Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The empty spaces

In the last three or four odd months when I sat at home dwindling my thumbs after quitting a great job (great because of the people, the team, and the culture) on a mere whim (just because one fine day I thought I had to), I’ve become quite familiar with the empty space. I started with liking it in the first few days because it gave me time to just be, then slowly disliking it (because of the boredom that crept in), then outright resenting it (because it drained me of all the energy and motivation I thought I had had to create things), then opposing it (by looking for another job!) and then slowly, ever so slowly accepting it and finally just surrendering to it.

This cycle took me almost two months to pass and by the time November rolled in, I was ready to do nothing. I mean literally nothing in life. All the lofty ideas and thoughts I had just a few months back, of making a difference by joining a nonprofit, of becoming an entrepreneur, of freelancing full time, just vanished into thin air. However much I tried to force myself to think, to think back to those highly motivated times, I came back to the empty space. I just didn’t have the enthusiasm anymore….for anything. One could call it depression but I beg to differ. I am not capable of being depressed. I was not unhappy at all the last two months. Quite the opposite. I was in this sublime state of existence that is neither sadness nor joy. I let each day pass and did all the things routine life demanded of me. I ignored the computer and the Internet. I ignored the phone when friends and family rang at times. I sat staring into nothing for minutes together and sometimes hours. I didn’t want to write, I didn’t want to craft, I didn’t want to read. I ignored it all. I just ceased to care.

Then I got into thinking.

Just because I went into non-existence in the constant chatter that is this universe, it doesn’t mean life won’t go on, right? I mean other than the few mails, tweets, and messages here and there, people went on with their lives and so did I. Least importance be to the brand of me that I had built up. Let it crumble. I don’t have an ego to care.

And I wondered. Why all the busyness then? Why all the pretext of a purpose then? Is purpose all that important as I used to think? Why the stress, why the hurry, why the rush, and why the timetable? Why oh why the to-do lists? If you drop them all one day, perhaps the effect will haunt you for a week but post that? The universe is going to realign and put something else, somebody else in your place to continue the game. So why play the game?

Why can’t I just let the empty space consume me?

For the sake of the lofty thoughts, dreams, and wishes I had once cultivated, maybe I will be born again. But this lifetime? No, this is just for being me. No self-expectation, no goals, no wanting to go places. And the best thing of all? I didn’t feel bad at all thinking all this. When I examined my armor, there was not a single dent or scratch that is my self-esteem. I was as confident as ever. As confident as ever of being me. I didn’t need to be ‘some one’ to feel good about myself.

On an aside, for each of us who are doing something – whether you are employed with a great company, whether you are working for something or somebody’s welfare, or whether you are just proud being self-employed to satisfy whatever motivates you – take that role away for a minute. Take away the title, take away the role, take away that identity. Meet a stranger in your head and see how you will introduce yourself. Remember you are no more that employee, employer or do-gooder. You are…..just you with no prefix or suffix or taglines. Describe then what you do to that stranger. See how you feel.

Now coming back where we left off before the aside…

I’m not saying I became enlightened. I am saying I decided that enlightenment is not as great as I thought it to be. And I realized the one thing, the one single reason that I think I am here in this life. It is to discover myself. It is to be in this empty space, devoid of definitions and still being happy enough not to affect other’s happiness around you. It is being in a state of nothingness yet carrying on as usual as if there’s nothing going on inside you (which is true!) so that the others around you are free to slip in and out of their own empty space without having to worry about you.

Perhaps I sound confused. Perhaps I am self-contradicting. Perhaps it’s all a temporary phase of madness (considering that I got back to that ‘busy life’ that gives you the purpose of catching a cab every morning lest you miss it and all the troubles that follows assails you).


But the one thing I do want to leave you with – “Take the time to step back from life once in a while, the empty space can do you a great deal of good.” :)

And of course this post by Ollin which inspired me to write about the empty space I befriended in my own life.

"Surrender” by Ollin, Courage to create

You know what empty space I’m talking about, right? The empty space that comes between the end of one phase, and the beginning of another? That empty space...

If we are not busy talking to someone, we’re texting. If we’re not texting, we’re twittering. If we’re not twittering, we’re facebooking. If we’re not facebooking we’re watching TV, or listening to music, or surfing the web, or watching YouTube, or working, or exercising, or reading and if we’re not doing any of those, we try to frantically search for the next thing to do that will fill in the empty space in between one thing and the next.

We are desperate to fill in every silence, every piece of stillness, with something–something we deem more desirable, more worthy than that stillness. Something we think is more important and urgent than that damning quiet underneath everything–that damning quiet that always exists. That quiet that starts to drives us crazy when we first notice it, in those brief moments when we accidentally drop our guard, and all the clamor we worked so hard to create dies down
. ....”
Just be!


popsie said...

Love this post. Absolutely splendid, VJ!

Anonymous said...

GREAT insights! I loved this post, too. Even though it was inspired by my article, I think you reached some conclusions here that are worth a thought all their own. Good luck on your journey my friend. I'm glad you are at peace with the empty spaces of life.

sushma shanbhag said...

I went through the same phase and forced myself to be an employee again. Which i am enjoying.

Empty space...thought me a lot of things. Got clarity on my own self which wud hv been never possible if i went on without a pause to take breath and reflect.

And the biggest lesson is world will not fall apart if things dont work as u plan!
Lets talk in person..sometime..

Sanctified Spaces said...

I'm treading the same path currently.I totally understand how you feel.Very well written.

Anonymous said...

I was having nothing in my hand for almost a year. I also thought of so many different ways of paying back to the society, but finding nothing but a road block. Now that I have job, I have not stopped thinking. So still I am thinking of ways (proper ways, without surrendering to Govt. babus n in turn corruption). I will be happy to join in in your journey :)

Eli said...

Amazing post! The space between two thoughts is the point where most of human longing and desire can truly be sated. If only more people were aware of how a regular meditation practice can bring them closer to this realization!

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