to – they’re not going anywhere. Don’t worry, so just take that little space of time to tune into your inner being, make it a habit that once you go up the stairs, go down the stairs, have a cup of coffee or whatever works for you  – it doesn’t matter – that’s my invitation to you today :

 – understanding the emptiness of things, understanding the interconnectivity, understanding that the flower is made upof a thousand elements and that when we look deeper, it’s not just one color, one scent… then we see so much more than what we do in our daily surface view of the world.

Have a great day


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©2024 Vibeke Vad Baunsgaard, PhD

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