Walking this path,
we experience inexhaustible energy.
From what appears an empty void,
we find the bounty of life.
Our edginess, tension,
anger, and turmoil
begin to settle down.
In their place we find
a deep tranquility,
that has been here waiting
since before the beginning
of beginning-less time.
Chapter 4 of The Tao Te Ching – trans. William Martin
We experience the “empty void” in many different ways. Some traditions call this experience, “the dark night of the soul.” It is sometimes an intense, seldom-repeated descent into the abyss of despair and hopelessness. It can often, however, be a periodic recurrence of doubt and angst, calling trust and assurance into question, pulling us off our center, and sapping our energy.
In one of its many paradoxes, the Tao uses these experiences to bring a renewal of energy that is yet more powerful than what we felt before the void appeared. Often the energy of the Tao becomes subtly replaced by an energy that is simply ego-generated. It is an, “I’ve got this now. Here we go!” sort of thing. This pseudo-energy soon exhausts itself because it has no eternal roots. We are left wondering, “What happened?”
A necessary period of withdrawal, surrender, and submission replaces the self-confident assurance we had enjoyed. This is a gift. Without it we would continue to become more and more separate from our Source, less and less humble and effective in our life. When energy returns we recognize its Source and feel our connection to the Tao in yet a greater depth and joy.
Self-generated tranquility, dependent on the arrangement of finances, relationships, and social norms cannot substitute for the real thing. True tranquility is a birthright of every being. It resides in the eternal nature of all beings. That nature is often called the Soul. Look there for the real deal when the substitute fails.