Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Empty Your Cup

As the sediment drops from the water, the view clears. Social and cultural expectations to speak only with those who are like me i.e. mothers, women, from a certain background emerge. I wonder Am I making this up? Why do I so acutely sense that I am going against the grain? We Americans think we are egalitarian, but are we?

Distracted by wealth, poverty, origin, status signs, knowledge, experience; we fail to recognize the humanity before us. When we never start a conversation with someone younger/older, from a different/same place, richer/poorer, or with more/less intelligence than ourselves, we dismiss what we have in common and fail to recognize that we are all connected.

Paths that have crossed places and people, the deepest ravines, taken the boldest leaps, held steady, gone in loops; all have a story to share if we open ourselves to them.

We get distracted from real food with diets. We get distracted from the world before us with our head. We get distracted from life with gadgets. We get distracted from experiences with ideas we hold. We can not receive if there is no room.

Empty your cup.

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?" 
Zen Koan 

Empty your cup


  1. Kim, your reflection reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago.......

    "Isabelle Allende, popular and distinguished novelist, niece of Chilean President Salvador Allende who was assassinated in 1973, was interviewed on an NPR program, This I Believe. I read the transcript of the interview and thought about our relationship with our material goods, our wealth, our priorities in life and about St. Paul’s radical Christian mandate: “Let the same mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus, who . . . emptied himself.”

    Isabel Allende said:

    I have lived with passion and in a hurry, trying to accomplish too many things. I never had time to think about my beliefs until my twenty-eight-year-old daughter Paula fell ill. She was in a coma for a year, and I took care of her at home until she died in my arms.

    There was nothing to do but cry and remember and to reflect on my journey and the principles that hold me together. . . .

    Paralyzed and silent and in her bed, my daughter Paula taught me a lesson that is now my mantra: You only have what you give. It’s by spending yourself that you become rich.

    Paula had given her life away essentially. Gave her life to others, serving, helping, volunteering. When she died she had nothing—but a heart full of love.

    Allende continues:

    The pain of losing my child was a cleansing experience. I had to throw overboard all excess baggage and keep only what is essential. Because of Paula I don’t cling to anything anymore. Now I like to give more than to receive. I am happier when I love than when I am loved.

    She concluded:

    Give, give, give . . . what is the point of having experience, wisdom, or talent if I don’t give it away? What is the point of having wealth if I don’t share it?” (This I Believe, pp.13–15)

    And so the challenge before us, in these days, is to take stock, to decide what to take along, to trust the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the good times and not so good, and to learn, in our time, as Isabel Allende and so many others have learned that we only truly have what we give—those of us who want to follow Jesus, who aspire, literally, to have the same mind in us that was in him, the one who emptied himself.

    That is the challenge, and you know, it is also a gracious invitation to discover that we truly own what we give away—our wealth, our love, our lives—and that in letting go, emptying self, you and I become fully alive."

  2. Your post reminds me of the barriers we set up that really get in the way of that first move, and I remember a homeless man, sleeping along my rice delivery route. He had a small carry-on cage in which he transported his pet bunny. My dog, who went with me, loved that bunny so we often stopped and visited. I remember how that homeless guy talked about those first barriers that that bunny broke down.


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