Ep. 28: Practical Emptiness

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Circumstances are neutral.

Another way of saying this? Things are empty of inherent qualities.

Today, we’re digging into what a practical application of emptiness looks like in our everyday lives.

This concept is really revolutionary in my book. So many buddhist conceptions are (even though they’re often seen as these quiet, calm, benign principles).

In Buddha’s time, it was (and still is) revolutionary to accept that suffering comes from our own minds and not something outside of us.

In our times, following these principles is truly rebellious. Because most of the world thinks that suffering comes from shitty situations, bad circumstances, mean people. Most of the world believes circumstances are not neutral.

As rebel Buddhists, we know that learning to free our minds is the most rebellious act we can do in our lifetime. And being willing to explore our own paths, to find out what is true for ourselves – that is a key part of freeing our minds.

The simple truth?

In the same way that our thoughts about our emotions are what creates our suffering, it is our thoughts about our circumstances, and our arguments against them, that affect us the most.

How we choose to think about a particular event or circumstance or statistic is what causes us to feel a certain way, not the thing in and of itself.

The event itself is empty of inherent qualities, not empty of facts.

This can be a tough concept to grasp, and I work through the important nuances using specific, real-world examples in the episode.

But the key is this: our attachment to the way we want things to be, instead of how they are, is what makes us suffer.

No matter how horrific your past, no matter how horrible the event, no matter how awful someone treats you, the only thing that ever causes us emotional pain is our thinking about it.

This realization is very empowering.

Because you are the one that gets to decide what things mean. You are the one that gets to decide how you’re going to feel about your circumstances.

Accepting the things we cannot change is one of the most powerful things we can do. It seems almost paradoxical to think of acceptance as a powerful action, but it is.

Many of my newer clients also believe that if they accept reality, that they lose all their power to ever change it.

But the opposite is true. Give the episode a listen to find out why.

And remember: there is a huge difference between accepting and condoning.

All this is not to say that racism does not exist. Or that patriarchy does not exist and that oppression does not exist. Those are facts.

Accepting the way things are does not mean we agree with them or condone them. It just means we’re not trying to change something by pushing hard against it. We are choosing not to go to battle with reality.

I invite you to sit with this.

There is so much freedom when we release resistance against what our circumstances are in the moment.

We can act from a place of peace and fierce love and still move towards change.

It’s very normal to need to move through the fight phase when you’ve been overly passive. But I urge you to see how much this is sucking your energy, to recognize how much more lovely it is when you can trust in your Ziji, your radiant inner confidence, to have your own back.

If you understand that everything that happens in the world is neutral and that your interpretation is what defines your experience, you will also start to see that you are so much more powerful than you could have ever imagined.

You get to decide how you will use each situation in life to either serve your life and your higher purpose, or take energy away from it.

So hear this, rebel: freedom from the fight in our minds is where we must begin if we want freedom in the world.

In This Episode You’ll Learn: 

  • What I mean by “circumstances are neutral” and how to apply this practically to your life 
  • Why accepting that things themselves are empty of inherent qualities is a revolutionary and rebellious act 
  • How to understand the nuances of these fundamental Buddhist concepts in a contemporary context 
  • Why I think learning to free our minds is the most rebellious act we can do in our lifetime 
  • A few real-world examples that can help you understand where emotional management comes into play with this work 
  • Why what you think about your circumstances can determine the trajectory of your entire life


// Seeing circumstances as neutral is not all about checking out and being disconnected and indifferent. Check out Episode 19 On Anger.

// If you’re new here, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.