Thursday, January 5, 2012
Going to Pieces without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness by Mary Epstein, M.D.
One of the core beliefs of Buddhism is the the belief that, to understand one's true nature, one must become empty. But from the Western perspective emptiness takes on a very different meaning. We equate emptiness, rather than space for renewal, refilling, or being, as a space that is damaged, distressed, pathological. We perceive emptiness as not real, not fulfilled, not enough. Inadequate.
Put that thought on the back burner.
So what happens if we stop trying to fill our emptiness. Rather than seeking, every moment of every day, we stop the television, the distraction, the drive for fulfillment? What if, for a moment, a breath, this instant, we stop pathologizing emptiness?
Put that thought on the other back burner.
I'm a therapist. Well, an intern, but I do therapy. By nature, substance abuse counseling brings a lot of Borderline Personality Disorders to my office. My clients have made a career of avoiding emptiness. Many have taken pills so that can be "high" or in a place of not feeling, of avoiding emptiness, of ignoring it. Of numbing it out. They fear it.
Epstein responds this way: "Emptiness appears first as the dark side of our attempts to create a separate and self-sufficient self. Any therapy that tries to explain it away, or cure it with a corrective emotional experience, is destined to produce frustration and disappointment. Only when we stop fighting with our personal emptiness can we begin to appreciate the transformation that is possible" (16).
Let's put a personal pot on.
"When we grasp the emptiness of our false selves, we are touching a little bit of truth. If we can relax into that truth, we can discover ourselves in a new way" (20).
My life is about to change. Radically. Don't exactly know when, but I do know how. When change comes, it will change everything. Where I work, where I live, how I spend my days. I'll still be a therapist, but I'll be in a different environment. I'll also be preparing the home Cameron and I dream of, 3,000 miles away, while he most likely works on his internship here. While we will spend every moment we can together, there will be a great deal of opportunity for alone time as well.
Let combine and stir the pot.
One last quote from today's reading, because I identify with it: "As the Buddhist traditions always insist, if we look outside of ourselves for relief from our own predicament, we are sure to come up short. Only by learning how to touch the ground of our own emptiness can we feel whole again" (27).