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In Search of Emptiness

Tigger Montague

I know this is a strange title…why would I be searching for emptiness?

The emptiness that I have been seeking is not a sense of lacking or hollowness or even meaninglessness.   The emptiness I have sought has been a state of mind that is void of thought.  A blank slate if you will, a neutral zone of peace and calmness.

Technology and its deliverable instant gratification and multi tasking has turned my mind into ADD on steroids.  I liken it to the old video game: Pong.  Well my mind is like Pong at warp speed.  Thoughts fly in and out, bounce around, perform street break dancing moves worthy of a music video.  If I don’t write a thought down, it disappears into the galaxy of The Magical Mystery Tour.

The other side of the constant brain stimulation is the subsequent anxiety.  Multi tasking inherently causes things to slip through the cracks, or not be completed with the care and focus needed.  Then the low level anxiety creeps in….like a long dark shadow.  For me the anxiety manifests in my gut first, then manages to wiggle into my cerebral cortex where it plays Bowling for Fear with my happy thoughts, and finally settles in and requests room service.

I started Transcendental Meditation in the early 1980’s based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  In all the years I have meditated I have never achieved emptiness, and in fact, did not know that was what I was looking for.  Meditation has been for me a quieting of the mind, but not an emptying of the mind.

At first the concept seemed very strange to me…emptiness?  Sounded like a void, a dark place, a lonely place, a scary place.  Gradually I began to see that emptiness was in fact a neutral place, and the utter control of thought.

I had no expectations that I would find emptiness; it seemed to me like one of those “great possibilities”; after all I had been meditating for some 30 years and emptiness had never shown up.

Over the holidays I went to a Spa/Retreat in the high desert outside of Tucson.  First rule of the Retreat: no cell phones, except in our rooms.  It was a completely liberating experience to walk around and not wonder where my cell phone was; or to hear the constant pinging of texts and emails coming in.

I devoted my time to walking in the desert by myself with my camera and my journal, listening to the cactus wrens and breathing the sand and the stones. Then one day the remarkable happened: my mind was empty.

I was sitting on the bank of an arroyo when I realized my mind had found emptiness.  In fact the only thought in my mind was emptiness.  No other thoughts were coming in, no ping pong thoughts about what I had to do next week, what I had to do for Biostar, what I needed to pack to go to Florida, who I needed to call, who I needed to email, who I needed to text, what I was going to have for dinner, the square root of 307 (my room number).

And in this emptiness there was no anxiety, no fear, no worries.

Perhaps finding emptiness was as simple as disconnecting from technology and finding a quiet place.  One thing is for sure: now that I’ve found it, I will endeavor to tune out technology once in a while, find a quiet place in the natural world, and find the calm neutral place of emptiness.

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