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How Full is Your Cup?
By Michael Angier

I was trying to counsel a young man the other day who was less than receptive to taking advice. He said he wanted help, but in fact he wanted someone to fix his problems. He said he wanted advice, but instead he wanted to be right.

Isn’t it interesting when people have all the answers and no money? When they have a long list of excuses but no plan?

Here was someone who was broke and had no job. His life wasn’t working. You’d think he would be willing to learn, but sadly, this was not the case.

I’m reminded of the story of the young mystic who traveled a great distance to study at the feet of a revered sage. When the young man arrived, he proceeded to try and impress the master with how much he knew and how wise he was.

Instead of asking questions, the student ranted on about his beliefs and philosophies. The master listened quietly for a long while.

Finally, the student stopped talking for a few moments. The master asked his guest if he would like some tea. “Why, yes,” the young man replied.

The old man began to pour the tea into his visitor’s cup. But he didn’t stop when the cup was full. He continued to pour as the tea overflowed into the saucer and then onto the tabletop where it began to run out on the floor.

“Stop!” the young man said. “The cup is full. Can’t you see? It can hold no more.”

“It’s true,” the wise one said. “We cannot put more into an already full cup. And you are like that cup. Until you empty yourself of yourself, your fullness will prevent you from learning.”

To some extent, we’re all a bit like the young man. We sometimes have to let go of what we think we know in order to embrace new ideas.

We’re always free to pick up our old beliefs and “knowings” at a later time, but we need to be open in order to look at things in a new way. We need to approach knowledge with the wonder and openness of a child. This way, we keep from missing important lessons and learning helpful life strategies.

It’s not easy, but we CAN learn to suspend our beliefs in order to listen with a clear and open mind. If we do, we won’t be one of those people referred to when people use the cliché, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

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