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mother of josh, richard, and mutt. lover of books, yarn, and the quiet places. spinner, knitter, kayaker, survivor, vandweller, warrior.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the value of empty

i get a daily meditation from the tao te ching. todays was especially meaningful because it speaks to me on so many levels.

"Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that allows the wheel to function.

We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.

We fashion wood for a house,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes it livable.

We work with the substantial,
but the emptiness is what we use."

when i first read this, i thought of my van. on my first couple cross-country trips, i was proud of how much i could fit in all the nooks and crannies, and how many valuable, useful things i could haul along while remaining organized. on my last trip, though, i began to realize the value of emptiness.....of useable space. for many of us, downsizing is an ongoing project, a renewable goal. 

the last few months have been a downsizing in many other ways. i have been doing things more mindfully and with greater focus than i am usually capable of.   it is very hard for me, slowing down the inner turmoil and the cacophony of thoughts tumbling around in my head. even when those thoughts are positive or cheerful, as they often are, the are tiring. my mind does not always feel like my own..... it is crowded and busy and all to often self-absorbed. i said to a friend not long ago "i will really attain minimalism when i can downsize my brain".

i thought of that statement again after re-reading the above meditation a few times. "we work with the substantial but the emptiness is what we use". it hit me this evening how meaningful that is to me.  i don't think i have come close to understanding it....if anything, i don't want to overthink it, and miss the whole point. for now, i'm just going to let it be what it is.

i've been really scarce on the internet lately, been on a kind of digital diet. i have been practicing slow-down kind of things (i am reluctant to use the word "meditation" in the same blog post that references my thought processes!) and i have been having some success which delights me no end. i have fallen in love all over again with knitting and have taken up colorwork which involves counting and following charts.....mindful and purposeful and satisfying.  i am appreciating simple things in a way i haven't in a long time. i am grateful for the snippets of stillness that i stumble over, when i least expect it, and i have no doubt that there will be more........


Jude said...

Really enjoyed this post. Van dwelling is pretty minimal as is--but to make it usefully emptier is intriguing. There are things I could peacefully do without in my van; I'm going to take the plunge.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

Bob said...

A different way to think about things. I like it.

Brian Many Wheels said...

Good thoughts Katie...I like it...thank you for sharing it and good to know yhou are doing this...

Anonymous said...

Love it, perhaps this should be taught in grade school?

~~Mike~~ said...

Nice post Katie! I was thinking after reading it that maybe emptiness could be thought of as capacity in a way too. Empty sounds almost too lacking in a way to me. For example, someone could be full of life, but have the capacity to think and be "filled" by the same thoughts and experiences, emotions etc. With a van, it could have many useful and even complex systems and yet have the capacity to accomplish anything you may want to do with it. Just thinking out loud. I love the post, very thought provoking!

I have noticed your absence on the net and wondered how you have been. Dad has been asking about you too. It is great to read about your renewed feelings towards knitting and your crafts! I hope you and Mutt are doing well!

97 Roadtrek 170P "Taj Ma Trek"

Soaring Sun said...

Katie, this post is really helpful to me as I get close to moving into my small motorhome. I am letting go of so many supplies for projects that I never got around, fabric that has great potential...but more will come to me when I need it. Sun

hoboknitter said...

thank-you everyone, for your replies!

@Jude-it's so good to hear from you. i've learned that whenever i think about anything as "done" i restrict my thinking.

@Bob- very different, and still tough for me to do. just when i get it, i realize i really don't :-)

@Bri- i love you my friend. you are so often my inspiration.

@anonymous- i think we should start in infancy.

@Mike- good thoughts, Mike. i must say that first reading the word "capacity" my mind immediately went to "what can i fill it with?" lol. but i see what you are saying when i read your post. i think what is truly important is to know that each person will have there own "emptiness" that works for them. for some, it's probably not near the struggle as it is for me, who tends to clutter up my mind as much as my environment.

@soaring sun- you hit a key point there, which i deal with alot...."more will come to me when i need it". i was always one of those "i'll take this just-in-case" to a pathological degree. but i also believe in preparation. finding balance is definitely a "progress not perfection" thing for me!