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Emptying my cup

‘Pause to move forward’ generally happens naturally in spring and autumn in my life. With markers and a big sketch-book I write down without censoring:

  • what I’ve done over the past year
  • what I’m doing now, and
  • what I want to do over the course of the next 12 months

In this process, I find myself coming back to a well-know Zen story:

‘Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”‘

Empty cup?

I love this Zen story, but forgive me if I push its boundaries: opinions are not the problem. I doubt that the Zen master was after a student with no opinions.

‘Automatic pilot’ opinions, old ways of seeing things, or unreflected ‘received wisdom’ are the problem.

Sometimes old opinions get in the way of listening to ourselves, and to others. That’s when we get stuck. Whether you’re stuck or not, I suggest the sketch-book and marker ‘pause and move forward’ exercise.

Question received wisdom, ask questions, and ‘find your boat’.

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Mindfulnext/Aid to Zen 2011-2017 Creative Commons License
Mindfulnext by Alessandra Pigni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.