Sangha Expressions: Be Hollow by Scott Wanless

By Scott Wanless, Zen River Sangha member, excerpted from the October 2018 ZRS newsletter


An everyday experience in Zen practice

For me, the best advice to quiet the normal chatter during a sit is to breathe and repeat the word “listen.” This advice also has practical application.

For example, the results of my most recent health check showed slightly elevated risk factors due to sloppy habits. The doctor suggested a set of unnamed prescriptions, and I bristled at this. I favor meditation first and home remedy second where possible, and so far, take no prescription medications. I respect Western medicine. I just steer clear of it if possible.

I sat with this challenge and was fully ready to listen for any advice from Intuition. On my next Thursday night sit, the phrase “Be Hollow” exploded into my entire being. Very compelling, but I needed a little more specific instruction.

The next Thursday, the word “subtract” arrived. This is better, as I now had an action verb. But still not specific enough.

Next sit, a still more specific suggestion with the phrase “subtract sugars in three forms.” After a little web surfing, I found those three forms. Fortunately, they all start with the letter “s,” making them easy to remember. They are sugar (i.e. processed), stealth sugars (sugar that goes by an alternate name such as sucrose, fructose, maltodextrin, nectar, etc.), and syrups (e.g. corn syrup, rice syrup, barley syrup, cane syrup, etc.).

Now I had something to work with. My directive was to be hollow by subtracting sugar, stealth sugars and syrups. In 15 weeks, I have lost 30 pounds. And I continue to lose approximately two pounds per week. My guess is in six months I should be down roughly 50 pounds.

I thought this was all the instruction I needed, but on my next sit I received the phrase “subtract sludge.” Once again, not specific enough. This was followed the next morning by a coughing spell that worked free a great deal of mucous. This must have been the “sludge.” I am currently sitting with this and listening for more specifics. I suspect it may be subtracting more sloppy habits. And if the instructions stay true to form, they should all start with the letter “s.”

I do feel great and more “hollow” at least physically. Each breath is deeper than ever before, which improves my focus as well as a feeling of “true freedom and joy beyond comprehension.” I intend to keep listening for more directives, which may extend to not just body, but mind and spirit as well. Wonderful!

By Scott Wanless