Posted by: Bruce Black | July 11, 2008

Empty mat, empty page

There are days when stepping onto an empty mat or facing an empty page can be daunting.

No matter how many times I tell myself that emptiness is part of the process, I find myself frightened to begin, anxious about what direction to take, dreading the notion that I won’t find anything on the page or on the mat .

It’s as if the empty mat– and the empty page–are mirrors that reflect my deepest insecurities.

Before I begin, the emptiness seems so vast, and my thoughts and actions seem so small, so insignificant, that they hardly seem worth pursuing.

Where should I begin? With cat and dog tilts? Mountain pose? Forward bends?

And what should I write? Can I describe the discomfort? The emptiness? The insignificance of these actions?

Amazingly, though, once I step on the mat or open my journal, these fears evaporate… and the emptiness disappears, too, no longer a vast vacuum waiting to swallow me up.

Instead, I find myself excited by the prospect of discovering something new in a place that I’ve never been before.

The mat becomes a space for exploration.

The page –like an unmarked stretch of sand– becomes a place to play, an opportunity to experiment with different ways of looking at the world.

What accounts for this shift in perspective? How do you move from fear to joy? What allows you to embrace fear and move through it to curiosity and exploration?

These encounters with emptiness–on the mat, on the page–are inevitable, I’m afraid.

But our response to emptiness is not inevitable.

We can choose how we respond to it.

We can see its vastness as frightening, something to shy away from.

Or we can see it as uncharted territory that we have yet to explore, an empty bowl that we can fill with bits and pieces of ourselves.

Journal Practice: Think about emptiness: the empty mat, the empty page. How does it feel to step onto an empty mat or put words on an empty page? Is it frightening or joyful? Can you explain why? And can you use your journal to shift your perspective so that you can see emptiness in a new way?

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