Empty Cup

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We have been writing about some of the fundamental paradoxes of human existence and we want to briefly discuss another one that comes out of the Buddhist and Yoga traditions. It is the idea that you can only fill yourself up by emptying yourself out.

The best metaphor I have heard to describe this concept is to pretend that you are a cup. Right now that cup is filled to the brim with all of the demands of daily life, with your errands, your plans, your worries, your hopes, your deadlines, your fears, your financial obligations, your partner, your family, your friends. All of these external variables are an unavoidable part of daily life, and in fact many of them are what makes life great, but they are the liquid that is taking up all the space in your cup. There is simply no room left for you to explore your Self. There is no way to discover who and what you really are because like we said your cup is already filled to the brim.

You have empty all that stuff out in order to fill yourself back up with what really matters. This is why we practice yoga and why we spend time every day in sitting or walking meditation. We use these blocks of time to empty ourselves of everything going on in our lives, coming to the present, not worried about the past, the future, or anything else external to our minds and bodies in that moment. The Self gets the time it needs and the space it needs to simply be, helping us become who we really are.

Once we have filled our cups with our internal Selves these cups get bigger, and we can go back out into the world with renewed vitality and with an increasingly clear idea of how we want to live our lives. The practice of meditation is not about withdrawing from the world, it’s about gaining the insight and the skill to exist more fully in it.