by Larry Kelly

Central to Taoism is the idea of Wu – Emptiness.  The ancient symbol for “Wu” is the dancing Shaman (on the left).  The spinning shaman was the conduit between earth and sky, heaven and earth.  The spinning created a vortex, a channel, if you will, of emptiness wherein the shaman could enter into communion with all things – to enter into an intense spiritual plane.

The tradition of dancing for spiritual enlightenment can still be observed elsewhere:  American Indian dancing; Sufi Whirling Dervishes. The Sufi Dervish is spinning just as our Chinese Shaman, to empty oneself and become a vessel to reach the divine.   The value of emptiness becomes apparent when you think of the bowl, the emptiness makes it useful.   The window’s use is by its emptiness.  A wheel hub must be empty for the axel; so the wheel gains purpose by the emptiness.

“We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.”

Tao Te Ching Verse 11 – Stephen Mitchell

Additional source material: