Purnatva & Shunyata: The Dance Between Fullness & Emptiness

Spring has truly arrived here in Tofino. The flowers are in bloom outside my window, my garden is coming back to life, and we are enjoying a spell of warm and sunny days matched by luminous evenings bright with the light of the full moon.  I have just finished up a long stretch of about nine weeks in yoga school where I got to be both teacher and student, and the beauty of the last couple days feels like a celebration of the fullness I am experiencing. The Sanskrit word Purnatva means fullness, or perfection, and refers to a fullness of essence that is experienced at the level of the Absolute. So often when we think of perfection at the relative level it is within the concept of being “without flaw”, but at the highest level the perfection of Purna embraces the so called flaws or imperfections and speaks to a fullness of spirit that is felt from within. For instance the fullness of this moment in time for me, personally, is felt as a state of satisfaction and completion, along with fatigue, and it is absolutely perfect. At the same time I feel a deep pull towards stillness and silence after the activity and expansion of the last couple months, which needs to be honored in order to maintain the dynamic pulsation of a balanced life.
The Sanskrit word Shunyata means nothing, or emptiness. Zero. It is the opposite of fullness and is a state of receptive stillness that is full of potential. For myself I have found that in order to truly enjoy the satisfaction and fullness of life I must have a practice that includes the conscious emptying out of experience and even a stilling of the desire to create. When I can allow myself to simply be in the quiet moments of my life, the silent pause between one activity and the next, one breath and the next, then I am provided the nourishment, and often the inspiration, for the next cycle of fullness. It is a beautiful dance.
So for the next two weeks I will be going in to a deeper place of self-nourishment, which will include greater periods of time in silence and in meditation, a time to listen deeply rather than to speak. I will be entering into a deeper phase of my spring cleansing practice so that I may experience more lightness of being, and on a very practical level I will be clearing out my inbox of all the emails I couldn’t get to in the last few weeks and finishing off projects that are on my desk.  I will be doing this not only because it will allow me to be more effective as I enter the next cycle of creation, but because after so many years of practice I can feel the pull towards emptiness and it can’t be ignored. This is the beauty of practice over a long period of time, our intuition and inner sensing becomes ever more refined and we begin to fall into rhythm with the greater currents of our lives with less resistance.
I will leave you with the following questions to consider as a contemplation exercise to help you attune to the cycles of fullness and emptiness in your own life.

  • In which ways do you limit, or inhibit yourself, from savoring the fullness of experience in your yoga practice, and in your daily life?
  • In which ways do your resist the potential that is inherent in the state of emptiness in your practice, and in your life?
  • What practices could you cultivate to help you celebrate and honor both sides of the pulsation between Purna and Shunya?

 Please feel free to comment below and share your reflections on these questions so others may learn from you as well.