Did anyone else have an etch a sketch when they were little? It was a box with a screen and two white dials. As you moved the dials you could draw lines on the screen that disappeared when you shook it. It was amazingly popular when I was little and weirdly despite the amazing array of electronic toys on offer, it still is popular today.
Andre Cassagnes the poetic French creator of Etch a Sketch wrote its instructions. “To erase,” he advised, “move it back and forth, as when sifting sand.”
I’ve been thinking about the Etch a Sketch recently as I have been remembering a phrase that my first ever coach (the magical Kate Lanz) used to use. ‘Come from nothing’ she would say. In that phrase was the freedom to start afresh in any moment. It was the possibility to greet people without the weight of thought, expectation and accumulation. It was the ability to enter the room as a new person unencumbered by outgrown beliefs and insecurities. It was the option to begin a project or task with an open mind about what is possible.
It was a concept that I had never encountered before. It literally hadn’t occurred to me as a consideration and it was very powerful to see the difference it made.
What lies beneath this ‘Come from nothing’ suggestion is an understanding that transforms everything. We can come from nothing because we are designed to come from nothing. Thoughts flow through our mind and through these thoughts we have an experience of life. Thoughts are like the lines drawn on the screen of the Etch a Sketch. We can experience this image or design for as long as it makes sense for us to do so and then we can ‘turn over it over as when sifting sand’ and have an entirely new experience.
The lines drawn on an Etch a Sketch are not designed to hang around. We don’t have to buy a whole new Etch a Sketch each time we want to create something new. Its whole purpose is to create a momentarily intriguing picture which then disappears to make space for a new one.
It would be possible to forget or to not realise that it is the nature of an Etch a Sketch to be impermanent, that all it takes is a sifting of the sands and the drawing is gone. If we forget this then we might think we are stuck with the lines, that the lines, once there, are there forever. Forgetting that simple disappearance is built into the Etch a Sketch, we might try to erase the image with more lines. We might scribble over the top making the screen less and less clear.
In all this scribbling and effort, we are intensely focused on the screen, we start believing that this is all we have.
We forget something very important.
We forget that behind the Etch a Sketch is a super computer. And not just any super computer. A super computer that can access the full intelligence of our life, of humanity, of the universe. This super computer powers every detail of our life while keeping the world spinning, the tide turning, the sun rising, the plants growing, the air moving. It’s the whole lot and we have it there in our hands. It takes all of this information, all of this power, all of this knowledge and provides us with an idea, an insight, a knowing of what to do whenever we need it.
The beauty of this is that we literally can come from nothing. We can allow the lines of the Etch a Sketch to do what they are designed to do: disappear. We can see the impermanence of thought and allow the sands to shift.
And at the same time, we can show up in the world knowing that we are continually connected to the most powerful, most complete and creative intelligence we can ever imagine.
There is nothing we need to do. We don’t even need to erase the lines as they will just disappear eventually anyway. The space is always there.
From the nothing, we access everything.