Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Lesson From Pooh

An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what's in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to. While the Clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more Stuffed Up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes. Knowledge and Cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sorts of things, and a mind confused by Knowledge, Cleverness, and Abstract Ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don't matter, or that don't even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of them.

Let's consider Emptiness in general for a moment. What is it about a Taoist landscape painting that seems so refreshing to so many different kinds of people? The Emptiness, the space that's not filled in. What is it about fresh snow, clean air, pure water? Or good music? As Claude Debussy expressed it, "Music is the space between the notes." 

. . . Like silence after noise, or cool clear water on a hot stuffy day, Emptiness cleans out the messy mind and charges up the batteries of spiritual energy. 

Many people are afraid of Emptiness, however, because it reminds them of Loneliness. Everything has to be filled in, it seems - appointment books, hillsides, vacant lots - but when all the spaces are filled, the Loneliness really begins. Then the Groups are joined, the Classes are signed up for, and the Gift-to-Yourself items are bought. When the Loneliness starts creeping in the door, the Television Set is turned on to make it go away. But it doesn't go away. So some of us do instead, and after discarding the emptiness of the Big Congested Mess, we discover the fullness of Nothing. 

. . . In the middle of a particularly busy day, the emperor was driven to a meeting hall for an appointment of some kind. But when he arrived, there was no one there. The emperor walked into the middle of the great hall, stood silently for a moment, then bowed to the empty space. He turned to his assistants, a large smile on his face. "We must schedule more appointments like this," he told them. "I haven't enjoyed myself so much in a long time."
(The Tao of Pooh 147-149)

Learning to appreciate the silence - must learn the fine art of relaxing.

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