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When someone comes to me with a question, I pay very close attention, not just to the question but to the motivation behind the question, to how they listen to my response and to their reaction to my response. People can have many reasons to ask a question, and if it is sincere and genuine, of course I will answer them as best I can. Sometimes people come with a question that they see as an opportunity to impress me with their level of knowledge. Others ask a question but know the answer they want and are not open to any other. Many times, the question may be sincere, but the person has so much going on in their mind- confusion, worry or stress that they are not able to correctly hear the response.

It reminds me of the old story of the Zen Master, famous for his wisdom and good advice. People came from all over to be enlightened by his words. One day a university professor arrived, a self-important man, and asked the Master to teach him about Zen. The Master suggested they discuss it over a cup of tea. He poured tea into a cup for his visitor, but even when the cup was full he continued pouring until it spilled over, onto the saucer and the table.

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The professor impatiently barked: “Enough. Can’t you see the cup is over full? No more can go in.”, to which the Master replied: “Like this cup you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I teach you about Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

I often tell my students to empty their mind. What I mean by this is, we need to create space if we want to experience or learn something new. If the mind is full of thoughts of the past, of belief systems, of old patterns, of knowledge obtained without applying intellect, of pride or jealousy, there is no space for anything new to be absorbed. When we are stuck on our own point of view, there is no room to see a bigger picture. Empty your cup and watch your world expand.

Finally, in the words of Bruce Lee — “Empty your cup so that it may be filled.”

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