Friday, September 11

when emptiness becomes space

I try to fill up emptiness with food.
I try to fill up stillness with doing.

There, I said it. I wanted it out there. I wanted the complete clarity of having typed it out.

About 4 years ago, I had come a long way to healing my Impatience Shadow. About 7 months ago, there it was staring me in the face, looming over me, darkening my path.

You see, motherhood was a trigger.

The role of caring for my baby was overwhelming and all-encompassing, and these feelings were so loud that they woke my Shadow. Not in the first few months, where busyness left no room for pondering anything other than things of milk, poop, and, is-she-breathing.

At some time around 6 months, I began to see a glimmer of Self again, a tiny break in the busyness, and with that came the concept of time, of lost time. With it also came amazing personal shifts and discoveries. Wonderful ideas about mamahood and babies, and eco-diapers and wooden toys and, and ,and.... things to blog about, research, experiment.
And add to that, my soul was busting with the need for creativity.

I was an overflowing jug of a woman - ideas, ponderings, hopes, projects, mama role...

So my Shadow rose up to the call. It whispered - you haven't enough time, squeeze in more, don't nap, you're missing out....

I have been having this dialogue since my early 20's. I recognised it so well. There was no alarm, I simply heeded its needs.

I have since, synchronously, spoken with others who are filling up with unbeneficial things. I won't say wrong things, because I'm not a black-n-white, right-or-wrong sorta gal. Also, these things are right, in that they serve their purpose at the time. In other words, they are right, until we are ready to do otherwise.

My fillers might be food and doing, for others it could be; money, sex, pretty things, babies, projects, goals, drugs, lists, degrees, charity work, socialising, romance, achievements, control, blog posts, groups, keeping up with others, knitting, home decor, books, approval........

photo: google search

I'm not saying these things are fillers in and of themselves, I'm saying we can use them as such. Some of them are really helpful in recovery, ironically, because of their obvious detriments - obesity, debt, laying in a pool of your own vomit..... you get the picture.

But others, ooooh, they are sly. How difficult is it to spot a filler when we are, seemingly, doing 'good'? When what we do helps others, adds to our professional or family life? The most sinister are the ones that we convince ourselves are things that bring us happiness or we explain away the behaviour as simply 'who we are'.

Those burdened with the obvious ones are also easier to despise, pity, or more often, simply seen as alien to ourselves - inferior. The bigger the distance, the harder it is to recognise our own fillers.

The similarity with all fillers, is that they leave us unsatisfied. Anyone with food/eating issues knows this, right? Whether it's our most favourite food or we are stuffed, the satisfaction is momentary, fleeting.

I recognised the void a few years ago. I recognised that food and doing were fillers. I mean, this is the stuff of many hours of philosophical ponderings.
And yet, it was only until last week that I heard the lock chamber click, whilst, finally, reading Eating in the Light of the Moon.

I had recognised emptiness, I had recognised that I needed to fill it, and I had recognised that I was filling it with the unbeneficial....


I had never viewed emptiness as space.

And when viewed as space, the whole approach shifts.

Emptiness requires filling, space does not.

I love such simple insights.

And I added to that, that when we are filling up on authentic soul-needs, we are better able to view it as space, and we are comfortable with space. Unlike Fillers that leave us unsatisfied, and thereby craving more, acknowledging soul-needs allows us to feel fuller for longer, and feel safe in space because we trust that more will come when our soul requires it. Am I making sense?

I have more to chat with you about all this... in time. For now, share with me, if you feel comfortable doing so, your own Fillers, or suspected ones.


  1. i can identify with and appreciate everything you've just written. doing and food are my big fillers as well. i've been trying to accept them for years while simultaneoulsy transforming them.

    the emptiness/space epiphany never really occured to me though. thank you.

    i will sit with this a while.

  2. In my younger years it was alcohol. When I became a mother it morphed into food. I don't feel a whole lot of emptiness today, but when I do, you can bet my friend food is there for me.

    Love what you said about emptiness vs. space. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Food. I was doing so well and had actually come to a place in my life where food was just a means of survival. Imagine, after 20 some odd years of eating issues I had finally gotten to that coveted place. I felt great, looked great and food was no longer on my radar..or should I say my food issues no longer were. And then things changed again, my shadow re-emerged, likely out of a dramatic change in lifestyle. so I turned to it again. I stuffed my face with candy, chocolate, chips, whatever I could get my hands on. I savoured it, worshipped it. And when it was gone, the guilt was overwhelming. A vicious circle. your post is very timely for me Mon. I hope to stomp this shadow into oblivion once again and this time for good..but I have a long road ahead and it's Friday and I need red wine ;-) Thanks for sharing, J

  4. Very thought provoking. I've been battling for years with food being my filler. I seem to have gotten a bit better, but I still eat too much and being that I'm obese and getting to that stage of my life where it is actually starting to impact on me.. well, not quite sure how to succeed.

    And then there's the net.. I KNOW I use it to pass time so when I next look up it's too late to go to the beach or the park... and it's not out of laziness..but rather the weight is taking such a toll on my body these days that some days I can't face the discomfort.

    I will get there, I MUST because not to means I not only let myself down but I let my lad down too.


  5. Ok, this makes sense.

    I have to think.


    Laters. And thankyou.

  6. Food is definitely one for me. And a kind of daydreaming. And ambition, which is a really tough one to sort out. It is similar to 'doing' but a little different, it has more attached to it I guess, in terms of a sense of 'success'.
    But I waiver on whether it is a 'problem' or not (I don't like that word either) because I feel that sometimes the only way to sort out what is 'soul-food' and what is 'filler' is through trial and error. And some things (like, uh, blogging!) can be a soul-food if approached one way, but teeter into filler for me if I become too attached to stats, comments, increasing readership, etc. Does that make sense? I think it is a razor's edge, always about balance, not the activities themselves that are the issue for me.

  7. "Emptiness require filling, space does not". Wow, that is great, I love it. The book looks interesting, I might check it out. It sounds Jungian? Or perhaps like Clarissa Pinkola Estes?
    Food is my filler, when I am 'using' it in that way I have to fill myself right up, until I can fit no more in. Like Joxy, I am also recognising that I fill a lot of time up on the internet, I have meaningful connections here but I spend FAR too much time online without purpose.
    Look forward to hearing more on this Mon.

  8. These days my fillers are thoughts and internet, like your blog :), occasionally food as I'm stubborn and hedonistic and probably other things like long hot baths. Have historically filled the void with all the usual suspects though (as you would have read way back when I wrote all about that history) and of course they haven't brought any sustainable joy, or any understanding, until I opened more space with creativity instead of filling it with the unhelpful fillers. Having my first child moved me on, but didn't fill the void completely, a lot more work to do for that, but much more centered now, of course it will be a life-long process of commitment and engagement and the troughs of course, but maybe they'll lessen. Open Space Technology was a great philosophy as to how to open more space too...

    I'm quoting you here when I wrote about nothingness once:
    "Nothingness is both an emptiness and a space filled to overflowing."
    I took the space filled to overflowing as creative process and engagement with anything that gets us going. Happiness is always the by-product of this path, which is why I liked your comment "the most sinister are the ones that we convince ourselves are things that bring us happiness or we explain away the behaviour as simply 'who we are'".

    Ok, this afternoon tea date has to happen one day! (^_^)

  9. Oh, and food in it's symbol of nourishment, it's no wonder why we women have contentious food relationships...there's something about us women and nourishing ourselves, or a lack of it which is why we can fill the void to overflowing with food! That's what I did, it was so related to nourishing myself and the relationship with my mother...oh it's all so entrenched! Hard to strike that balance (or get any time at all) for nourishing your soul and motherhood, esp. in the early years, food is so easy and on tap! xxr

  10. Your words resonate so loudly with me. In my 20's, I loved space... I genuinely cherished my own company. Since marriage and kids, I have completely lost the ability to enjoy the space. I have forgotten how precious it is. I have recently been thinking how I'd like to learn to be my own friend again. Just me and myself. Thanks for this post.
    Blessings and magic.

  11. My fillers have been degrees and teaching, and doing, and the internet (even though it pisses me off, and which is why I sometimes deeply resent the internet and time spent on it), all of which take me away from writing I find meaningful and where I enter into that space of deep connection and peace. I also fill with obligations to others (self-created of course). Teaching in particular has done this - requiring a lot of my energy attending to the seemingly constant needs of others. And their creativity. Feeling used up like yet another disposable and readily available resource. I sound cynical about teaching don't I? Heheh. That's why I'm erm...taking a break from it. Not just that, trying to be a great teacher was also a filler - feeding on the praise and reputation I was gaining was a filler. And certainly took me away from just letting there be a space. A space that was confronting me in all sorts of ways.

    Having a child heightened a sense of urgency I've always had about time - call it the Impatience Shadow - a lot of fear around time's fleetingness, and around the 6 month mark (of my baby's life) I too started bubbling over with ideas and things to do as I emerged, (and was quite desperate to emerge) from that cocoon of the newborn months, and it strengthened that voice that was constantly saying "there's no time to rest...", or "there's no time to be...otherwise I can't create". Or, "I won't have time to contribute whatever it is I need to contribute in this life...". Blah, blah.

  12. I have suspected for a while now that "quest for knowledge" is a filler of mine. I don't mean education or anything worthwhile like that. I mean researching things to death, or trying to learn more about something just on a whim, which translates to endless reading on the Internet. Right now it is parenting philosophies, in the past it's been natural health or finding solutions for my health problems. The reasoning for it is just and good, but the mindless hours I spend on it just aren't satisfying. I sort of feel the same way sometimes about blogging or retouching images...sometimes I really benefit from it, but sometimes I use it as a filler. Sometimes the TV is a filler, but one I feel like I can easily kick if I wanted to. It does not have value like my other fillers.

    Food, I can say is not usually a filler for me, but can be a "control pattern" at times--like eating chocolate after a stressful event if I don't have the opportunity to release my stress.

    And I do love space. I want it and crave it. But my fillers keep getting in the way--they call to me! But space is calling to me, too! I need to find a balance.

  13. for me, the emptiness comes with unrest, stress, anxiety, discord in the family or with friends-then i find i turn to the cupboards to fill up my stomach and settle myself down with food...
    when everything is running along smoothly and everyone's needs (including my own) are being met, space, time, the little simplicities of life are all savoured and easily welcomed and embraced-at those times, i don't feel the need to find every last scrap of something sweet, salty, soft or creamy...
    i especially don't feel to overeat when those passion tingles flow-like how i felt when i first read about unschooling and then i did it, when i first heard about the idea of selling all our stuff and going on the road and traveling and then we did it, like when i discovered my love for photography and threw myself into it-when i decided to write an article for an unschooling magazine and i just went for it- when you feel your heart pumping-you rarely need your crutch...your soul is being fed and you are obsessed by it...
    if emptiness can be seen as space-and space does not need filling-what do you do with it? visualize the openness of it? will that keep the cupboard door closed? does space infer infinite possibilities or do you just zen out into nothingness and feel the calm??? hmmm

  14. Thank you for this post, Mon. I thought i was safe, but the last weeks brought me back to my old habits, over-eating, guilt, trying to starve, at least for hours, trying to break this cycle through thinking, meditating, over-working, being aware of myself, my needs, my space, my emptiness. Your emptiness vs. space thought... it made me gasp, now i wear that little window in my chest it helps me remember i can deal with it.

  15. Beautiful insight about fillers in life. I share the same ones as you -- food and doing. My awakening with this began after I had been married for a year. The first placed I looked to fill voids in my life were the fillers ... the last place I looked ended up being the solution. Through prayer, I realized that I needed spiritual fullfilment and that only came for me through a relationship with the Lord.
    It's so important to understand what's "filling" us empty can actually lead to more emptiness. Thank you for this post.

  16. Beautiful post! Yes, food has been that for me, too. I've struggled with that nearly my entire life.

    Since I turned 33 a few months ago, I've been hit with a sense of frantic-ness that I can hardly describe. Suddenly, there is SO MUCH to do. My to-do lists are so long, and I NEVER get through more than 2 or 3 items a day. And the lists keep growing and I keep feeling more and more frantic.

    But what's on those lists? Are they fillers? I'm beginning to wonder.

    And blogging...oh what a great filler! I LOVE blogging, and it makes me happy, and feeds my creative spirit in a really fast, satisfying way. But sometimes, I can fall too far in the other direction and get lost in blogging. It is a hard thing to balance.

  17. I use fillers. I use them a lot. I'm pretty sure that there are things that I use as fillers that I don't even recognise as such!
    Mon, don't EVER stop writing posts like this will you. You have such amazing insight into the female psyche!

  18. WOW and double wow! I never expected this response. I never expected so many 'confessions'. You guys are amazing, and you've made me feel a little less naked-in-the-spotlight.
    You've inspired me to continue to share these rambling thoughts of mine.

  19. Wow! fantastic post, very thought provoking... thank you! My two most obvious fillers being, like yours, food and doing.. especially the doing :) and i'm sure I have many more lurking that I haven't yet or perhaps refuse to yet recognise/accept!

  20. Guess I'm the oddball here - mine is actually, drumroll please...... housework. Yes, good old clean the house and then I'll not have time to create because my family deserves a clean house, blah, blah, blah. My family right now is just me and my hubby, who doesn't give a fig whether our kitchen floor is spotless or our laundry is clean. And no I'm not Mrs. Clean. My house is nowhere near spotless - it's just a filler. I did not recognize it as such, but that's just what it is.
    Used to be food. Not any more. Except chocolate, of course, but that's always welcome.
    Great post.

  21. I stumbled on your site from someone elses and have been reading through many of your posts but as I have to go out now I'm leaving a comment on this one! I just wanted to say it was genuinely a lovely visit ... familiar, affirming, warm, nourishing and full of love ... you chose your name well x


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