Recently I found that emptiness may be one of the greatest lessons in life. Being empty does not always mean being alone, sad or unfulfilled. In fact, if you look in the dictionary there are nothing but negative connotations with the word "empty." How then, you may ask, has it become the best gift I could have received? It's simple:
emptiness = being present = happiness = fulfillment
Renshi Jason Costanza told me, "To be present, you must enter every situation as if you have never been there before. No expectations, no judgments, no previous knowledge. Take in everything around you like a new born baby does, see everything as fresh and new, void of perceptions. Truly be open to what that moment is offering you." In this case, we were applying this concept in my Seibukan Jujutsu training. As his student, he wanted me to let go of all knowledge of the techniques when re-learning them. Learn it from him and every other teacher as if I was learning it for the first time, every time! By doing this I would gain something new each time, with no preconceived notion of how to apply a technique I would instead empty myself to fully receive what each teacher wanted to give.
By fully emptying myself to receive, I was able to really open up to the techniques, their many different sides and retain this knowledge for use later in my training. Last month, being the month of the Dragon, representing Void in Seibukan Jujutsu, we focused on three concepts: Presence. Personal Power. Emptiness. It is amazing how emptiness can immediately bring me to become present and in return teach me more about my personal power. How wonderful and fulfilling it is to be content in the moment!
Ever since reading the Tao Te Ching by the great Lao Tzu when I was a teenager, I practiced being present every day.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”― Lao Tzu
I didnt want depression or anxiety, I wanted happiness and love, and I was willing to work hard to attain those things. Then I gradually came to realize maybe I didnt have to work so hard to be happy. So how do you get present?
To truly be in the moment you must let go of the past, know that it is already a part of who you are and how you react to the world. There is no way you can alter the past so learn to live with it and be at peace with what you have learned from it. Even with loss there is a gain.
Let go of what lies ahead, (this is where I struggled the most!). As a natural-born planner, I have a hard time not thinking about my future and the million things I need to knock out during the week. Yes a goal takes steps and planning, so go ahead and create a plan of action and do each step at a time. Just be sure to focus and devote ALL of yourself to that one task and moment before moving onto the next. I find making a list can help with this. If I write down a list of what I need to get done that day, or week or month, then my head is free to live in the present time. It's not cluttered "with what comes next?," because I can refer to my list when I'm ready for the next step.
You cannot be present until you are able to be empty, so empty out the past, empty yourself from expectations on how the future will unfold and empty from your own mental clutter such as perceptions and judgments.
Steve Madden once told me an old Zen proverb, "Be where your feet are," a quote that made perfect sense to me. Sure, let go of the past and future to enjoy the current moment, I get it. Simple right? Being empty is another way of letting go.
As I come into my own emptiness I now add on a layer of greater understanding and fulfillment. The more you empty your mind and heart the more you will be able to surrender to the moment and become more open to receiving... and that is why they say,
"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it's called the Present."