Avoiding the Void

November 26, 2017


“I don’t seem to have time for anything anymore”… “it seems I am just so busy all of the time” … “I feel as though time is getting compressed”.

Does this sound familiar? It is one of the most common things we hear and it is something that Jason and I have been aware of and working on ourselves for quite a while now.

Just recently in the last few weeks I have made a bit of a breakthrough, following a series of messages I received from my Spirit Guides, which I then took to this month’s Journey & Drum Circles to explore with The Way of the Buzzard community. Some of the musings here are the collective insights from what we shared together during our individual journeys…

… and it began last month with a mysterious bowl. A mysterious and empty bowl.


Moving objects

Now in years gone by things moving in the house would have freaked me out, but not now. I know instinctively it’s not a poltergeist, it’s one of my Spirit Guides. I know this because … well that is another story for another time… but rest assured when something moves, I know it’s a clear message for me.

So backtrack to a few weeks ago when I was going into the kitchen early one morning, and our cats drinking bowl was standing upright, empty and in the middle of the kitchen floor. It looked very strange. Our cat doesn’t drink a whole lot of water, and as he lacks opposable thumbs he’s not one for moving heavy pot bowls across the kitchen.

I knew my guide was trying to get a message to me and I just needed to unravel what it was.


Unraveling the message

So, Jason and I jumped to and both went on a Shamanic Journey to ask what it was our guides wanted to say. My Spirit Guide spoke just one sentence…. “the bowl is empty Nicola”.

Now my initial thought was he was referring to how exhausted I was. I was tired. I had just come back from a really intensive residential body therapy course and didn’t have a whole lot to give. However that interpretation didn’t seem enough, as I already knew that. There seemed to be a bigger message here for me.

So I hopped on google and there it was, a whole series of links guiding me to the Taoist philosophy of ‘The Empty Bowl’ where in the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu makes mention more than once to the importance of space and emptiness:


“The Tao is an empty bowl, inexhaustible to those who use it. Indeed, in it’s depths lies the origin of all things.” Lao Tzu


The Empty Bowl

So what is the significance behind an empty bowl?

Well, when we see an empty bowl, our temptation can be to fill it. After all, that is what it is there for, and if it’s full then it’s being useful, right?

This is where the Taoist thinking around the empty bowl is different.

You see when a bowl is empty, the uses for it are inexhaustible. There are any number of possibilities as to what that bowl can become. It could be filled with soup, or cereal, and so on. As soon as it is filled, then all those other possibilities of what it could have become are removed. It has become a soup bowl, or a cereal bowl. It has become something defined.

So it’s emptiness is full of possibilities. It’s emptiness has real value.

When we apply this concept to our own lives, we can ask ourselves when was the last time our bowl was empty? When was the last time we created space in our lives so that we were doing nothing? As ‘The Empty Bowl’ tells us there is real value in doing nothing. It creates a space for the possibility of something new to come in.

So if we empty our bowl we are creating a void within ourselves, and in our lives for something new for the Universe to birth through us.


Avoiding the void

But when we ask ourselves this question, all kinds of resistance can come up. Deep down we don’t want to ‘do nothing’.

So many of us are actually creating busyness in order to avoid having nothing to do. We avoid the void. It feels safe to stick with the familiar, even when we know it isn’t good for us. Its like the way people stick with toxic relationships or jobs when they know there could be something better, as it’s better the devil you know, rather than uncertainty.

There is a fear of this void. So what is this fear all about?

Why are we afraid and what can we do to release the fear as this is the primal level of what is holding us back from finding our Empty Bowl. 

I poised this question ‘why are we afraid of the void’ in this months set of Journey & Drum Circles, and here are just five of the collective insights.

  • Conditioning: Our culture tells us we need to keep busy, and this is taught to us at a very early age. There is the old saying: an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ which is a far cry from the Taoist teachings! From the age of 5 years old our days are filled with school, homework and ‘requirements’ for us to perform well as we are essentially being conditioned to work. We grow up not knowing any different from the fact that we just need to keep busy being productive.


  • Guilt: When we do take time out to do something for ourselves, so many of us can feel guilty. Guilty for taking time to rest. Guilty for taking time to enjoy ourselves, doing what we love most. Guilty for focusing on us and our needs.


  • Lack: We have a fear of running out of money and not being able to afford to live. We need to keep busy working otherwise we will loose our homes and not be able to afford to feed ourselves.


  • Worry: We have a fear of our own minds if we stop doing. ‘I need to keep busy as I don’t want my mind to be still, otherwise I will start worrying’.


  • Opinions: We worry about what others will think if we stop being busy. We worry that we will stop meeting their expectations, or that that they will judge us for being different.


I wonder do any of these strike a chord?

These beliefs are what are stopping us from stepping into the void. Stepping into that place where the Universe can birth ideas through us.


Experiencing the void

So what it is like when we are in the void? What does it feel like? Is it really as scary as we imagine it to be?

Well around sixty of us journeyed to the void during this months Circles, and here is what I can share… and with such excitement.

As it’s so peaceful. So calm. It is a thing of such beauty.

You HAVE to go there to experience it for yourself!

It has a feeling of gathering around the campfire with close friends, floating on a cloud of spaciousness, and snuggling up in the warmest blanket ever, all rolled into one delicious experience.


Moving into the darkness

So now, as we descend deep into the long winter nights this is the most perfect time to try this. Use this time to go into the void.

As the rest of nature is slowing down, it is a great time to join in. Take a look at what you are filling your bowl with at the moment. What can you let go of? How can you start to empty your bowl and create some space for new possibilities next Spring.

The darkness ahead holds so many opportunities.

This practice of doing nothing holds such potential. If only we were to trust that everything will fall into place.

If we will only get out of the way, and let it happen.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Thankyou for reminding me of this blog and the meaning. I am going to try and create space. To say no to starting numerous projects I never finish. I’m neurodivergent and this will be a real challenge for me. I’m going to just do it one day a week to start.

    1. I am pleased you enjoyed my blog Jessie and found it helpful. One day a week to start with sounds like a great idea, and saying no to projects. I wish you the very best with this as it sounds like it is something you find challenging.

  2. This is a fascinating read. We do fill our days with endless tasks, and yes it certainly does stop you thinking. I am really good at that!! I want to create something new for myself this year, I am not sure exactly what I need at this moment, confidence and self worth ( have read your blog around self worth, puffin is really helping me) but I am sure it will organically grow if I allow the time. I am so inspired to sit and re-arrange things, allowing more time to access my inner world and empty my bowl. I have the journey circles to do which I am really looking forward to doing. Thank You XX

  3. Thank you for this Nicola. I really needed to hear this message again, to give myself permission ‘just to be’ and stop letting the guilt and insecurities hijack my spirit.
    I am going to think about emptying my bowl of all judgement and expectations. I want to make room for the possibility of the new. This makes perfect sense in this season of Advent, making space for Light and Love. What a wonderful and joyful thought!

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