A teapot and a cup of tea symbolize mindfulness

The Mindfulness of an Empty Cup

posted in: folktale | 0

Not too long ago there lived a man who saw himself lost in the city life. Day in and day out, the long hours of automated tasks had consumed him leaving him feeling empty and dissatisfied with his existence. He longed for mindfulness and meaning so much so that he felt compelled him to leave it all behind and venture into the unknown.

The man journeyed on foot, heading west through the mountains for many weeks. Yet, the long endless path through the winding landscape was an eerie reminder of his own inner turmoil. A yearning for something more haunted him, urging him to continue onward.

Finally, the traveler stumbled upon a small Buddhist temple nestled amongst the trees. The sound of chanting and the aroma of incense permeated the air, welcoming him into the serene sanctuary.

A long path through the forest
Image by Ugne Vasyliute

Inside, he found an old monk, whose gaze fell upon him. His kind eyes and warm smile immediately put the traveler at ease. The monk exuded a sense of peace and tranquility, moving with a quiet grace and purpose.

Despite the simplicity of his humble appearance, the traveler sensed that the monk possessed a wealth of knowledge and wisdom beyond comprehension. He decided to engage the old man.

After exchanging pleasantries with the monk and learning of his life, he felt he had found a true teacher, one who was wise. Perhaps the monk could guide him on his quest for the meaning of life… The traveler begged to stay a while to learn more.

Each day, rain or shine the man took on various chores given to him by the monk. In the garden he cleared the paths of fallen leaves. He removed the moss from rocks and cut the grass that surrounded the small pond.

At the end of each day, when he was finished with his tasks, he would seek the monk’s company. Over a cup of hot tea, they would sit and he would speak about his troubles and how lost he felt. He questioned the meaning of life, hoping for some profound insight into his purpose from the monk. But, as each night became late, the monk would merely smile and asked the man to empty his cup. And he did.

A mindful Buddhist monk is walking away from a temple
Image by Eye

Days turned into weeks, and the traveler diligently did his chores. He cleaned the stones, pruned the trees, and wiped away every speck of debris from the path until it looked new. He worked hard knowing that he would have time with his mentor at the end of the day to let loose.

And when night came, he poured out all of his thoughts, ideas, concerns, dreams, and more. Everything he knew. The monk would simply listen intently and acknowledge the man’s tirades. Again and again, as night became late, the monk’s response remained the same. “Empty your cup,” he would say with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye.

As time went by, the traveler began to grow increasingly frustrated and confused. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing some vital message. One evening, as he was vigorously ranting about his life, he blurted out how he felt his time with the monk was in vain. In despair, he broke down in tears before the old monk.

The monk’s eyes crinkled with amusement and with a compassionate response he said, “My friend, every night you come to me and I tell you to empty your cup.”

The traveler was perplexed. “But, don’t I?”

The monk smiled and began to pour more tea into the man’s cup. But, he did not stop at the top. When the tea began to overflow the man shouted, “What are you doing?”

The monk replied, “Like this cup, your mind is already full. Before you come to me, it is full. After you leave, it is still full. You keep releasing your mind, but never emptying it.”

A rock in the middle of a rock garden symbolizes mindfulness
Image by June Wong

Like a light in a dark place, meaning started to shine through. The man began to understand the monk’s lesson. He had been so preoccupied with finding the meaning of life that he had overlooked the simple beauty of life itself and each and every moment of it. With a newfound sense of clarity and purpose, he said goodbye to the monk. It was time to live.

The monk smiled and said, “I know.”

With a light heart and a clear mind, the man packed up and headed in a new direction. He realized that life was about the intention behind his actions and the awareness he brought to every moment. With a newfound sense of gratitude and appreciation for the wisdom of the old monk, he practiced emptying his cup every day.

As time passed, the traveler understood that the answers to his questions did not lie in any particular action or goal, but rather in the way he approached his life and the world around him. And so, he continued on his journey with a sense of peace and clarity, knowing that the answer he sought was not so far away after all.

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