Learning to Love the Empty Space


Photo by Ellen Anne Burns

“This feeling of lack creates dis-ease in us all. Some fill the hole inside with things, some with alcohol or drugs, some sex, others status and big bank accounts, on and on….. This is the root of all suffering. Instead of trying to fill the hole inside, we must learn to love this empty space. This is the path to peaceful existence.” Pamela Carr

There are many times in life when we feel a sense of lack. A sense of longing. A sense of something missing. Or maybe it’s a sense of boredom, or loneliness, discontent, lack of excitement….there are many ways we can experience want in our lives. If we don’t have enough money, enough friends, a successful enough career, we can feel this sense of absence…And this can happen on a daily basis.

Sometimes I find it really easy to rest with this space, sometimes I desperately desire it: solitude and contemplation…As an adult with two children and a very busy lifestyle, I often remember with longing those teenage summers I spent as a young woman, I did not have as many friends as I would have liked and my social life was lacking, I seemed to spend hours in the garden reading, or staring out my window at night, dreaming of an imagined future full of excitement and romance…I used to get butterflies imagining what my future lover might be like, or where we might go, what I might do with my life. But this was a bittersweet time. As an adult I can look back on it, and wish I had enjoyed the languor of those long, hot summers. Of course at the time I was probably feeling quite sorry for myself, I wanted the future to start already! Now! Now! Now!

As I grew older and started to realise a lot of those longings, the feelings of want were filled with a lover, or an adventure and from a much too early age, alcohol – such was and unfortunately still is, to a large extent, the culture in Northern Ireland. It has taken me such a long time to understand that these feelings, these desires and wants and needs can never really truly be filled…. I spent a long time trying to fill them with lovers or with glasses of wine, with friends, nights on the town or with my career, my pregnancies, my children.

More recently I have found a great peace in spiritual awakening, meditation, and increasing self-love has provided a deep sense of peace that not even my lover, and certainly not a glass of wine, could fulfil on a permanent basis.

Yet an even more recent realisation relates to the wonderful words quoted above. There really is no magic remedy to fill this place of longing, this ‘empty space’. We will always want more, better…the magic key is in learning to love the feelings of emptiness themselves sometimes. It can be oh so beautifully filled by your new pregnancy, your new born baby, or a wonderful partner to gently travel through life with, and a mellow glass of wine of an evening can be delicious – and this is all to be delighted in and to be supremely grateful for. But at the root of it all is yourself, your own heart and soul, your own darkness and your own moods and nature, influences and circumstances.

From now on, when I feel that emptiness, that longing, that want – I am going to love it and accept it with all my heart and not look for anything or anyone to fill it. I will just let it be there.

Love ellen xx

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Dr. Ellen Anne Burns is an actress, writer, mother, teacher, and student, not necessarily in that order. She was brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she has just completed her PhD in Applied Drama. She believes in a holistic spiritual practice, involving meditation, self love and discovery, learning and practicing forgiveness, gratitude and love every day. Ellen wishes to support and guide others on their own journey of self and love, especially with a view to romantic relationships. She is a mentor on Gabrielle Bernstein’s-HerFuture.com and is thrilled to be one of the founding members of The Daily Sisterhood Blog. If you wish to contact Ellen please message her here, and she will respond as soon as she can.

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3 thoughts on “Learning to Love the Empty Space

  1. Thank you for this light bulb moment, Ellen 🙂 It’s hard to fill something that’s already full, so we need those empty times to make room for something else to come into our lives, I wish I had known that years ago too, Ellen, but knowing it now is enough. ❤

  2. Very inspiring thoughts… I know this longing and this emptiness oh so well!
    I guess it just never really leaves us … except for those blissfull spiritual moments of fullfillment beond words… feels as if the space inside of me longs to be filled with life … this longing feels like the driving power for all our creations… I agree with Laura : we very much need this emptiness… I will take some time to hang out my window and be still and cherish this silent call for life inside of me … thank you ! ❤

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