Being mindful to …….nothingness

Being mindful to nothingness. This is one of these weird, and obscure wordings frequently found in Zen literature. How can we be mindful to nothing since being mindful is to focus on something x, y, z w/o analytic, discriminating or judgmental decision? What is nothing?

Here are few examples:

Can you do “nothing”? “Is nothing something?”

Can you thing about “nothing”?

Can an empty cup or gas tank being, beside air, full of nothing?

Can you listen to no sound?

What is a blank page? Empty of words?

Less than 5% of the universe is matter. 95% of it is, so far, “empty”. Empty of what?

When you drive in a fluid traffic, your mind is telling you that you do something: driving.

When you are stuck in gridlock, your mind is telling you that you are doing…..nothing. What is this “nothing”

Does doing “nothing” is indeed “not doing anything”, “being idle or stalled?”

All these examples and many more are telling us the human mind is very dualistic: this or that, black or white, cold or hot, pleasure or pain, happiness or sadness, smart or stupid, etc.. Such dualistic approach is a mind trap in which we are prisoners and foundation of our mind-set.

Doing nothing is something we, in our Western culture, try to avoid at all cost because our ego wants to do something all the time, be productive and useful, be in the rat race from waking up to falling asleep. How often did you heard: “ Do something!”.

Even as soon as kindergarten, we are keeping kids busy all the time beside the afternoon rest time.

When someone is asking; ”How are you?” between 80 to 90% of the time we reply “Busy” even if the question has nothing to do with what you are doing but rather “how do you feel?”

It is unthinkable to tell someone that you are currently doing nothing. It will trigger a puzzled reaction. No one will understand you. It is like saying ” I am useless”. NO way.

Very often, I answer these very words “Doing nothing” to waking up the person who is asking.

In our Western culture, the words nothingness, nothing, emptiness and empty carry a strong negative meaning. They all mean some sort of “ lacking something such as a person, an object, an action or a meaning”.

The very deep and famous Buddhist Heart Sutra says: “ Form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.

This sentence is even more confusing, contradictive and enigmatic than “Being mindful to nothingness”.

Oriental philosophy does not equate nothing or emptiness with any negativity or any sense of lacking


Zen does not look at scientific and materialistic evidences vs. the immaterial world to define emptiness because they are too dualistic and too restrictive.

In oriental philosophy and specifically Zen Buddhism, everything is interrelated and interconnected

and nothing exists on its own. In order to live you and me are dependent of zillions of external factors.

“Form is emptiness and emptiness is form” simply means that all living beings that is “form” are empty

of a permanent, independent, unique, separated self-entity and self-sustained existence.

So, being mindful to nothing is not contradictory, paradoxical and impossible because “nothing” is

just a product of our rational, black and white discriminating, dualistic, scientific mind.

Everything is “ONE”. It is called “Oneness” in the Sutras.

Try to practice your “on the go mindfulness exercise” such as:

  • Your surrounding silence if any 2) On the space around you and around others, 3) On doing nothing 4) On a blank page, 5) On the emptiness around a single little white cloud, 6) On an empty glass, etc.

After few attempts, your mind will become more spacious and less crowded.