Full and Empty Cups

When we go to someone for guidance - are we open to hearing it?


I recently had an experience with a client that was disturbing, eye-opening and liberating at the same time. I value the confidentiality agreement I assure my clients about, so I won't go into any details here. Suffice it to say that this person (bless his heart) was not in a very "open" position to take anything else in.


I discussed this with a colleague a little later, in a mentoring session. And this lovely story came out that made such sense to me. And might help you along the way, too. I'm paraphrasing. 


"The person we go to for help, guidance or support, has a teapot in their hand. Their only job is to pour tea from the teapot. The person who seeks the guidance, help or support live online casino, comes with a teacup in their hand. Their job is to hold the teacup under the spout of the teapot.


A person can either hold their empty teacup right-side up, in which case the pouring tea can flow into the empty teacup. Alternatively, a person can hold their empty teacup upside down - in which case the tea runs down the sides, and spills onto the floor. Where it's useless to the seeker."

The Expert

Another version of this story, goes like this: (I quote from www.prairiewindzen.org/emptying_your_cup.html  because it's beautifull written)...

"One of my favorite stories concerns a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with the master and after making the customary bows, asked her to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.

The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, she poured the tea into the scholar's cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, "Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can't get anymore in."


The master stopped pouring and said: "You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha's Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup."


This story is and old one, but it continues to be played out in our lives day-by-day. We are so enamored of our own ideas and opinions and so trapped by our conditioning that we fill ourselves up to the brim and nothing can get in.


The third ancestor in China, Seng Ts'an, said, "Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions." If we empty ourselves out, let go, and cease to hold on to our views, the truth will come to us."

What to do with a full cup?

The client in question unfortunately had a very full cup already. He was cherishing his opinions and, after 2 sessions, I had to do major soul-searching to decide what the best direction is. My mentoring session helped me to get really clear on something.

I am not responsible to help this person realise how full his cup already is. It's really not my business. It's his business. And if at any stage, I'm taking the responsibility to "show him", I'm in someone else's business. For a while, I thought the best way to serve him was to attempt to "help" by pointing out his full cup. The truth is, I have absolutely no idea what's best for him, or anyone else. I often don't even know what's best for myself! So I made the decision to serve myself in the best way I can, which was to not continue work with the client. I cannot do my best work with a full cup, and I served me best by not continuing the pretend game. I'll pretend I'm pouring tea into a cup, and you pretend it's going in.

Of course, this led me to thinking about how full my own cup might be when I go to someone else for support or guidance. I can remember telling a facilitator "But I've already tapped for this....". A bit of a full cup there, I think. I've also encountered this in myself when I'm at a workshop. "I already know this. This is boring.". I'm so sorry now, for that attitude. What gifts did I miss out on, because of my full cup??

It makes it really, really hard and almost impossible for a facilitator to facilitate a process that does not have a chance to go anywhere. If you already have all the answers, best to start listening to yourself then, and not pay good money for someone else to attempt to pour tea into a full cup. The biggest gift you can give youself, when going for a session of any kind, is to go with an empty cup, right-side-up. You'll receive the gifts, by serving yourself first.

For Facilitators

The very same idea is applicable to a facilitator, too, I just realised. Are we full of judgements, opinions, clever ideas and have all the answers FOR the client? Or do we have at least a half-empty cup? Do we thnk we "know" where the session should go, and attach to the outcome (very full cup!) or do we empty our cup (at least a little) before each session, and ask for guidance from higher sources, and receive gifts this way? Do we allow our clients to come to their own answers, instead of having all the answers FOR them? And do we humble ourselves before a process - which always unfolds beautifully and perfectly, when our cup has a little space?

"And to the degree my “cup” has room to receive, I may see, hear and feel more deeply into the moment. Not only does this enrich my life, but it allows me to be interdependent, creative and happier. (I can’t know or be concerned with what it does for others.)" - (Pam England, www.birthingfromwithin.com)

It takes courage to hold out your empty cup to receive something new and unexpected, including what seems to us the dark, not-so-sweet side of the Mystery of Life. I say - go for the courage and the empty cup. Shall we invite in the blessings and gifts with a cup which has space to receive?






"If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself-- Norman Vincent Peale

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