Meditation on Emptiness
The meditation on ‘Emptiness’ pp 53-59 in How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald (ISBN 9780861713417) presents a meditation on the subject of Emptiness. Of the 6 Perfections, the sixth perfection is Wisdom, which is synonymous with Emptiness. As the final perfection, this is what the other perfections and the Buddha’s other teachings have built to.
In the meditation, Kathleen McDonald encourages us to come face-to-face with the sense of “me” or “I” that can seem so definite and underpins our every thought, whether we are awake or asleep. In search of the sense of “me” or “I” the meditation navigates through the physical body, searching through the limbs and organs. Our search continues in the mind for the sense of “me” or “I”. It seemed so definite just a moment and now we cannot find it!!
Lost in Space
Our experience of this meditation is that we first get the sense of the carpet being pulled from under our feet. We are no longer standing on hard ground, with a definite sense of “me” or “I”. Instead, we get the feeling of floating in outer space. It is like a moment from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ or ‘Gravity’ where the protagonist is going on a space walk dressed in their spacesuit, tethered to the space shuttle with just a single cable. In the vastness of space there is no up or down, only that single cable holding the protagonist back from floating into oblivion. As with the abyss of space, we find the meditation on ‘Emptiness’ can be scary.
The second experience we have of the meditation on ‘Emptiness’ is incredible relief. One moment ago we had so many problems, with work and relationships and families, with spending and saving money, with clothes and shoes and food, and suddenly all of these problems seem so far away. It is almost as if there is no problem there at all and we can finally relax for the first time in a long time.
It is mistaken to think that we do not exist or that nothing exists because that is the path of nihilism. We have heard emptiness mistakenly described as nothingness, as though nothing exists.
In the meditation, Kathleen McDonald assures us:
Do not make the mistake of thinking, “My body is not the I and my mind is not the I, therefore I don’t exist.” You do exist, but not in the way you instinctively feel: as something independent and inherent.
In other words we do exist, not in the definite way that underpins our every thought.