I never really got the tortoise and the hare story. I mean, the hare’s antics seemed more like individual personality traits than being part and parcel with quickness. And then there was the Bugs Bunny version where the tortoise was quite the trickster. However I slice it, I resisted feeling that slow was in any way even equal to quick, much less better.
And it’s a substantive shift – from preferring, valuing quickness to reveling in, basking in slowness. It may be a time-of-life thing. I don’t know that this could’ve happened earlier in my life.
But the shift from valuing “full” to seeking to become “empty” may be even more surprising.
I think culture teaches us to collect attributes and concepts, and the sum of those attributes make up the bulk of our identity, so we’re always seeking to collect more and more desireable attributes. I wanted to be full of good stuff. Where’s more good stuff? Let me internalize it and identify with it and make it me.
These days, I’m all about emptying. Right now, it’s one of those things that is coming up for me everywhere (once you see it…). It started with Gene, our Tai Chi teacher. Becoming empty is key in Tai Chi. Gene is really into the self defense aspects of Tai Chi and the guy can turn an innocent touch into a death grip remarkably fast. This isn’t my focus in Tai Chi, but it is really interesting to see Gene’s skill. But it all derives from being empty. Being empty, you’re set up to notice and receive the moment.
Being full is sortof like waiting for other people to stop talking so that you can say your bit. Always wanting to express fullness actually puts you in quite a weak position. And at the very least, for a person who values fullness, when expressed it leads to emptiness and a person who values fullness has no clue how to be, and be ok, in the inevitable emptiness to come.
Emptiness, contrarily, listens, receives, responds, and comes back to empty. It seems to me to be a very generous way to live. Being that you’re always going back to empty, it lets you both fully experience fullness and be completely non-attached. So you’re interacting in the world in such an essential and full way at any given moment. And you’re always giving. There are no attacks in Tai Chi. I love that.
Being that Tai Chi principles are far more vast and eloquent than I’m doing any justice to here, this empty/full may not make any sense. But it’s a delicious concept.
Recently a friend posted about Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s about getting rid of stuff so your heirs don’t have to. With the sale of Tucker’s family home, they recently had to contend with a whole lot of stuff, none of it being as precious as it no doubt seemed in the moments his parents decided to store/save/keep it. His dad was Swedish, but it was clear no one had heard of Swedish Death Cleaning in their house.
Traveling really taught us to value emptying, too. Getting rid of the non-essentials. Because: Why carry a bunch of unnecessary stuff? It is an exercise in futility. It’s hard and senseless and heavy and in the way and just full of bad attributes, all for what? A pair of shoes I wore once?
Thoughts are obviously like this. We have so many unnecessary thoughts in our heads, swirling around, gumming up the works. Taking time to even consider emptying the thought-stream is remarkably valuable in my life. Even after all these years, my thought stream doesn’t get very empty, but in my experience, if I don’t take the time to (even unsuccessfully) empty and slow my thought stream, it just keeps getting fuller and faster until I am in some level of general anxiety. So, I know meditation is foundationally important in my life.
But as I wrote the other day, sometimes, even knowing this as essentially as I do, I will feel pretty good about things and maybe miss a day, which can turn into two. Man, I hate it when I do that. It’s the same with not walking or stretching or falling into poor eating habits. I get into a rush and/or I think I’m “full” of the good stuff and can take a day off without depleting. No, that doesn’t work for me. Ever. And so, keeping these principles move alive in my life is key to consistently following through.