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meditation 101: working with emptiness

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During early-morning meditation our teacher spoke of a technique I had forgotten. “Bring attention away from the cushion, your body, your thoughts and emotions, this room, my voice — and direct it to the space in this room. Emptiness exists right here, in this hall, this building,” she said (as far as I remember), “with each breath expand awareness to the vastness that has no beginning and no end.” 

And so I sat, forgetting abdominal pain, the tiredness that had been bothering me only minutes early, the many thoughts that had been demanding my attention all morning. “This space remains undisturbed, just as a bird leaves no trace crossing the sky.” Breathing in, breathing out. Rising and falling. Residing in emptiness for a few moments of pure awareness.

Emptiness, as I experienced it, is not some abstract Zen thing, but a letting-go of objects of mind. One breath at a time. For split seconds there’s no I and no this, no sunday and no that. Looking back, I/me existed beyond attachment — blurring all distinction of living and dying. And just as swiftly thoughts returned, along with bodily sensations, petty worries, and inside-the-box limitations. Nothing lasts, naturally.

image: space.mit.edu

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