Being The Empty Tea Cup

The Zen tea cup story goes a little something like this:

“A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen.

The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

“It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”  via RenegadeZen

I am trying to be more humble, more like the empty tea cup. It is forcing me to look at how I relate to the world – things I think I’m knowledgeable about (for me it’s usually work-related things), situations where I think I know what’s up, or where I think I’ve got somebody all figured out (whether or not I actually know that person!) or any number of other ways in which I take for granted my own point of view and my own essential right-ness about things.

Certainly there are areas where I know that I know nothing and can’t help but be empty. But in areas where I think I know a little something – that’s where I’m most dangerous 😉  My ego wants to be right and sometimes leaves little room to consider otherwise.

But the point, and the real struggle is – even when you think you know, even believe you are ‘right’ or know something about whatever the matter at hand happens to ne – can you still empty your tea cup mind and be open to something else, to someone else’s point of view and to the possibility that being ‘right’ is not even the point? Being humble, to me, means that you examine and hopefully leave behind your need to be thought knowledgeable, important, right etc. It’s not a lack of self-esteem but just a willingness to put down preconceptions, and the needs of one’s own ego. It’s dis-identifying with whatever knowledge or experience we have gathered and resisting the temptation to make our world and point of view the primary one at any given moment.

Sounds like a lot of ‘giving up’ stuff. But here’s what the empty teacup mind seems to let in instead:

  • A fresh view of the world
  • Less combativeness
  • Less grasping to be right, less defensiveness
  • More ease
  • Seeing people in a different light, not through the labels I impose on them
  • Spaciousness rather than narrowness

How often do you enter a situation with a full teacup? How does empty-ing your teacup mind feel?

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