When you begin to realize that notion of loving and gentleness in yourself, and at the same time you begin to give up the notion of trying to find out the real truth. And there is the real notion of where shunyata [emptiness] experience begins to happen.
Around three years ago I was homeless for 5 months, I lived in a garage. It was my choice I suppose, I had walked out on a broken marriage and made myself homeless so that I could give all of my financial support to my family. This left me with a meager budget and I could not afford accommodation. This experience was hard at times for sure, but it was also very liberating.
You see, a lot of my life I had been operating with a background motivation of avoiding losing things: my possessions, my job, my relationship, my kids and always in the background my life. Losing things was always very painful for me. I think we all try to hold onto things in the belief that they will secure our happiness, its a very human tendency, one I think is wrong and conversely causes more suffering. In our attempts to avoid losing things we form this defensive position which is quite exhausting and extremely limiting. Like a dog defending a bone, growling, tense and upset and unable to do anything but stay with its bone. How much happier the dog would be if it could leave the bone and go off and enjoy the rest of its environment.
My experience of near total loss brought about some insight for me. I discovered that when you do lose things, there is a period of suffering as the mind grumbles in a very real and painful way about the ‘unfairness’ or ‘sadness’ of the situation. The fundamental basis of this feeling is probably the loss of some deeply held belief about oneself and the one’s future, in other words those self constructed beliefs that form our ego. But, the revelation that came to me from my loss was that when there is nothing left to lose, when you really are stripped back to the basics of having nothing, then since there is nothing left to lose, there is also nothing left to fear and that is a really nice place to be.
So the emptiness of the situation when fully embraced contains no fear of loss and is quite free. Like a soldier that accepts the hopelessness of his situation and his certain death and at that point loses all fear.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
My understanding of emptiness is that its a wonderful feeling that we can have when we accept each moment with a total fearlessness and acceptance of what ever might happen without judging of good or bad. I am not saying that in my circumstance of loss I was able to be in this feeling for long. It was a challenge to avoid the tendency to keep objecting to the unfairness. However, there were these moments of beautiful acceptance and freedom that washed over me like a cool wave of water on a hot day.
So how does that work now, well, when I remember I try to bring that feeling back into the day. I try to set out with a feeling of whatever will be will be and in doing so I find a more expansive feeling, something I think is closer to my personal Shunyata.