A poet friend entered a contest to write a poem related to a particular image. The image was of a packet of mail cradled in a tree limb. She chose to write about the absence of such a packet in the tree in her yard, and she won the contest because the notion of writing about absence was delightfully novel to the judges. Absence is not something that people usually notice.
Running like a golden thread through the Buddhist teachings is the encouragement to notice absence – a particular kind of absence. It is a beautiful instruction because in order to know clearly what is absent, we must be very present to what is here. And yet, this is not a difficult instruction. It can be done in daily life. We only need to know that absence is valuable and remember to notice it.