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Let Yourself Be Empty

January 3, 2011

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.

 

I thought I was going to write about New Year’s resolutions today. Not so much because I wanted to as because I felt somewhat obligated. After all, this is the time of year when people are waking from their holiday eating stupor. They’re looking in the mirror, or getting on scales, or trying to put on that pair of jeans, and thinking, “I need to lose weight.” Television, magazines, radio, and newspapers are flooded with ideas of how they can achieve. Shouldn’t I add my two cents?

Then I went to church to listen to a sermon about living in the present. It included a Zen quote that rang within me: “If you want to be full, let yourself be empty.”

That simple phrase distilled for me precisely what I’ve been remembering and thinking about in relation to the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program. How can you know when you’re full if you never let yourself get empty?

It sounds so straightforward, but that simplicity is deceiving. I think most of us are scared to feel that way, not just in relation to food but in all areas of our lives. If we’re empty, maybe that means something is wrong with us. Especially in the holiday season, emptiness can be equated with loneliness, with lack of love. If we do not spend these special days with other people, if we have no one with whom to share a meal, if no one bakes us cookies, what does that say about us?

Perhaps more frightening is the idea that with all that space, we may have to face ourselves. What will we see? What will we uncover?

That can be frightening. It can also be freeing. When you don’t keep yourself filled to the gills, you may find that what you want or need becomes much simpler. If you’re truly hungry, you may discover that what you eat is so much more satisfying. Having experienced the opposite, fullness becomes a rich blessing.

So perhaps this is about resolutions after all. Perhaps this year, though, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with you that needs changing, you could think about what will make you truly satisfied. Then empty yourself enough to hold that fullness. And may the new year bring you just enough of what you need.

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