It’s in nothing, not in doing something, that we find true freedom. The freedom of Being.
As I write this blog, I’m ending week 7. You may think I’m referring to the corona virus shelter-in-place, but I’m actually referring to something else: my journey through hyperthyroidism, which has incidentally overlapped, for better or worse, with the global pandemic.
It’s been a humbling experience. As a yoga teacher, I’ve been quite attached to my state of fitness. Within a few weeks, I went from my regular cardio workouts, weight lifting, and my yoga practice to stopping on each step of our stairs to slow my heart rate down. I couldn’t walk more than the length of the house without triggering heart palpitations, and I had to rise very slowly from bed. At one point, I couldn’t even do the most gentle of seated yoga poses.
My work and family life have suffered, too. Unable to cook or clean for a while, I needed to rely on my husband and daughter to pick up the slack. No more could I sit down and play a game with the family, and even a short walk through the neighborhood together was out of the question. I let go of control, and also released my attachments to the state of the home, doing things with the family, and my personal physical appearance.
During the worst part, I had to cancel all my client sessions. In fact, I even had to cancel one in the middle of it, because I couldn’t think clearly. All my events – even the online ones – were wiped off my schedule, if temporarily.
It has been a lesson of surrender into the nothingness.
For that’s pretty much how I felt – like nothing. I was used to making a difference, doing something that mattered to others. Now, I was faced with being nothing, as if I were irrelevant now that I was ill.
Most of my life – certainly my adult life – I’ve based my sense of self on doing. I was capable. I could succeed in school, and I could create my work. If I needed more income, I could offer more classes, workshops, or expand my counseling offerings. I could write more, do more events, speak more places… always doing more, more, more.
Sure, I’d stop and be present. It’s a hallmark of my spiritual practice and what I teach. But I didn’t stay there. It was a breathing point, a place that I could have a break. A break between all of my doings that kept my sense of Who I Am established.
All of that broke down over the last 7 weeks. Slowly, everything that I defined myself by was stripped away. Good enough mom? Now I can’t help my daughter or cook a meal for the family. Therapist? I had to clear my calendar of client sessions. Writer? I couldn’t put together a sentence. Speaker? Teacher? No way! Nothing profound was coming out of my mouth, and I was mostly filled with fear. The fear of watching everything you defined yourself by dissolve in front of you.
One night, when I was up for hours once again, unable to sleep, it occurred to me that I couldn’t hang on. I had to let it all go. I didn’t know for how long. But I needed to embrace the nothingness.
It’s vast. It’s scary. I traveled through the fear of dying as well as the fear of living. Because living is a risk. We all risk, every day, stepping into the world. I’m not talking about corona virus – that has just amplified our physical risk. But I mean the vulnerability of being ourselves. Stepping out and being who we are. Sharing what we have with the world. But sometimes, just being in the world.
Being had to be enough. I needed to learn that my beingness – out of that nothingness – was sufficient. In fact, it was Who I Am.
All the doings are like whirlwinds, like the hurricane swirling around that calm, quiet, clear center. That’s Who I Am. In silence and presence, without any doings, is the I AM.
The hurricane couldn’t exist without its center. I had to take this journey to find my center, and stay there. Nothing is the foundation of the Universe. It’s only because of the nothingness that something can arise. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know it as something, as a doing. We must have the non-doing, the being, the nothingness as the foundation.
I needed this time to let go of the flurry of winds, the untamed doing in my life, to find the being of my Self again. Still, my heart begins to pound when I am caught up once again in the doing; my rapid, run-around-on-rocket-fuel doing to try to be that “something” I believe I am.
This illness returned me to Presence; to simply being in this moment. Nothing, without doing. In this nothingness, I could be whatever I was in the moment. No expectations to live up to.
What I found as I allowed this process to unfold, to embrace that I was becoming nothing, is that everything flowed. When my body was ready to see clients, they were there, and even more showed up unexpectedly. People contacted me to be included in their projects. The more I aligned with my nothingness and allowed myself to be, the more I opened to allow the flow – and it showed up. Sometimes, nothing happened; other times, things to do showed up. Either way, I was still the I AM, still the unchanging nothing that was peaceful and more than enough.
Now, I spend time each day sitting in the sun, listening to the birds, as I did before – but now, I sit as nothing. I smile as I write this. It fills me more than all the doings.
What freedom in nothing, in allowing myself to be and knowing, trusting, that nothing is sufficient. More than sufficient; it is the fullness of All That Is. It’s a relief and a joy.
Allow nothing to be here right now for you, and open to the freedom of being.