finding the church of emptiness

I spent some time this morning drinking tea and watching this lavender plant. Yep, just watching. I had no phone, no computer, no work, no notebook, no book, just me and a plant. And the sun. And the bees. So many beautiful bees. You can’t tell from that first picture, but the plant is constantly covered in bees, with butterflies fluttering in and out among them.

I got a couple bees to sit for their portrait (I had to be quick!), but the butterflies were a little less cooperative.

(Yes, I did go get my phone to do this.)

I love watching the butterfly dances amidst the busy bees; their winged intersections of flight. They chase each other, or go off to one blossom and then another, they encounter each other in the air and play for a few seconds – 2 or 3 together, or sometimes even 4 of them at a time, then they all go off looking for flowers again.

Earlier in the morning I had felt stirred up, so much bubbling inside me, and then bubbling over from the last few months of my own work and play, encounters and emotions. I had a moment while making breakfast where I just had to stop and feel it all.

I’ve been working on a project about the Enneagram (which I would love to talk about more – contact me if interested!), and one of the things I have learned is that my particular way of being in the world has been shaped by an instinct to *think* about my feelings rather than to actually feel them. This was a surprising realization for someone who, well… thinks (ahem) of herself as a feeling person.

And I do feel. Deeply. Which, to be frank, sometimes scares the hell out of me.

So, like most (all?) of us, I’ve learned some coping mechanisms to get through the hard parts of life. Sometimes they have been incredibly useful and sometimes they get in my way.

One of those things has been to keep doing instead of feeling; action makes me – well – feel better. And if that doesn’t work, thinking is way easier than sifting through the complicated messiness of things like grief, joy, pain, desire, fear, tenderness, vulnerability, hope, or love.

Through the first part of this year, I’ve been working on some really wonderful projects, and they’ve demanded every part of me to be engaged – my mind, my body, my intellect, my heart, my soul, and yes, my feelings.

When I’m not working, I’ve been engaged with people – listening, sharing stories, taking in events, laughing, discussing topics I care deeply about.

In other words, I’ve been busy.

Today, this morning, for the first time in a while, I found myself alone for a bit. And I let myself feel some feelings. (Ugh.)

There were a lot, but one that surprised me as I sifted through them all was… emptiness.

At first I resisted that feeling and tried to look for another one. But then I wondered, “What is so scary about this? What if I let myself feel empty for a moment, and let that be okay?”

As I did that, I felt a bit of relief. I sat for a moment, and it was, indeed, okay.

That’s when I found myself wandering over to the lavender bush with my tea.

I sat down, and I watched the bees, and I listened to that part of me that felt empty.

A good kind of empty.

An emptiness that began to transform.

An emptiness that could take in those bees, and feel gratitude that they are doing their work, individually and together, and providing beauty in the world along the way.

An emptiness that seemed to draw butterflies to me, almost landing on me, flitting by and saying hello.

An emptiness that let me look up and around, hearing the various calls of birds I hadn’t noticed; an emptiness that let me feel the breeze on my skin, and smell lavender on my fingers.

An emptiness that led me to walk barefoot in the grass, looking and listening and smelling and touching.

An emptiness that let me remember the fullness in our world — an emptiness in me that made space for some of the world I walk through everyday to come in a little closer, and mingle with the inner world I carry around with me everyday.

Last night I had a wonderful conversation with some women a little older than me about things I rarely talk about – God, theology, community, and the many places we find church.

We had slightly differing experiences and opinions, and we also connected on a lot of things. One thing we all agreed on was that church and God can be found in the in-between… in between people, and the natural world, … in between the places of touch and not touch… in between the things we know and don’t know…

For there to be a place of in-between, there needs to be a space for that in-between to happen.

Maybe the in-between is a space of uncertainty, and also of possibility.

Maybe the in-between is a pause from our actions and thoughts, outside of to-do lists and habits and continuing work that is, yes, important, but can be set down for a moment. A pause so we can be where we are.

Maybe the in-between is in the ambiguity and complications of feelings.

Maybe the in-between is a moment to breathe.

Maybe the in-between is what I’ve sometimes called emptiness.

Maybe, in fact, emptiness is holy.


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