This week, I am going to continue talking about what David Richo calls “the void”, as he continues to discuss in the next section of the book. One of the main points he makes when discussing the void is that there is nothing to do. In the void, we are in suspense, not knowing how big it is or whether there will be something that comes next. He says “all we can do is adjust ourselves to its midnight” (p. 90).
From what I understand, David Richo, in this section, is essentially saying the void is the experience of the ego dying. In the void, we start to experience acceptance somewhere inside us that we are not in full control, that we are not exactly entitled to the comfort of feeling good or being in control. The ego is entitled. The ego insists that we have the right to be happy, to avoid going through things that cause discomfort. The ego has lots of awesome tricks for finding ways around unpleasantness. The trouble with these tricks is that they don’t work in the long run and sometimes foreclose on opportunities for growth.
Hold on, now. Just because the power of the ego is dying in the void doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be happy or choose happiness. It doesn’t mean that we should choose for things to be “hard” and to “suffer”. No. It means there is something much more out there for us than just happiness. At a retreat recently, one of the instructors was saying that people find a spiritual path and become involved with a practice with the intention of being happy in their lives (or something close to happiness). But, he said, as we go further down the road and experience happiness, we see something off in the distance that is much more grand. It is freedom. Freedom to go through life experiencing fully and being at peace with our human experience even when it is seemingly unpleasant.
So, the “void, then, really means void of ego with all its protective devices and boundaries” (p. 87). The ego, what is familiar, is ending and what will come isn’t there yet. And we are blind, there is no way to know what will come. Knowing that would mean we had some control over the experience, some way to comfort ourselves. But that is the point. There is nothing in the void. There needs to be nothing in order for us to be present to the space of the void. “We drop that final, childish belief that there is always something that will do it for us, always a way around a given instead of a way through it” (p. 91). We just be and let go of control. There are forces much bigger than us at play. When we let go of control, we can start to experience the power of those forces. David Richo says: “the only obstacle to grace-access to a power beyond my own mind or will-is control” (p. 92).
Happiness and moments of comfort are a gift. So are moments of discomfort as they inform us about what we need to realize. The call to the void is also a gift. In my estimation, it is the biggest gift one could possibly receive in this human life. If we try to control either those moments of happiness, discomfort or the darkness of the void, we are interrupting an important process: grace. Whether it is interrupting the impermanent nature of human emotion or the precious process of awakening, it is interrupting the experience of a tremendous gift in this life. So be still. Allow. Be humble in the discomfort. In these ways, we can experience the freedom of working with our humanness, removing resistance to our nature, which makes space for much bigger things. As I write this, I am aware of the fact that I have to constantly remind myself of these gifts and remember not to reject or push away gifts that I don’t feel like accepting at the moment. It really is a practice.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".