Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > the Tao and the Valley spirit


the Valley spirit ~ the wisdom of Emptiness

May 3, 2020


*Brian Wilcox. 'Sharing'

The Trinity (from left to right - Father, Son, Holy Spirit); Andrei Rublev, 15th Century. The most acclaimed Russian icon and esteemed as one of the highest achievements of Russian art.

"Emptiness" can be misleading, as though one remains with nothing. Yet, emptiness welcomes more, not less. An example is sharing a conversation. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who appeared unable to stop talking? I have. What happens? There is only giving, not sharing, for the other cannot receive, being full of giving. This one-sidedness can occur, for one is afraid to feel vulnerable and blocks the other from participating. This is an expression of self-absorption, so the other cannot enter. Only when two meet in emptiness can they relate: re-late, so enjoy a relationship. The absence within the self allows the entrance of the other. Emptiness, then, is spontaneously welcoming. So, the Way of Life. Without emptiness, nothing could become, anymore than without an empty space, could one paint a landscape. The space of nothing makes possible the something, the landscape painting.

* * *

When I write, I write from emptiness. I never plan my writings, filling up my mind with what I will write. The work may appear to be inconsistent, contradictory, and confusing-to-the-mind - good, so Life, so the Way. To write from the Flow requires what one does to live from the Flow - emptiness, which means surrender to the Whole. To learn from the Flow, one listens from the Flow. I hope persons read from the Flow, what I write from the Flow. Otherwise, in trying to understand with the grasping mind, which wants to make sense of Life - impossible ! - one misses the point, which is no point at all.

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He [Jesus] emptied Himself . . .
*Philippians 4.7
The valley spirit [Tao, Way], undying
Is called the Mystic Female
The gate of the Mystic Female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth [all things]
It flows continuously, barely perceptible
Utilize it; it is never exhausted
*Derek Lin. Tao Te Ching.

Christian contemplatives have used the above reference in Philippians to indicate the self-emptying essential to walk the Way. This, while the Tao Te Ching speaks of the emptiness of the Tao, or Way, which makes it the Source of everything - "heaven-and-earth," "the myriad things."

A valley
place of spaciousness
The void is ever-being filled
Emptiness remains
so Fulness
What is true of the Way
one walks the Way
or one loses the fellowship and joy
Without emptiness spiritually
one becomes empty psychologically
No amount of filling ourselves up
with things
resolves our sense
of lack
So, one can go on and on filling up,
like the hungry ghosts in Tibetan Buddhism:
little throats, bloated stomachs, ever glutting,
while always hungry for more, and more, and more

* * *

A Christian woman came seeking guidance. She said to the Sage, "I feel bereft of my Lord's presence. I've been seeking His nearness, but it's not working. I've felt far from Him for a long time now. What shall I do?" The Sage answered, "Stop seeking." "What?" she said, for this made no sense to her. "Christ enters into empty places. Become that place. To welcome Christ, empty yourself even of seeking Christ."

* * *

A monk went into the woods to seek Christ. He was exhausted seeking his Friend, and he had not felt his Beloved's nearness for quite a long time. He could not explain this felt absence. Formerly, he lived in the glow of that intimacy daily. So, the Abbot graciously gave the monk leave to spend time in the hermitage on the outskirts of the monastery.

The monk got to the little hermitage. He, for several days, prayed day and night and fasted. Still, he felt alone and cut off from Christ. The more he prayed and fasted, it seemed, the more he hungered to feel the presence of his dearest Friend.

Finally, the monk, disappointed with all his failed efforts, decided to eat. He ate a meal, even enjoying dessert, which he rarely did, and drank wine. He lay himself down to sleep, with a full stomach and a cheerful countenance.

When the monk closed his eyes to go to sleep, something surprising happened. For the first time in many months, he felt the nearness of his Friend. He went to sleep with a smile on his face and gladness in his heart.

* * *

While the sense of Presence changes on the Way, from more apparent to more subtle, Presence remains. As the Tao Te Ching says, the "valley spirit," or Way (Tao), is "never exhausted." The Spirit is like a womb ever-giving birth: in fact, the "gate of the Mystic Feminine" possibly alludes to the vagina, symbolizing the means through which the Mother births all in Nature. So, Presence is not diminished; only our sense of it changes and, through varied causes, we can lose this sense of connection with the Spirit-of-things. This potential sense of disconnect remains, even while the Mother of all in heaven-and-earth births us moment-to-moment.

* * *

We temper zeal for fellowship with the Light
yielding to the Light
surrender empties
so Spirit fills
emptiness -
the valley Grace supplies
so, of Dogzchen, Keith Dowman
says of the Way we are
wide open, hanging loosely
so, trusting the Way - relax, relax, relax
and, so, from this, Spirit inspires one to act
action an extension of Spirit Itself

* * *

Simone Weil . . .

God alone is capable of loving God. We can only consent to give up our own feelings so as to allow free passage in our soul for this love. That is the meaning of denying oneself. We are created for this consent, and for this alone.


Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, late eminent Dzogchen master, echoes Weil, reminding us we cannot empty ourselves.

In the state of presence, which remains the same in relation to thousands of different experiences, whatever arises liberates itself automatically. This is what is meant by "self-liberation."

This self-liberation is possible, for all in the Way is one with the Way. A tree trees, for the tree participates in the nature of the Way. The wind winds, for the wind is true to the Way. A human humans by living in harmony with the Way. It seems only humans among all creatures act contrary to the Way. Yet, possibly, too, only humans have a full capacity of intellect consciously, willingly to yield to the Way.

Paradoxically, the Way empties us when
we empty ourselves
waiting patiently
to be emptied
to empty and to fill
one simultaneous action of

* * *

️ Brian Wilcox, 2020

*Sources: Keith Dowman. Spaciousness; Simone Weil. Love in the Void; Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. Dzogchen.


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > the Tao and the Valley spirit

©Brian Wilcox 2020