It struck me once that everything comes from nothing.
We don’t typically think of it this way though. We consider things to have come from things that preceded them. Apples come from trees, kids come from parents, etc. What struck me though is that in the same way that something comes from that which preceded it, when something new is created, it also replaces a ‘nothingness’ that previously was. In this way, ‘things’ come from ‘nothing’ as much as they come from other things. The only real difference is a point of reference. I am not denying causality here. My focus is on the creative relationship between nothing and everything.
Besides this being a strange way to think, I find it to be a frame useful in disentangling me from the crushing grip of reason, which can be a very real obstacle in the art of creation.
Go Before You Know
If everything comes from something else, then there are a whole lot of things to consider before something can be created.
If we want to build a business, then we need to consider all the parts and pieces that will make up that business. If we want a relationship, then we need to consider all the possibilities and paths to finding that person.
Considerations like these are of course useful, but wanting to ‘know before you go‘ is why so many people get caught in ‘analysis paralysis’ and never create anything.
When we instead take the perspective that everything comes from nothing, a new idea requires no pre-consideration to be made manifest. The only thing a vision requires to be created is ‘nothing’, which is always available.
If we want to build a business, and we know that it will be built from absolutely nothing at all, then we can relax into the nothingness and begin our work. If we want a relationship, and we know that relationship will emerge from nothing, then we can relax into the creation of that relationship, even if there is nothing apparent to us that would logically precede it.
To create from nothing, we are free to act without knowing what’s going to happen or how we will get there. More simply, to create from nothing is to ‘go before you know‘.
Going before you know is easier because there are no requirements or rules about what must happen in order for your idea or vision to be created. Your only requirement for action is nothing.
Silence, Spaciousness & Creative Genius
Not only do I try to create from nothing in my life, but I bring this approach into my coaching as well. In the moments of a coaching conversation where I think I need to bring something, I try to relax into nothing.
Being ‘silent’ might look like nothing, but it isn’t necessarily nothing. I could be thinking while silent. I could be using silence as a thing. But silence is often what happens when I direct my attention towards nothing.
By ‘direct my attention towards nothing’, I mean to look for the space between all of the things that otherwise occupy my attention. More specifically, I look for the space between my thoughts or the space between my feelings. It’s a kind of meditation.
As my attention moves towards nothing, all of the things that typically keep my attention settle down and a deeper presence arises. (See article #5 in this series for more on ‘presence’.) A kind of ‘spaciousness’ emerges, which we might be tempted to call ‘nothing’, but I think is actually something. Maybe it’s a deeper intuitive place, a connection to a greater whole or spirit.
The thoughts that come from this space are generally more potent, more useful and more inspired. It is the place where our creative genius is accessed.
The Power of Nothing
My most powerful coaching always comes from the spaciousness created when I put my attention on nothing.
When I coach from nothing, I have no story about you. When I coach from nothing, I don’t have any thoughts about your challenges or your capacity. When I coach from nothing, I don’t have any beliefs at all. In fact, when I coach from nothing, I don’t even believe in you. This is strange for me to say, because my coaches ‘believing in me’ has been one of the most important gifts I’ve received from them. I think there is something even more powerful about NOT believing in people though…as long as we are coming from nothing so that, simultaneously, we are also not not-believing in them too.
The ancient idea of a guru is that they are a window through which God’s light shines. I like this idea. In a similar way, I like the idea that by bringing absolutely nothing to a coaching conversation, I am able to create a cleaner reflection for the person I am in dialogue with. My intention, as I often tell my clients, is to be so close to nothing that I am like the mirror on the Hubble space telescope.
My goal in coaching, and in public speaking for that matter, is to be purely reflective or purely translucent. When I am writing, coaching or speaking on a stage, my intention is to peel back the thinking that gets in the way of my attention on nothing. The more my attention is on nothing, the more access I have to words that unfold from my intuition. One of the places I am learning to do this is in facilitating groups (as opposed to ‘coaching’ in group settings).
My teacher, John Wineland, is an artist of nothing in how he facilitates the men’s groups he leads. I recently completed an eight month journey with seven other men which was lead by John, but my memories of the group include very little of him. His work was to create something from nothing between the men in the group, which he did so much so that his presence was rarely needed and often barely felt.
My goal with learning to facilitate is to come so close to nothing that I disappear.
Being Nothing is Grounded
In article 8 in this series, I wrote about how our ‘being’ has a profound impact on the people we coach.
What, then, is the impact of ‘being nothing‘?
For me ‘being nothing’ represents the lack of association with identity or even a sense of self. The closer we get to nothing, the less stories and beliefs we have in the way of creation. As described in the article on ‘being’, a dialogue with someone who is ‘being nothing’ will transfer nothing into you.
It reminds me of what happens when, wearing socks, you run around on carpet in the dry air of winter and then touch a doorknob. You’re all charged up with the something of static electricity and touching the doorknob returns you to nothing.
When we experience someone as being nothing, we say they are ‘grounded’. We say they are grounded because it is as if they are connected to the ground. We experience them as immovable, like a deeply rooted tree.
I’m sure you can relate to the experience of being in conversation with someone who is very grounded. You have probably noticed yourself becoming more grounded as well, just by being with them. This is exactly how being nothing can transfer from us into our clients.
It is powerful to ‘be nothing’ in a coaching relationship because, through the transfer of being, it creates a groundedness in the person you are coaching. Even more so, being nothing creates a groundedness in your clients within the context of the conversation you are having. Your client’s experience of being grounded while imagining an aspect of their life has real impact on what action they will take. For example, talking with my apprentices about money while my being very grounded directly enables them to have more grounded conversations when they are offering their own high-fee coaching programs.
Nothing is Difficult (For Me)
In my knowing that everything comes from nothing, one might expect I am always using ‘nothing’ as a means of creating everything. Nothing is further from the truth. 😉
First of all, we never actually ‘get’ to nothing. We wouldn’t exist if we did. It is about moving in the direction of ‘nothing’ (using our attention as described above) because on the way to nothing, that which is created is of a greater quality. We are simply more effective when we create with our attention on nothing.
Despite this, I find putting my attention on nothing very difficult to do. Stillness practices help. After a short run on the beach this morning, I sat by the surf and tried to put my attention on nothing. There were maybe a few brief moments of spaciousness, but from them some vibrant ideas emerged. They were exciting ideas and they came on their own as if they were hatching from eggs. I find the more committed I am to a routine morning practice, the more accessible nothing is throughout the day.
Besides not being very good at always putting my attention on nothing, if I’m honest, I also find it scary to do. My identity is built so profoundly on reason, that I find myself incredibly tied to it. Most of my life and work is actually spent unconsciously trying to create things from other things. I try to figure out the ‘right’ or ‘best’ things to do to build my business, the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way for my wife and I to communicate, the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to serve the people I’m coaching.
One of my challenges is that I can do a relatively good job creating from reason and my identity. This is a blessing in that it creates security, but it is also a curse because my dependence on reason and identity keeps me from creating more at a genius level.
Despite nothing being so difficult for me, I am committed to creating everything from nothing. I am committed to seeing where I am trying to create from other things or be something and to shift my attention to nothing.
The religious myth of crucifixion, I believe, communicates a fundamental principle to being human. The idea that ‘to die for others is the highest act of service’, I take as a symbol suggesting that our deepest service comes through sacrificing the self and being nothing.
As I said some years ago on my YouTube video ‘How to Escape the Scarcity Trap’, killing yourself is an effective way out of scarcity, both emotionally and financially.
In this sense, I am committed to crucifixion for my coaching clients. I am committed to nothing because I don’t see any greater path in life.
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