How to Find Joy and Freedom in Emptiness

By Dawn James

I was only 38 when I questioned if I had yet to accomplish everything I set out to do in my life.  I wondered, Is this all there is? Now what? I had a feeling of finality, and it felt strange. I had lived like I was on a mission to get this or the other accomplished all my life, and now my to-do list was blank. I began to withdraw from my life and started going through the motions at work and home like an actor on a stage…I simply played my role.

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when you became detached?  You felt empty, hollow, or utterly numb to everyday living – like a part of your life lost its meaning? Like you, I asked myself the question, Why am I here?

My road to empty enlightenment

On Christmas day of 2002, I first started to question why I’m here, and it was when my first life began to unravel. I felt empty inside, like an uprooted tree, a hollow shell of my former self.  This feeling of emptiness affected me physically, so much so that when the dinner table was all set with a stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, green salad, and the like, I looked across the table and what I saw looked like rocks and twigs.  I didn’t want to eat anything. I wasn’t hungry. I suddenly had an intense feeling that forcing myself to eat was somehow a violation!  

A violation of what I didn’t know at the time. I started questioning this concept of eating. Are we eating because we are socialized to believe we must eat three times a day, or are we hungry for food? I sat there quietly, watching my family eat Christmas dinner, twirling lettuce and cherry tomatoes around my plate while hoping no one would notice I had not eaten a thing!

On Christmas day of 2002, I lost all desire for food. I was no stranger to unexplainable events in my life. I routinely lost my vision and hearing temporarily as a child, and now I was dealing with no appetite.

While I should have been panicked, and those around me were at times, I felt a sense of freedom, or perhaps it was a detachment that I had never felt before.  My only sustenance, my only meal for the next three months, was drinking water infused with fresh-squeezed lemons.  

How to Seek Profound Change from Mother Nature

Another profound change I experienced between Christmas day and my last day (awakening) was this almost insatiable need to be outdoors. I craved being in the sun, feeling the warmth of the sun rays on my skin. I was guided to start sun gazing during this period, every morning at sunrise and every evening before sunset. I found myself waking up maybe two or three minutes before sunrise and walking outside to greet the sun. It felt joyful, natural. I also needed to breathe fresh air, not recycled air-conditioned air from my office, so I started leaving the office at lunchtime and walked to a nearby park. We lived on an acreage, and after work, I would stroll into the forest in our back yard when I got home.  I would often sit outdoors amongst the Scotch pines and maple trees until sunset. I needed to spend a few hours outside every day.  My body was yearning for a new energy source as I was certainly not getting my energy from food. I remember calling a good friend one day and telling her, “I think I am turning into a plant! I am literally living on air, sunshine, and water, and yet I feel perfectly fine.”

Each time I encounter a bump on this road called life, I find myself accepting my new circumstances and surrendering my fears and worries to a Higher Power.  What more could I do?  Should I give up when faced with challenges? During my food sabbatical, I felt led to surrender something, maybe everything this time. Everything in this material world became meaningless to me: food, money, sex, home, career, status, all of it.

And surrender I did.

How I Found Sustenance Beyond Food

I had no idea how long my appetite loss would last, yet I deeply trusted that this was how I am to be, but first, I needed to empty myself. I needed to shed some false beliefs about what I ‘needed.’  I found a new definition of abundance, and this abundance had nothing to do with my bank account or the square footage of my house, or what make of car I was driving. I learned that I could exist without food, without wanting anything from this material world. I was led to the realization that abundance is always available to us through nature and I was supported and surrounded by a new energy that could sustain me indefinitely: sunshine, water, earth, and air.  Each element fed me in its own way.  I felt my body changing and becoming more receptive to nature. I remember one evening when I got home, it was cloudy, but I was in my happy place among the trees with my back leaned against the trunk of a pine tree. Rain fell, and I remained under the tree, breathing in the smell of newly wet earth, hearing the unique melody of raindrops tapping on the leaves. I listened as the songbirds changed their tune as they looked for a dry place to perch. Like a tree, I rooted into the earth for energy. Once the clouds had passed and the sunbeams reappeared, I stretched out my arms like branches of a tree, feeling the warmth of the sun once more. And like a tree, I learned to connect to these natural energy systems around me. I was well fed!

Becoming a Breatharian – A New Freedom

When I confided in a sensei at our local martial arts studio,  he chuckled and said, “Maybe you were becoming a breatharian, someone who does not need food to sustain themselves.” And with that, he said, “One moment, I have something for you.” He gifted me a copy of a text he had framed and placed on the wall behind his desk from a book entitled Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en (circa. 1500 -1580, Ming Dynasty); it was considered one of the Four Great Novels of Chinese classic literature. The novel is a fictional account of a Buddhist monk’s journey, Xuan Zang of the Dang Dynasty (circa. 650 AD). Xuan Zan traveled on foot from the capital city of Chang’an to India and brought back Sutra (sacred Buddhist scriptures) to China.  

Here is what the text said:

What is the greatest fire?


What is the greatest crime?


What is the greatest sorrow?


The greatest sickness?

Hunger of the heart

And the greatest joy?

The joy of freedom

Freedom from desire

Freedom from possessions

Freedom from attachment and appetite

How does one meet suffering?

By pursuing happiness

Speak and act with a PURE heart and mind

And happiness will follow you like a shadow, unshakable.

I thanked the sensei for his gift, which now resides in my home office, to remind me that my greatest joy is freedom.

As a newborn Breatharian, I am empty, I want nothing, and I am free. 

About Dawn James

Conscious Living Teacher, Best-Selling Author, Spiritual Mentor, Dawn James tells-all in her autobiography sharing her experience with physical adversities and spiritual phenomenon and how she found a way of using them to unveil her connection to Spirit and a higher and more in-depth understanding of her life journey.

UNVEILED will inspire readers to gain a new attitude about their lives and transform how they perceive and experience life’s challenges and the world. Publication date: March 20, 2021. Learn more at