“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
In Japanese 無 (mu) means “not” or “without” and is used to indicate emptiness or the absence of something. It’s a central idea in Taoism and Zen…
A friend in college would sometimes tell me “you think too much.”
One Thanksgiving, she came to stay with my family, in New York. I remember, we were sitting in the kitchen talking with my Dad. Suddenly the two of them were telling me that my opinion about something was wrong.
Seeing the two of them aligned together, saying I was wrong made me very upset. I left the room and went downstairs. My mind was spinning with thoughts of “why are they against me?” I felt confused and betrayed, with feelings of anger and unhappiness…
Then her words popped into my head, that “you think too much.” At that moment, I stopped thinking. My mind went silent, and I remember listening to the sounds of the house. Immediately, with the extinction of thoughts the swirl of conflicting emotions evaporated.
I went upstairs, they were laughing but had already moved on to another topic. I joined the conversation, the flow had changed and we were soon all laughing together.
That was my first taste of the power of silent awareness, 無 (mu), cultivating an emptiness of thoughts and views.
In Zen and traditional Asian arts (such as tea ceremony, aikido) 無 (mu) indicates quiet attention to the present, a cessation of internal narration and self-centric thinking.
This is what Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki refers to as “beginner’s mind,” keeping our minds quiet and open to input, in their “natural state.”
Emptiness in Asian cultures is not considered to be negative, a lack of something. It’s seen instead as a state of mindful attention and potential for connection.
In Zen Buddhism and Chinese Taoism 無 (mu) is an openness that allows for greater peace, balance and relationship, like an empty cup that provides space for tea.
“Those who cling to views and perceptions wander the world offending each other.” ~Buddha
“When you are able to silence all views and words, when you get free from views and words, reality reveals itself to you and that is Nirvana. Nirvana is cessation, is the extinction. First the extinction of views and then the extinction of the suffering that is born from these views.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“Let silence take you to the core of life.” ~Rumi
“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” ~Buddha
“If there is peace in your mind you will find peace with everybody. If your mind is agitated you will find agitation everywhere. So first find peace within and you will see this inner peace reflected everywhere else. You are this peace. You are happiness, find out. Where else will you find peace if not within you?” ~Papaji
“The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.”~Atisha
“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
“Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace. Watch the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity.” ~Lao Tsu
“As Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job. To bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that is… We are actually the whole Universe.” ~Charlotte Joko Beck