Tasting Nothingness in Contemplation/Meditation

Meditation often leads one to a place of tasting nothingness. When I was seventeen years old and in my first year of college, I had this powerful experience during our daily meditation practice that our Dominican priests assigned.  I saw myself suspended over a bottomless well.  I have never forgotten that moment of insight about our nearness to nothingness.

Gazing into the void. Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

In Taoism, the Tao itself is named as a kind of void or nothingness.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

As ancient and as vast as the Tao is, it also dwells within us. This is not unlike the Brahman/Atman teaching from Hinduism.

There is a centering that takes place when one connects to the Tao (or Brahman or Godhead or the Void or Nothingness) and this stabilizes one in the midst of struggle or turmoil.

She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.

“Entering the Nothingness.” Photo by Nikk on Flickr.

Like Jesus who taught the domain of God “is not here and not there,” or like Hinduism that teaches “nati, nati, not this, not this,” so the Tao is not to be directly perceived. 

Meister Eckhart speaks of God and our experience of Nothingness as well. 

God is nothing.  It is not, however, as if he were without being.  He is rather neither this thing or that thing that we might express, He is a being above all being. He is a beingless being….God is nothingness, and yet God is something.

“infinity.” Photo by Felix Mittermeier from Pexels

Thomas Aquinas concurs. 

The mind’s greatest achievement is to realize that God is far beyond anything we think.  This is the ultimate in human knowledge; to know that we do not know God….God is said to be non-being not because God is lacking in being but because God is beyond all beings.

“Sea and Sky Boundlessness” Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

So too does the Kabbalah from the Jewish mystical tradition.  The term Ein Sof means “there is no end,” “ Endless, “Infinity.”  It is sometimes called “that which thought cannot comprehend”, the “annihilation of thought,” or Nothingness, Ayin.” 

Ayin, Nothingness, is more existence than all the being of the world….
The Depth of primordial being is called Boundless.  Because of its concealment from all creatures above and below, it is also called Nothingness…

[There is a] sublime, primordial wisdom emerging out of Ayin.  Think of yourself as Ayin and forget yourself totally….all is equal: life and death, ocean and dry land.

“The nothingness, light, and name of our souls” Lecture on Kabbalah by Rabbi Harav Ginsburgh Uploaded to Youtube by Inner.org Harav Ginsburgh’s English Channel

There are practical ramifications when we experience the Divine Nothingness.  We become more ample channels for grace to pour through, less self-conscious and more trusting and certainly less in control. One is more ready to surrender to existence and to receive its many surprises and blessings.  And one is freer to navigates its obstacles and problems with greater imagination and flexibility.

Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 205f., 163 165, 211, 169.

See Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas.

See also Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Useful and Wonderful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 121-138. 

Banner Image: “Blackstar.” Photographer unknown. Wallpaperaccess.com

Have you had experiences of Nothingness in your life—either in meditation or in difficult circumstances personal or societal?  Did that experience become a fuel for you?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past

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4 thoughts on “Tasting Nothingness in Contemplation/Meditation”

    1. Carol Kilby

      Welcome Nunzi to this studio of the heart. Matthew makes an art of teaching the global wisdoms that are so helpful in these times. Can you tell us about your art and where you are in the world.

  1. Avatar

    Nothingness….. All day I am trying to make sense of it and that’s not right. I understand that it is not a head thing, even a neophyte as I am.
    Most helpful was the story of Matthew’s dream of being suspended over nothing.
    Are you all safe? Horrendous scenes of the fires in your area and also in LA where my daughter and her husband are. Praying for all of you that you will not be hurt,
    Margaret Nuccio

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