In the story “A Cup of Tea“, a university professor meets with a monk to inquire about Zen. As is customary when a monk has a guest at his/her home, tea is served. As the monk pours tea into the cup, the professor watches as the tea begins to overflow. The monk continues to pour until at last the professor can no longer take the overflowing cup and states, “Stop pouring! Can’t you see the cup is full”! The monk shares, “Just like this cup, your mind is filled with its own opinions and speculations on life. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” The monk empties the cup.
When I think about this story, I think about how full my cup is with all the information I take in from email, social media and the other websites I learn from daily in my search to grow as an educator and leader in my school district. For me, “emptying the cup” is about giving my mind time to let the dust settle so I can see more clearly.
I think about a small pond with a stone thrown into it. As the rock hits the water, it continues downward and stirs up the mud as it hits the bottom of the pond. The mud gets kicked up and the water which was once clear is now murky and it is difficult to see anything. If we simply sit still and watch, the dirt slowly falls back down the the bed of the pond and the water once again is clear. Clarity returns.
Scott Belsky talks about this in the book “Manage Your Day to Day“. He shares a lot of important lessons that are relevant to “emptying the cup” for me. Number one, the importance of being aware of our constant need for connection. If our focus is always on others and “quenching our appetite for information and external validation” we will miss out on the opportunity to mine our own minds. Number two, he discusses the importance of being more aware of the insecurity that pulls us away from the present. If we are constantly focused on what already is, then it is difficult to see what can and may be. Number three, with all the noise out there on the internet, do not let ourselves be persuaded by the volume of the masses. Listen to your self “Nothing should resonate more loudly that your own intuition.”