Ted Ohlsen and The Emily Dahl Foundation – Interconnected and Empty – The Emily Dahl Foundation

Ted Ohlsen and The Emily Dahl Foundation – Interconnected and Empty

Ted Ohlsen's teachings are based on the reality that we are all interconnected. 

If we are all interconnected, then it must be true that we are "empty" of an independent existence. 

Emily Dahl manifested this in the way she treated everyone with equal amounts of love and kindness. She discarded the notion of an independent arising and considered all to be one. It is for this reason that others often commented that when Emily walked into a room, there was an instant energy of love. That was her love for all, and it is in us all.   

If we ask, empty of what? The answer must be - we are empty of a separate self. That is exactly what Ted Ohlsen is pointing to with his remarkable carvings. The carvings from the immense Boreal Forest prove we are all connected. Connected to nature, connected to all other beings. We do not exist without the love and support of all other things.  Each of all things has to be made by all other things. You have to coexist; you have to inter-be with all the others.

Therefore, “Emptiness” means empty of a separate self. It is, in fact, full of everything. In our bodies we have lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, and blood. None of these can exist independently. They can only coexist with the others. Your lungs and your blood are two things, but neither can exist separately. The lungs take in air and enrich the blood, and, in turn, the blood nourishes the lungs. Without the blood, the lungs cannot be alive, and without the lungs, the blood cannot be cleansed. Lungs and blood inter-are. The same is true with kidneys and blood, kidneys and stomach, lungs and heart, blood, and heart, and so on.

So, when Ted gives out one of his carvings and tells us we are interconnected, it also means we are empty of a separate, independent existence. The carving itself, cannot just be by itself. It has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud, the forest, the logger, the mind, and everything else. It is empty of a separate self. But, empty of a separate self means full of everything. 

Long Live Emptiness

If the cosmos and the Boreal Forest exists, then the smallest speck of wood and the mosquitos exist. If the smallest speck of wood and the mosquitos don't exist, then the whole cosmos doesn’t exist.

Emptiness is the ground of everything. “Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible.” That is a declaration made by Nagarjuna, a Buddhist philosopher of the second century. Emptiness is quite an optimistic concept. If you are not empty, you cannot be here. Ted and Emily are teaching us that because others are here, we can be here. 

Enjoy these pictures of a few of Ted's carvings - all recently given out by The Emily Dahl Foundation - thanks to the generous nature of Ted Ohlsen. 

Ted Ohlsen, who now lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, pioneered diamond willow carving in the early 70's. Challenged by the loss of his eyesight due to a hunting accident in 1960, Ted has found diamond willow carving to be a relaxing way of expressing his love for the great Canadian outdoors. 

The Emily Dahl Foundation 
January 13, 2024