Running on Empty

Running on Empty
By: Jessica Burnham

He who wherever he goes is attached to no person and to no place by ties of flesh; who accepts good and evil alike, neither welcoming the one nor shrinking from the other ó take it that such a one has attained Perfection.
“Bhagavad-Gita”

Whenever I hear the phrase “running on empty”, I get this image in my head of a car from the 1920s, sputtering down a road and running out of gas, but it is trying nonetheless, to keep on going. Who is trying to keep the vehicle going though? The driver is usually the one pressing on the gas, saying to it- please don’t run out of gas, please keep going! So, we can conclude that if we don’t put gas in the tank or press the foot on the gas pedal- the car will not be able to continue driving, correct?

So what is it that keeps our motor running as a spiritual, eclectic being? Our society loves to argue this point in everything we do. Eat the right food, drink lots of water, exercise, do what brings joy into your life, or how about- live a life that encompasses health in every area you can think of? We have this concept about running on empty- trying to move forward on emptiness. It is fun to explore this physical concept of ‘running on empty’. But going back to the spiritual sense of running on empty- what does this mean to you?

Emptiness is explored in a variety of spiritual works- particularly in Buddhism and the Heart Sutra. What I gather, or to sum it up very simply- emptiness is to exist in the understanding that all doesn’t really exist independent of view points or perceptions. Nothing really exists without the world view we give to the object, person, or happening. And, that in every second, change is constant- so no matter how long something appears to be the same as it was a moment ago, it is never the same from moment to moment. I, as I appear to you, am simply your creation because you have a perception that is independent of anyone else’s. Due to the independent reality we all live in, we are never really on the same page and we live in a world that is essentially empty of form.

What I really love about the concept of emptiness- is how much fear the term instills in the wounded ego. Ironically, we are already in this state perfectly but we don’t know it from the perspective of the wounded ego. Everything is always in a state of awareness, it just might be acting in a form of awareness that you perceive to be different through your view point. What really separates me and you? Could it be perception- perception of our own existence, of your existence, and of my view point?

What would it feel like, to be in a state of constant understanding that every thought we have as a reaction to everything around us and in us, is the only thing that separates me from you? That in essence, our thoughts create separation because we attach to them- we give them our power, and we run amok in our own reality.

Not Reacting

We’ve all been there. We’re talking to someone, perhaps they are close to us- perhaps they are not. And the other person says something that really instills an emotional heatedness in some intangible place within us. We feel like what they are saying is not true, they don’t understand, and we want to tell them just that. So we go get on the merry go round, and sometimes we’re rocking and laughing- other times we feel like we’re going to vomit with anger. Going around in circles and being led to the same old road we’ve been down before, only it is with a different person, in a different situation. But- is it really? Or is it the same argument you have with yourself over and over again, until it becomes a part of your story? And all of a sudden, you identify with something- and we think: this makes me real, my life real, and my viewpoints real.

The Trick

But isn’t that how the trickster within our mind works? Creating these experiences that don’t really define us, and really don’t mean anything in the end- yet telling us that it makes us more tangible? The projection game? We project a movie onto a screen and we see people talking, moving, music playing- but isn’t it just a play on human experiences? It does not really make it any more real than it already is, does it? How ironic- the trick- to put your view point out there makes it real? This is when I need to sit in silence.

But how difficult is it, when we feel those emotions, to sit there and listen and maintain your silence? Just to allow our feelings to ride the merry go round by themselves, and not engage in this play on perception? It is difficult. And, it takes work. But in the end- I have a feeling it will free us from our power play, enslavement to separation. Just a feeling.

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