There is always going to be something incomplete in this life. There are going to be times of fullness, and many more times of emptiness, boredom, restlessness, and the sense that something is wrong.
Some people seek to fill the emptiness through alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, eating.
Others try to fill it with scrolling, ruminating, checking, cleaning.
The mind tries to find the answer to the sense that “something is wrong.” Is it my partner, my house, my friends, my kids, my work, my city, my health?
It’s not likely any of these things, and when you try to find the answer, you end up creating a bigger problem.
Because there is no answer. It’s just life being life. It’s humans being human. We are incomplete. We feel bored. We feel empty. We feel lonely. We feel bored. Relationships are boring sometimes. Parenting is boring sometimes. Jobs are boring sometimes. It’s just the way life is.
No matter how full your life is, there is a place at the core of the human experience that rises up and asks that we see it, sit with it, hold it. Don’t run or eat or scroll or ruminate. Just sit with the lonely-empty-bored feeling.
Eventually, something new will arise from the emptiness. It’s the nature of emptiness to give rise to fullness. It’s how a baby is born from a seed. Even before the seed, there is emptiness. In the beginning of our world, there was nothing. From the nothing, came one thing, some thing, something. And then another thing, and another thing, until eventually this miraculous world was born and continues to be born, continues to unfold in the vastness of the universe and renew itself from the cycles of emptiness.
We, too, are vessels of creation, which means we’re vessels of emptiness. It’s very uncomfortable to sit with the nothing, the bored, the lonely. It’s our nature to fill it in and fix it in some way. But however we attempt to do this will provide a temporary filler at best, a spiral of addiction or anxiety at worst.
When we stay with the discomfort, we open the pathways for something new to arise.
Perhaps, instead of reaching for the cookie when we’re not hungry, we reach for a pen.
Perhaps, instead of spiraling into a rumination cycle about whether or not we’re with the right partner, we take out the instrument we used to play as a child and try our hand at it.
Perhaps, instead of scrolling, we dance.
Perhaps, instead of binging on the stream, we light a candle and talk to a beloved ancestor.
We won’t know how the emptiness longs to be filled until we sit with it and ask. This is no small task. We do not like to be bored or empty, which is why our screens have become a global addiction. We never have to be bored again (even though to scroll is to numb our minds into a type of complacency that is worse than boredom but holds out the infinite promise that the dopamine hit is just around the next virtual bend).
To sit still is to stay with nothing. To stay with nothing can feel like a certain type of death. And we are a culture that runs from death. We will do anything to avoid the feeling of nothing-death that sits at the center of bored-empty.
But we can do it. And I invite you to try. The next time you feel bored-empty-lonely-restless, sit still. Watch it. Become curious about it. What does it feel like in your body? What does your mind reach for to avoid it? What are your go-to fillers?
Watch instead of act. No small task. Call on courage and fortitude and grace and see what happens next.