There is a story about an arrogant professor who goes to a Zen master to learn about Zen. As he sits down, he proceeds to tell the master what he already knows and exactly what he thinks about the subject. The Zen master listens intently and offers tea to the man. He begins to pour the tea into the professor's cup and continues even as the tea overflows onto the table. The professor shouts, "Stop! My cup is already full!" The Master of Zen says, "Yes it is, and until you empty it, nothing else will go in."
We have all been on both sides of that table. Either, we aren't listening because we already think we know, or we have our own strong opinions and beliefs that prevent us from accepting another person's point of view. If we are on the other side of the table, as the Zen master realized, trying to communicate with a person whose cup is full can be a complete waste of breath.
Setting aside preconceived notions, opinions, ideas, beliefs, and judgements can be extremely difficult. Especially when the information that you are receiving is criticism. Being aware of your reactions to advice, criticism, or information from another will help you to see whether your cup is full or empty. Opening your mind to the idea that every interaction with another person has something to teach you, will allow you to really hear what another has to say instead of filtering their words through what you "already know".
Even the harshest criticism from another has something to teach you. Listening with an open mind or a cup that is empty might allow you to take the criticism in a more constructive way.
When you empty your cup, you can begin to feel freedom from your own ideas and opinions. This freedom will leave you open and ready to learn something new at every moment.
I coached two soccer games this past weekend. Saturday's game was a real nail biter. As the game got more and more intense, one of the parents on my team became more and more agitated. She was particularly forthcoming with her criticism of the referees. Each time the ref made what she considered to be a bad call, the disgruntled parent would yell out a negative comment.
Before long, her voice was joined by others. The voices in the stands became louder as the score of game got closer. More than once I turned around to the boisterous crowd and made a "please stop" gesture with my hand. My attempts to calm them down went virtually unnoticed.
After the game ended in a tie, my daughter came to me and said, "What was with the parents? They were so loud! I was getting really annoyed and angry. I couldn't hear you at all." I agreed with her and told her that I would have a talk with them. We both left the field feeling upset and irritable. I prepared a speech in my head to give the parents before the next game.
Distracted by the preparations for Sunday's game, I forgot all about giving the parents my speech regarding their behavior in the stands the day before.
Again our game was extremely close and competitive. I noticed that despite the intensity of the game, the parents were actually quite calm. The only yelling that I heard was positive encouragement for the girls.
I considered for a moment that someone had provided cocktails to the crowd making them mellow. Then I realized that they were different today because the disgruntled parent from yesterday's game was not in the stands.
This experience reminded me of how strongly influenced we can be by one another. It only takes one person to establish the consciousness of a group. If we aren't aware, we can be dragged into another person's emotional turmoil almost without realizing it. We can also get a false sense of protection from personal responsibility from being in a group. I witnessed this not so pleasant truth at my eleven year old daughter's soccer game.
Paying attention to not only your thoughts, words, and actions, but also the thoughts, words, and actions of those around you will keep you from getting caught in a group consciousness that isn't for your highest good.
If you look around, you will see that there are groups almost everywhere in your life. Your family, your friends, and your co workers are all obvious groups that you associate with. You also find yourself in groups at a sporting event, a concert, a fundraiser, or a yoga class. Each group that you blend into can have an influence on you and the world around you. If you find yourself feeling judgmental, agitated, or negative, take a look at who you are with when these reactions surface. Be aware of your tendency to get caught up in the group's negativity and be ready to leave the group if you need to.
In Conversations With God, Book One, God says, "If you cannot find a group whose consciousness matches yours, start your group!"
Making a conscious choice to surround yourself as much as possible with only those who uplift you will make your mood, your mindset, and your life better.
The end of the school year can be a crazy time. Last week was a particularly busy week for my travel soccer team. The girls had graduations, spring concerts, school art shows, and dance recitals to attend, in addition to the one or sometimes two other spring sports that they play. Many of the girls were unfocused and distracted as they came to practice in varying states of undress. My daughter ran onto the field without realizing that she was wearing her volleyball kneepads instead of her shin guards. Another girl discovered that she only had one soccer cleat and one basketball sneaker in her gym bag. Half of the team was already dressed for lacrosse since they had to leave soccer practice and head straight to their game.
When practice was over everyone rushed to get to their next commitment. My daughter, her teammate, and I were left to pick up the balls, cones, and discarded water bottles. Walking to the car, I noticed a patch of clovers. I asked the girls if they knew how to make clover bracelets. I told them that I would spend hours with my friends lying in the grass making bracelets and looking for shapes in the clouds. They looked at me with confusion, the concept of having time for such trivial things was foreign to them.
At first, they giggled and chatted as they attempted to tie knots in the delicate stem of the clovers. After a few moments, they became quiet and peaceful as they focused on creating their flower jewelry. I noticed a shift in their energy as all of the busyness and distractions seemed to fall from their little minds.
For five minutes, neither of them spoke, they just created flower jewelry.
Their sustained attention allowed their minds to rest a bit, bringing them into an almost meditative state. It was really beautiful to watch the girls looking so peaceful and enjoying the moment.
Although they didn't know it, they were practicing the sixth limb of yoga.
Dharana is the practice of focusing your attention on one thing. Doing so results in "stilling the fluctuations in the mind." When our minds are still, we can begin to connect to our true nature which according to yoga philosophy is peaceful, happy, and loving. This mind state is yoga.
It can be difficult to add another thing to your already packed schedule, but practicing Dharana regularly can help you to calm down when begin to feel your mind spinning out of control. You can focus on an external thing like a flower or a candle flame, or an internal thing like your breath or a mantra.
Even five minutes a day is beneficial and it can lead you to the deeper practice of Dhyana or meditation. In meditation, your sustained attention becomes effortless, and you have transcended the mind to merge with your object of focus.
Training the mind to stay centered and focused can result in discovering the wonder and beauty in the simple things that life has to offer. So instead of stopping to smell the flowers, stop and pay attention to them and you might just find yourself there.
My husband has a knack for pushing my buttons.
This morning when I entered the room wearing a neon yellow shirt, he made the comment, "You are so bright."
His tone was a bit flat, so the comment hung in the air, open to interpretation by me. My initial thought was, "What's that supposed to mean? I look ridiculous? He doesn't like it?". I was aware of my defensiveness creeping in so instead of reacting to the comment in a negative way (which could have started a whole thing over a dumb yellow shirt), I took a deep breath and then responded by saying, "Thank you".
He laughed thinking that I was jokingly thanking him for telling me how intelligent I was. We were then able to discuss what happened in a neutral way. I told him that a girlfriend would say, "I love your bright yellow shirt, or I don't think you should wear that bright yellow shirt", and that is why his comment left me hanging. He told me that he meant nothing at all by it. It was just an observation, not unlike the statement "two plus two is four."
I have to admit, it has taken me close to twenty-eight years to realize that no one, including my professional button pusher husband, can activate my buttons unless I allow them to.
My yoga practice has taught me to be aware of my thoughts. This awareness allows me to take a step back from my reactionary mind, so that instead of reacting in a negative or habitual way, I can choose the best response to whatever situation I am in at the moment. This has made all of my relationships better.
We all have buttons or sore spots in our psyche. They are created by past experiences that we haven't healed from or let go of. When something happens or someone says something that feels familiar to that old unhealed past experience, it is as if that pain button is pushed and we react to the present situation in a negative or unconscious way.
Some of our buttons are small and weak. Others are really big...practically lit up as if they are just waiting for someone to come along and push them.
Taking responsibility for your sore spots is an ongoing process. It requires the realization that we aren't always conscious of what lies just underneath the surface of our psyche.
Yoga philosophy and Buddhism name the following five mind states or kleshas. These afflictions of the mind are responsible for activating our unconscious pain response (pushing our buttons) which can "cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions".
1. Lack of awareness (Avidya)
3. Likes (Raga)
4. Dislikes (Dvesa)
5.Fear of death (Abhinivesah)
According to yoga philosophy, all of the mental states listed above stem from the lack of the awareness of the self. When we realize that our true nature is one of eternal peace, joy, and love, we won't be driven by our ever changing ego, our likes and dislikes, or the fear of the end of life as we know it.
You can improve your relationships by watching your negative reactions and learning from them. Taking a moment before you speak will give you time to become present to the situation that is in front you, instead of being pulled back in time to an unhealed past experience.
Each time you choose to respond in a new way, an old habit will weaken leaving you open and ready to live in the present moment.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras