A teacher of mine once asked me, “when is nothing better than something?” This simple question proved to be profound to sit with and contemplate. There is so much external stimulus happening all the time. Case and point, as I wrote these words, I was sitting in the waiting room at Pape Subaru while my car was in service. My senses went to overwhelm… Loser by Beck was blasted through the surround sound speakers, crackling sounds of chip bags were being consumed again and again, alongside the constant gurgle of the coffee machine, a newer version of what looks like a Kurig (note both stimulating coffee and heavily processed chips offered complimentary). Large windows let in abundant light, overlooking a steady stream of cars, trucks, automobiles zooming by on the highway. A strong scent of hyper sterilized leather held steady in the air. A cool breeze blew continuously down from the ginormous ventilation system. I added in my own stimulus by spending my time staring at my vibrant computer screen to crank out a few more tasks to close the day.
When is nothing better than something?
Though the picture I painted is of a very specific space and time, the reality is that we live in a time and culture that thrives on overconsumption. Be that overconsuming media, shopping, food, stimulants, depressants, screens, i-phones, podcasts, caffeine… the list goes on.
When is nothing better than something?
Nothing is better than something when we no longer remember the smell of the earth. When our minds are tired from all the information and we just need to be still and quiet. Nothing is better than something when we are full but eat anyway. Nothing is better than something when we feel directionless, confused, uncertain, full of fear.
Nothing is spacious. We need space to actually feel satiated and stop the cycle of endless reaching, addictions, attachments. I think of a good conversation with a friend as one where there is space for each other to be heard, seen, felt, and where thoughts have enough space to be absorbed. I think of a well-enjoyed meal as one where I get to know my food, taste every bite and am able to breathe, move, and be with ease after the meal.
“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still.
Just look and listen. No more is needed.
Being still, looking, and listening activates
the non-conceptual intelligence within you.
Let stillness direct your words and actions.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Nothing is better than something when we have lost touch of our own wisdom. When we forget to touch and listen into the sweetness and offering of each and every moment. Perhaps by nothing, I am now understanding the word not so much as complete non-doing, but, a conscious choice to welcome more mindful choice into each moment; a choice point to choose spaciousness, quiet, silence, rest, over the mindless chatter, fidgeting, moving, acting, reacting. Nothing then is actually something, an invitation to slow down, to look, to listen.
In the slowing, we begin to see and notice.
In contrast to the loud, noisy, and overstimulated car dealership, I spent my Saturday on retreat within the white washed walls of Good Medicine (the new home of Lila West). The room was filled with nearly 100 people, and yet throughout the day you could have heard a pin drop from the conscious space, intention, and silence we collectively held together. As the day progressed from deep listening on my cushion, to mindful walking outside, and back in again, it was like time slowed down and my senses began to open. As Rumi once said, “the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” I began to notice things I would often overlook, the sense of joy I felt from cracking an acorn underneath my boot, or the softness of a fallen white dove feather receiving without resistance a cold winter’s wind. Nothing is better than something when it opens us up to look, listen, and feel into each present moment.
How might a conscious call for space, for less stimulation, for less stuff, less work, and more ease, more space, more connection to yourself be welcomed into your daily life? What might come available to us in the space that we create by saying no to more and yes to less.
When is nothing better than something for you?
I would love to hear ways in which you consciously choose less as an opportunity to create more.