Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Empty Cup

It's exam time, and job-hunting time, and dealing with life time, so obviously I'm going to procrastinate on everything and write a blog...

As my Sobomnin (martial arts teacher), Michael taught me a lesson a few weeks ago: he gave me a teacup filled with tea and told me to examine it. "Get to know that cup. I want you to know it, feel it, taste it, know the color, the smell... Know that cup like you would marry it." (Those probably weren't his exact words but, as my Grampy always says, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!")

He gave me a few minutes. Then --
"Do you know that cup like it was your firstborn child?"
"I feel like I just gave birth."
(Those also were nothing like the words we actually said.)
"Good," he replied. "Follow me."

And then he led me on the most meandering sprint around his house that I've ever experienced: up the stairs, around the kitchen, down to the basement, turn on our heels and sprint all the way up 3 flights of stairs again -- all while holding my teacup and trying not to spill on the carpet.

We ended in front of the sink.
"Here, have some more tea."
He filled my cup until it was overflowing.
"Ready to go again?"
I dumped a bit out so the tea wasn't so close to the surface.
He filled it to the brim again.
I dumped a bit more.
He filled it back up.
"No, I'm going to spill!"
"OK, well what do you need to do?"

So, with great remorse for my firstborn tea, I dumped the whole cupful into the sink.
Aaand, we went for another sprint - one that was much easier this time because my cup was fully empty.

As a reward for my brilliant decision to leave my old, cold tea behind, the next time we returned to the sink Michael filled my empty cup with raspberry juice.
("Enjoy! Comagain!")

Now, how would it have been if my cup was still full of cold tea dregs when he'd filled it up with juice? The fresh, cold juice would have been contaminated by the old tea. (Gross for a normal person's tastes, I'm sure, but I probably would have enjoyed the weird beverage... But that's beside the point.)

The lesson, he said, came from his old Hapkido instructor. When students are too full of their own opinions and expectations, how are they to learn anything?

They need to first open their minds - "empty their cups" - so that the knowledge and experience of the new instructor, new experience, or new perspective, has a place to go.