Into the fertile void

Its in! Just moments ago I pressed “send” on an email to the editor at Routledge…and my finished book manuscript is off.

This morning, I took myself for a celebratory breakfast at my favourite cafe. A moment to pause. I felt pretty content but pondered whether it was because I have been working on finalising the draft for a few months now that my emotion didn’t go further around the dial. But pressing “send” released more, for sure. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment, and I am letting that sink in.

What I was aware of over my breakfast ritual this morning was the excitement now this is “done”. I know how much I can find myself “looking forward”. Dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s to get the final submission in felt mechanical; and I have been craving “the next” to engage my creativity again. But as I allude to, this is a habitual pattern I know. Once something is done, “what next?”

In Gestalt therapy theory, this is the inability to rest in the “fertile void”. Having mobilised resources toward an object or experience, meeting it, gaining satisfaction, we then withdraw our energy and attention so that the next can emerge. I have never been very comfortable with that part of the cycle – the letting go, the surrender, the resting until…I tend to go out and reach for what may come, or what is possible. I go looking for rather than leaning back and receiving.

When I teach Gestalt principles to trainee therapists, I suggest that when we hear the term “fertile void” we might notice we attend to one of those words more than the other – my attention goes to the “void”…if you know the enneagram, my being an enneatype Six probably helps you understand that! I get back into action to bring security. My work is one of trusting this void – not as an emptiness that threatens an abyss, but one that is a potentiality. Fritz Perls took the idea of the fertile void from the Zen Buddhist teachings, so no surprise this speaks to the “both / and” of the teachings on shunyata. To trust the void is to recognise its fertility – from this ground, new projects will arise.

So yes, I have ideas of what will come next – and it IS exciting to get back to writing that is creation of something new, not cutting and pasting, editing and refining. It IS time to move on from this book project; but to complete something fully is not the same as starting what comes next. There is a place, space I can rest.

And so it is my intention to ritualise this ending and transition space. Writing this post is one aspect; going out to dinner tonight is another. I would also like to take a few weeks to mulch what I have learned in the past four years of working on Weaving the paths of Buddhism and Psychotherapy: the Practice of Human Being (to give my baby its full name).

…so expect a few blogposts exploring some of my experiences as a therapist-writer. 

For now, cheers!

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