Looking deeper into the heart of two meanings

words by Brian Thompson, photo by Jennifer Picard Photography.

Here's a sneak-peak into how my mind works on rainy Thursday morning:

Some words seem to take on a much deeper meaning when you split them up into their two contributing pieces. These new words appear to take on completely new philosophical understandings which we can then learn from.

For example, here’s three every-day words that I’ve been specifically thinking about today:


Responsibility => Response-ability

‘Responsibility' is having a duty to deal with something. But responsibilities, as we all know, can often be shrugged off. They're often ignored or subject to procrastination.

But when we break the word into two pieces, ‘respsonse-ability’ then cuts straight to the heart of the matter and asks, “When are you going to do this thing that needs to be done?"

The new word, ‘response-ability’, directly questions how quickly a person is able to respond to a specific situation they’re committed to.

In many ways, your response-ability becomes your number one responsibility.


Nothing => No-thing

'Nothing' is one of the many overlooked words that we rarely think twice about. We take it for granted.

In literal terms, ‘nothing' means not anything, or emptiness. But when we tear the word in two, ‘no-thing' then becomes a word that touches on the spiritual perspective of non-duality.

In non-dual terms, 'no-thing' points to the understanding that all of the names we label things with are not what the things themselves actually are. The word ‘tree' is only a word, it is a concept of mind only. It's a pre-formatted thought confined to the parameters of you previous understanding of it — it is not the thing itself.

'No-thing' then becomes a linguistic attempt to acknowledge all of the mental concepts we entangle ourselves with.

In the non-dual truth of reality, there is only what there is. The true nature of things is not concerned with concepts of mind, in fact ‘this thing' or 'that thing’ don’t even exist, at least not as we perceive them to be.

In truth, there is ‘no-thing' at all.

If you're uninitiated to non-dual philosophy, then this may sound like just a bunch of empty doublespeak to, so allow me to use a quick example to help explain it better.

Consider a person who is sitting in mediation, who is trying to empty their mind of all unnecessary and unwanted thoughts. In essence, they are trying to achieve a state of mind where there is ‘no-thing' in it, or rather, no thought objects and no concepts of mind are present. Now, this isn’t to say that their mind has ‘nothing' in it, quite the contrary, it can be quite full of happiness, peace, love, compassion, wisdom and awareness. But to allow all of these positive traits to purely exist within, which is the very essence of their being, there needs to be ‘no-thing' present, such as no sense of “I”, no separate self that’s viewed as being apart from the rest of the world, and no objects of thought or emotion which were created by the ego, including the many stories the mind creates about the objects it encounters and the sensations it perceives.

When no-thing is in your mind, you have achieved no-mind. This, is the bliss of being.


Myself => My ‘self'

‘Myself' is self-evident, it’s a word used by a speaker to refer to themselves personally. It means, me.

But if we break the word into two, once again a spiritual perspective of non-duality appears. Now, my ‘self' refers to this separate sense of self that I sometimes mistake myself to be, which is not actually who I truly am. My ‘self' is my imagined identity, the one who is created by my ego and my overthinking mind. My ‘self' is who I confuse myself to be.

For example, if I were to fail miserably at something that I was hoping to succeed at, I might get lost in thought and beat myself up over it. I might take it incredibly personally and mistakenly identify myself with the outcome of my behaviour. I might be tempted to believe that I was a failure and a loser. But if I’m mindful and self-aware, I realize this is only my ‘self' speaking, it is not the true me. It is not myself. It is not the “I” who I know I truly am. The ‘loser’ I’ve labelled myself with is only a thought object I’ve mistakenly believed to be true, all thanks to the ego, my ‘self'.

When we lose my ‘self’, we become no ‘thing’ with no-mind. We see the awareness that we truly are, unperturbed by unnecssary thought. This is the embodiment of self-realization. This is the heart of Zen.


The origin of words has always intrigued me.

While I don’t intend for this to be a proper etymological study, I do think it's a good exercise in mindfulness to consider the deeper meanings that can be found within our language when we look more intently.

When we take words apart and look at them in new ways, we better understand the truth they attempt to point towards. In doing so, we can also make new discoveries about ourselves.

Can you think of any words that might be similar? Tweet me or leave a comment on Facebook.