A Full Cup – September 10 2017

I think I’m beginning to learn something about it.
The final words of Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
spoken as he put away his brushes,
having painted all day from his bed
There is a story about a university professor who visits a Zen master, ostensibly to learn from him. As the master prepares tea for his guest, the professor talks on and on about Zen. When the tea is ready, the master begins to pour a cup for the professor. He fills the cup and continues to pour, the tea overflowing and spilling out onto the table.
The professor says, “Stop, sir! The cup is full!”
The master replies, “You are like this cup. How can I teach you when already you are so full?”
When we are young we are called upon continually to perform in situations in which we have no experience. By definition, nearly everything we do is new. Never been in fifth grade before. Never sung in the church choir before. Never kissed a boy, a girl. Never ridden a bike, driven a car. Taking the SAT’s, drinking a beer, studying for college finals, applying for a job, getting married. Depending on our personality, our parents and our emotional and mental makeup, we learn our own recipe of asking questions, studying, trusting our instincts and/or faking it–pretending we know things we can’t possibly know and deathly afraid someone will discover our deceit.
As we grow, of course, we gain experience. We survive these things, regardless of what combination of tools we may use. And we learn legitimate tools. Each of us has our strengths, and ideally we find the way to put these strengths to work for us. But there are those pockets of life where we may still be pretending we know what we’re doing. We’ve pretended something forever, so never have allowed ourselves to learn. Sometimes we’ve faked something so well that we no longer even know that we faked it. It’s gone underground and we just continue to behave as if we know what we’re doing. We notice these place in ourselves when we find ourselves becoming defensive at the least provocation, defending our right to behave in a certain way and blaming our behavior on someone else.
How can we let go of these places of defensiveness? How can we empty our cup and become teachable again?
We embrace the idea of humility. We let go of thinking we know what we’re doing or acting like we know what we’re doing. We let go of the idea we’ve done this before; for truly, every day is new, every moment unique, every breath like a snowflake.
This is always the case. But sometimes we forget. We go on automatic. We check out and fall into speculation. Thinking, instead of being. We leave the world behind and tell ourselves we are waiting for something interesting to happen, and when it does, we’ll come back out to play. This is the arrogance of the full cup.
When I can walk into a situation fresh, alive, fully present to the moment, I make myself available to be led by nature, rather than by my thinking. I am assuming that there is an ideal way through that I do not yet know, and that the more present I am, the more easily I will be able to discern this ideal. By being present, I am insisting on guidance, and the universe will provide it for me. Always. And inevitably I will learn something.
Today I will insist on being humble. I will insist on being teachable. I will insist on being present. I will insist on seeking the new in each moment.
Sidewalk after a Rain, 17th St. and Irving Pl., NY NY
All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober