The Empty Boat

The Empty BoatMy informal role in the spiritual group which gathers around my spiritual mentor GD (a role appreciated by GD, mind you) is that of the senior student + class clown. Which basically means I keep the energy in the workshops and Sunday sessions light by poking fun at myself and sometimes taking welcome potshots at GD too.

But a few weeks ago, it was different. A weeklong ‘12/12/12’ workshop had organically crystallized around GD. Amongst the 24 participants filling GD’s living room were seven professional therapists, life coaches and healers, and I was feeling a little – I hate to say it but – diminished, even sidelined.

And I didn’t even realize this until the fourth day morning, when GD privately asked me why my energy was sad. I looked at him blankly. Me? Sad? No way! Out of respect for his insight (and past experience with his supernormal empath X-Ray vision), I offered up likely causes – Money? Writing? Missing home? Nothing clicked for him until I mentioned in passing how I felt a little hurt by his comment on day one. His body spontaneously let out a deep breath. “Yes!” GD said. “Talk more on this subject…” And one by one, out came the entire tangle of perceived events, imagined slights and sulky spells. At the end, I could see, as clear as day, the load of heaviness I had been carrying inside for the past few days.

“It’s all about being special,” he suggested quietly. “Can you see that?”

Yes, I could now: I was not getting my chance to ‘shine’, so I was inwardly sulking.

“And when the ego can’t shine,” GD continued lightheartedly, “it throws tantrums to seek attention: either outwardly, by reacting – or inwardly, by sulking. The ego wants to prove its ‘specialness’ at all times… especially in groups. But it fails to see that every time it is seeking specialness, it is missing the Oneness.

“For the remaining days of the workshop, just let go of wanting attention… stop struggling to prove anything… and experience the bliss of being nothing and nobody. Contrary to how it sounds, it is one of the most nourishing and empowering experiences possible.”

Then it struck me even deeper: what had I gotten stuck into! One comes upon the spiritual path to experience oneself, but gets caught in navigating group dynamics. In cementing one’s place in the pecking order. In earning intangible privileges to show off one’s seniority. In seeking symbols to signal closeness with the teacher. And the whole focus moves away from oneself to the teacher and the group.

“It’s great to laugh and interact with the group,” GD reminded me. “But that is tiny compared to experiencing your inner beauty. Can you let go of whatever you have been in the past… and just be… and melt… and disappear?

“Can you be an empty boat?”

Suddenly, I felt a wave of gratitude for the new participants who were drawing the big laughs and doing ‘my job’ so that I could be spared to go within. My sadness lifted. My soul was once again singing – like a bird which had once again regained its connection with the open sky.

Image used with gratitude under Creative Commons via Martin Gommel

4 thoughts on “The Empty Boat

    • Thank you for the comments. It gives me the enthusiasm to continue writing and sharing amidst the demands of family life and the option of so many distractions 🙂

  1. I feel the honesty with which you acknowledge your feelings & share them is very very beautiful & inspiring! I think this turns any feeling into progress: honesty. Even the most beautiful feelings can look unflattering when we hide them, but become a life lesson & a win each time we acknowledge them…
    Thank you very much, for this incredible honesty! And thank you for sharing!
    Getting to know & read your thoughts Sir & indirectly, benefiting from your mentor’s wisdom is one gift I’ll remember 2012 by & am very grateful for!
    Thank you for ending a year filled with contemplation & growth with this inspiring thought, I was unaware I was searching for.
    Have a very Happy New Year Sir! Filled with infinite potential & infinite faith in everything positive! Filled with magic, tranquility, peace, light & love!

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