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LETTING GO — EMPTY CUPS AND STILL WATERS

Guest Host, Panteli Tritchew (@PanteliT)

One of my favourite Zen stories is about a university professor who goes to visit a Zen Master.

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), 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?”

2007 06 19 Maria Kaczynska 01
A Japanese Tea ceremony

Of course, as a university professor, the story especially resonates for me. And it raises an interesting question: If a glass half-full is better than a glass half empty, then how can an empty cup be better than a full cup?

A pessimist sees the glass half-empty, but an optimist sees the glass half-full, so of course we all want to be optimists. But if we detach ourselves from these value statements, full, empty, positive and negative, we realize that the glass is half-empty AND half-full, simultaneously, and the emptier the glass, the fuller the potential.

Everywhere we go, we carry our own stories and our minds are full of our own dramas. In some ways, we play the role of the university professor every day, so full and enamored of and invested in our own stories that our cup is always full and never still. Nothing can get in because everything is spilling out.

Our ideas, opinions and belief systems can enrich us and restrict us, simultaneously. But it is our stories that carry the greatest emotional charge, and the more dramatic the story, the fuller the charge. The greatest charge comes from the stories of hurt. These are the stories that we keep telling ourselves in an endless loop with an infernal drama triangle of characters: the victim (usually us), the oppressor (always someone else) and the hero (sometimes us, sometimes another Other).

We forget that all stories are a work of fiction. Something Happened becomes Something Happened To Me becomes Someone Did This To Me becomes Someone Did This To Me To Hurt Me. The story endlessly repeated becomes richer in detail with each retelling. But it is the story, that gets richer, not our lives.
With each retelling, with each new loop, we keep refilling and stirring our cup. The tea pour over, spills out of the cup, onto the table, onto the floor and all aspects of our lives. Still waters can be a mirror, but turbulence itself is a reflection.

We keep telling the story over and over and it not only informs our identity, it becomes our identity. We not only carry what the Buddhists call “the burden of oneself,” we become “the burden of oneself.” The turtle and the snail carry their shells because the shells are both protection and shelter. Our emotions are a part of our internal landscape that serve a critical role in personal growth and spiritual development, but when we hold onto and carry our pain, our sorrow and our regret, they no longer provide the protection and shelter for which they were intended for we hold them far beyond their ability to serve us.

When we live in the past, we tarnish the present and the future. When we are present to each moment, we realize that each moment is present to us. We can meet every moment and be filled by it, or we can fill and scald the moment with our own drama. Full cup or empty cup?

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ C.G. Jung.

We have choices.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” ~Ajahn Chah

Each empty moment is full of potential. Each moment is choice.

– Panteli Tritchew

This week’s #SpiritChat conversation idea, cover-post and questions come to us from my good friend on twitter, Panteli Tritchew. Some of you may know him as an energetic participant in many chats, including #SpiritChat. Dr Panteli will host this week’s chat for us. I hope you enjoyed his beautiful post on the topic of “Letting Go”. Do join in in the weekly #SpiritChat on Sunday, July 26 2015 at 9amET/1pmUTC on twitter. Much gratitude to Dr Panteli, for hosting on my behalf. Thank you!

Dr Panteli is a Faculty Member in Applied Communications and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Business, Kwantlen Polytechinic University, Vancouver, Canada. Pleae do connect with him on twitter and/or LinkedIN.