Emptiness is not empty

silhouette with milkyway

When we think of gaps, spaces, or emptiness, we think of it as the absence of something, like a vacuum. I was listening to an audio book recently called Rebel Buddha by Dzogchen Ponlop and in it he relates an encounter with a theoretical physicist. Both traditions of thought, Buddhism and Physics describe a concept of emptiness that had my mind racing.

When Dzogchen and the theoretical physicist refer to emptiness, they relate to it as something that is full and fertile, rather than sparse and barren. They understand emptiness to be a place of potential, of potentiality. As if from the emptiness, things will spontaneously come to creation, and it turns out, that’s exactly what happens.

The theoretical physicist told Dzogchen about pairs of quarks, up quarks and down quarks. When for some reason the bond between these quarks disappears, a down quark will spontaneously appear from nothing to join the up quark, and an up quark will appear to join the down quark, forming two new pairs. It seems that they cannot continue to exist without the other.

This has also helped me make sense of change within my business context. Sometimes, leaders (particularly founders … ehem) find it difficult to step away thinking there will be a gap created, and that this is a bad thing. What I’ve come to realise is that it isn’t really a gap. It is a fertile space of potential. And from this potential, great things will happen.

Sometimes, stepping away is the best thing we can do to allow for necessary evolution to take place.