Don’t Fill Up the Void

อาจารย์ โชติปาโล

Don’t Fill Up the Void

Why did you come to Abhayagiri? What brought you here? Simply bring that inquiry into your mind.

After traveling for the last month and being fairly busy, I returned to Abhayagiri a few days ago. I’ve tended to go back to my kuṭi in the afternoons, and it’s been really quiet. There have been no expectations or demands on me. I’ve noticed in the past, after a period of busyness, when I go back to my kuṭi for some quiet time, there is a feeling of melancholy that comes up and a feeling that I should be doing something. I’ve been looking at that for the last two days, going back to my kuṭi and sitting there with that feeling. I’m not trying to label it—anxiety, depression, or whatever else the mind wants to call it. I’m just looking at it as a physical sensation and seeing how the mind is reacting to it, how the mind is trying to figure out what it is, and why it’s there. When I feel this way my tendency and desire is to say to myself, I should go do something to help the monastery or read a book or do walking meditation … There is this low-grade desire in me to avoid feeling this melancholy. I don’t want to feel it. Even something as wholesome as reading or studying, if the intention behind that is to avoid feeling something, then it’s good to investigate that.

For at least a period of our afternoon, when we have solitude, I think it is good to set aside some time to do nothing in particular. Don’t think of it as trying to meditate or trying to focus on the mind, just sit there and be willing to feel what you’re feeling. See what happens. See if it’s aversion or pleasure. To me, this really gets back to that first question, What brought me here? We are often trying to fill up the void we feel with activities, planning, or whatever, merely because we don’t want to feel the discomfort of that void, or of any other unwanted emotion. When we do this, we are not honoring the wholesome intentions that brought us here. So instead, when we find ourselves avoiding our experience, we can take the time to be quiet and be willing to feel what we are feeling.

This reflection by Ajahn Jotipālo is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, pp. 14-15.