“When did you last empty your cup ?” is a short message but an important one that can often be overlooked. In this blog I’m going to explore with you the ancient Zen story about emptying your cup and its relevance for us today, everyday and perhaps especially as we approach the beginning of a New Year.
tells of a man who had studied greatly before journeying to learn about Zen from a Zen master. As the master spoke, he was interrupted time and time again by the learned visitor, eagerly expressing his own opinions about the master’s topics of conversation.
Eventually, the Zen master stopped talking altogether and began to serve tea.
He poured into his visitor’s cup until it was full, then continued to pour until the tea overflowed on every side.
Protesting, the learned visitor cried, “Stop! The cup is full, no more can be poured in.”
The master nodded before replying.
“You are like this cup, full of your own opinions. If you don’t empty your cup first, there will be no room for you to learn from my teaching. There will be no room to put anything new in.”
What is in your cup already ?
Our cups begin to fill as soon as we begin to live. We fill them with our knowledge, our understandings and perceptions, our experiences and the views and ideas of others, both consciously and unconsciously.
Why should I be emptying out my cup at all ?
When we empty our cup out, even just a little, we are acknowledging that our knowledge, ideas and ways of being and thinking are imperfect.
There is more to be learnt, more to be experienced, and understood.
By emptying our your cup, even just a little each day, you can make space to engage with new ways of thinking, new ideas and new experiences.
So what about the new ideas that will now be going in?
Your cup can accept what it receives, from yourself, your encounters and your lived moments.
Perhaps, the next day or some days later, you will look at it all and choose to pour some things out, or maybe not…..
How full is my cup right now ?
I’m going to keep a close watch on mine. Especially, when I’m in conversation. It’s easy to know then when my cup is too full because when you are talking to me I am so busy listening to “me” that there’s no room for a single drop of your honesty, wisdom and words to rest deep within me.
How would it feel to have a cup that isn’t completely full ?
An unfilled cup is like the cup of a child, meeting the new day with excitement and joy, fully embracing each new experience and idea.
Bruce Lee summed up the concept beautifully.
“I have to leave now, my friend. You have a long journey ahead of you, and you must travel light. From now on drop all your burden of preconceived conclusions behind, and “open” yourself to everything and everyone ahead. Remember, my friend, the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness.”