Embodied Intimacy, Transformative Inquiry, Creative Emergence

To Ground Myself in Nothing

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Articles by Shayla, Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 7 comments

To Ground Myself in Nothing

Now that I’ve been in Victoria for nearly two years, I finally feel as if I have a life here. It’s not an idea, but an actual feeling in my body, that I am rooted here now, in a new life, that I am a vibrant part of the landscape, that I belong. It’s a glorious feeling and very interesting to me, since I have been engrossed for several years in a deep study of the nature of belonging. Human beings have a deep primordial need to belong. This is not always a happy story, since we often sacrifice vibrant and exquisite parts of ourselves in order to belong.

I was determined not to do that when I moved to Victoria. Of course I had no idea what the breadth and depth of my need to belong really was and is. But what pulled me away from a deeply rooted belonging in a beloved community was the mysterious and compelling impulse to become. I knew that the current in my life was pulling me in some new direction, away from what was safe, solid and familiar. I chose to let that current take me.

It carried me into a realm I call ‘the in-between place.’ For about fourteen months I felt as if I had totally lost my ground. On the surface level I was skittering around, getting lost all the time, not knowing how to do anything, not even how to use the parking meters. On an inner level I was having nightmares, feeling overwhelmed, and then getting sick for over a year. Nothing felt solid, reliable, stable. I felt like I was in freefall, in a wasteland.

Sometimes we call this place transition, which feels like an overused word and one that has become quite clinical. Except when it’s used in the birth process-then we touch a much more visceral feeling of what transition really feels like: am I going to make it through my next breath?

Our culture doesn’t much like the in-between place. We want to get through it as fast as possible. We don’t often stop to think that it could be actually valuable, essential and worthy of our attention and respect. That’s precisely what’s happening to me right now. I am looking back at the void-like experience I have passed through, and realizing that these experiences are woven right into the fabric of our existence. The glorious phase I am in right now will pass away again, and deliver me into another freefall. And without that darkness, that feeling of no ground, without that open space, none of what is emerging right now would be here. I’d be stuck right back inside my old familiar life, which was feeling extremely claustrophobic.

Other cultures have a very different relationship with this liminal space. They regard it as a potent place, a threshold, a space of possibility. When something is neither one thing nor the other, I can shed the bonds of everyday reality.


People, Clouds, Mountain

T. S. Eliot says it like this:

“To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.”

It’s true there is no ecstasy in this no place, at least not a recognizable ecstasy. But if I begin to deeply appreciate this place, this space that feels so empty, I might find a whole new way of being here, a way that is in resonance with the liminal nature of this space. The culture we live in has trained us to put our attention on what is solid, on what has form. Learning to value that which has no form is like learning to use a new muscle.

There are so many people passing through this in between place: immigrants, teenagers, old people. People on airplanes, waiting in line, falling asleep at night. Perhaps this space is not at all what it seems.

Yehudit Sasportas, a brilliant and innovative Israeli artist, was once asked what drove her to create. She said something I have been contemplating ever since I heard her speak:
“I want to ground myself in nothing,” she said. “That’s what I am exploring in my art.”

I look at the photographs of Aleppo, I hear Donald Trump speaking, I see my face growing older, day by day. It seems a wise and necessary thing, to learn how to ground myself in nothing.

with love,


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Michelle Wilsdon

    my sister lay
    one more set of test results
    is it Parkinson’s I say
    It doesn’t matter does it
    I walk back to her room
    we hug and share some juice

    • Kirsten

      Michelle your soul words pierced my heart after reading about grounding in nothing. Bless the beauty of your love for your sister.

  2. Sandra Bernier

    Thank you for taking the time to share! I really enjoyed reading this and could really identify with what you where sharing. I feel blessed everyday to be alive! Every breath I take and give!

  3. David Mackenzie

    I notice I pretend ‘nothing’ is empty, void .
    Thanks for the reminder of the vast pregnancy ‘nothing’ is.

  4. Nany Slakoff

    This is beautiful and heart touching! Thank you so much for sharing. Feel my Love, Nance

  5. Carol

    This letter served as a deep confirmation..Blessings beautiful one

  6. Carol Stewart

    I loved this…particularly now when so many seem to have entered this Dark Night of the Soul, that is the beginning of everything that is deeply true, connected, loving. I continue to love your writing Shayla…glad you have learned to see and articulate so well how you ‘keep on keeping on.’ Your example shines in the darkness and I am grateful. Love, Carol

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