Empty Your Cup

I want to take a minute to tell an interesting story that has struck a chord with me. It’s an old story about a professor and a Zen monk.

The story goes something like this. There was a professor who was very interested in Zen. He studied Zen for years and considered himself an “expert” on the topic, despite having never actually met a Zen monk. One day, he got the chance to fly across the world and meet a real Zen monk. When they sat down, the professor immediately started telling the monk everything he knew about Zen. He’s going on and on and on, acting like he knows everything there is to know. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes… Meanwhile, the monk has said nothing.

During this time, the monk sets down two cups on the table for tea. As the professor continues to talk, the monk starts pouring the tea into the cup. As the professor continues to speak, he realizes that there is tea pouring all over his legs. The monk continued to pour the tea into the cup, even as it overflowed and poured all over the table and onto the professor’s legs. Finally, the professor stops and asks the monk, “What are you doing?!”

The monk replies, “You can’t fill a cup that is already full.”

I’ve been a victim of this myself. Sometimes, I feel like I know everything there is to know about a topic. This story helps remind me that sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that I’m not an expert in everything. Even when I think I know everything there is to know, I probably don’t.

Life is about quality over quantity. It is about having the time and mental space to sit, slow down and just be. In slowness and reflection, find a renewal of spirit.