Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Healing the Emptiness

Several forms of emptiness can face us: the more common, lower forms that we can work to heal and the higher emptiness that heals us.

At times the lower emptiness assails us, perhaps as a world weariness or ennui. We fall into the grip of boredom, or the feeling of wasting time, of having nothing or too much to do, of being tired of the routines and frustrations of life, of dissatisfaction with our job, our entertainments, or the people around us. We usually confront this lower emptiness by filling it with busyness, new entertainments, shopping, overeating, substance abuse, or other distractions from our quotidian existence. Yet there it is: that dissatisfaction with life.

A more seriously debilitating form of emptiness arises through dissatisfaction with ourselves. Self-criticism and self-doubt can draw us into despondency, despair, and even self-loathing. Difficult childhood experiences can create long-lasting wounds that condition us for gnawing dissatisfaction with ourselves. The loss of a significant relationship, a job, or some other major undoing may trigger the descent.

The first antidote to both these types of emptiness is acceptance: accepting our life as it is and accepting ourselves as we are. This does not preclude working to improve our outer or inner situation, but we do so from a base of love and acceptance. Generally this is not so easy, to turn a lifetime of dissatisfaction into acceptance. But it is necessary. We notice the negative attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. While not rejecting them either, we let that awareness prompt us to adopt a stance of acceptance, to let go of our demands and just let ourselves be.

As a further and complementary approach to healing the lower emptiness, we turn to spiritual practice, creative work, and right action in service to others. Each of these broadens our ordinary life, opening us to the greater world and connecting us with real meaning. When we find ourselves in the throes of dissatisfaction, we can practice sensing right then and there, knowing that by doing so we strengthen our soul through an effort of lasting significance. Sustaining the practice of presence puts us into a very different relationship with life. Similarly, by entering some creative endeavor or engaging in acts of kindness and service, we touch a region of timeless value.

A different, higher, sacred and unquenchable emptiness at our core forms the doorway to the Divine. This emptiness increases our hunger while leading us toward the Source of spiritual nourishment. Along the way, this higher emptiness guides us into the utter peace of pure consciousness, where no thing encumbers us. Stepping further into our empty core, beyond consciousness and peace, all questions vanish; or rather they merge into the singleness of purpose of joining in the Divine purpose. Toward this higher emptiness, our job is to accept, deepen, and surrender to it, while asking, praying for its fulfillment from Above. These upper reaches of emptiness complete the healing of the lower ones, bringing true and lasting satisfaction, contentment, and purpose.

To work at healing the emptiness, distinguish among the forms of emptiness confronting you, notice how you normally respond, and consider how you wish to respond.


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