Leaving the Slate Blank

Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable we are with empty spaces? We ache for leisure time, but then we anxiously fill it with a busy itinerary. We keep ourselves frantic with responsibilities, as if a moment alone with ourselves is a frightening prospect. Even when we do flop down in the chair after a busy day, our mind is still going a mile a minute. Those who try to still their mind in meditation find that clearing it of its rush hour traffic can seem impossible.

Our discomfort with a void extends even to the act of perceiving our world. When we look around us, all our eyes see are blotches of shape and color, and how much meaning can such blotches have? In front of me is a clock, which is merely a few hands moving across a surface that has symbols on it. Does it really mean anything in and of itself? Yet as soon as my eyes alight on the clock, I automatically assign to it all kinds of (usually anxious) meaning. Could it be that I am as uncomfortable with leaving the clock a blank slate, empty of my interpretations, as I am with leaving my time a blank slate, uncrowded with busy doings?

Why are we so uncomfortable with a void? A Course in Miracles gives a fascinating and confrontive answer. Lesson 13 of its Workbook has an exercise in which we try to see our visual field stripped of the meanings we normally assign to the objects there. The lesson says that this will bring up fear. Why? Because somewhere deep inside we are afraid that if we, even momentarily, erase all the meanings that we have written on our world, God will write a new meaning there, and His meaning will lift us out of all the pain and sorrow that our eyes look on day-to-day.

So we fear the void because we fear it will be filled with something better? What a bizarre notion! Yet let’s face it, the human mind can be a very twisted thing. How often do we resist the very thing that will liberate us, simply because we find security in the familiar, however dull or oppressive it may be?

It is essential, this lesson tells us, that we learn to sit and face the blank slate without fear. For that is the invitation to God to write His new meaning there. We don’t need to write it for Him. We just need to leave the space open for Him. A Course in Miracles gives us a wonderful practice for opening this space. I recommend using it for any situation, especially those we find upsetting. Simply repeat these words, slowly and thoughtfully, applying them to the situation you have in mind:

I do not know what anything, including this, means.
And so I do not know how to respond to it.
And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now. (T-14.XI.6)


[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]