I read an analogy some time ago that has stuck with me. Given my penchant for thinking of analogies and fables as being more resonant if we think of them as being told from sages of old, I’ve adapted it. My version goes something like this:
A student, having studied from the wise master, is ready to embark on their journey through life.
Years have been spent in the mountain retreat high above the clouds, in seclusion and earnest study.
The master calls the student one last time before they must part ways.
The student, ever respectful, approaches and bows before the wise master, who sits peacefully looking out across the valley below.
The master sits under an wooden overhang with an open archway at the front of the building where the student has spent much of their time learning. It is sparse, with grey stone floors, some cushions to sit on in front of a small table that faces the majestic view. On the table is a pot of steaming tea with two cups. Somewhere, water can be heard bubbling in the brook that flows down the mountain.
The master motions for the student to sit, then reaches out to the table and pours two cups of tea, taking one and handing it to the student.
“Imagine” the master begins, “that as I hand you this cup of tea, your arm is shaken as someone walks by and bumps into you. Tea then spills onto the floor.”
The student places both hands now around the cup.
“Why did you spill the tea?” the master asks.
“Because Master” the student answers, “my arm was shaken by the person who bumped into me.”
“No” the master responds, “that is not so.”
The student looks to the master with a confused expression on their face.
Speaking simply the master says “You spilled the tea because there was tea in the cup. Had their been coffee, you would have spilled coffee. Water, you would have spilled water.”
The student smiles gently, realizing the wisdom of the master and believing this final lesson to be the importance of details or perhaps of not rushing to judgement.
But the master is not finished.
“Whatever is inside your cup will spill out. LIFE provides you with the cup. You must choose what to fill it with.” The master pauses to let the words sink in, then continues, “Life will always shake you up from time to time. Whatever is in your cup will spill out.”
Looking now fondly over at the student, the master says softly, “You must choose wisely what you put in your cup for those times when life comes along and bumps into you to shake you up. What will spill out? Will it be joy, gratitude, peace, and love? Or will it be anger, bitterness, criticism, and hate?”
“Whatever you put into your cup, you will also drink, taking it inside of you.”
“Fill your cup with that which you wish to have inside of you, and that which you wish to spill out into the world.”
The master then hugged the student tightly, retreated inside and closed the door.
The student, taking the now empty cup from which they had drunk their tea, turned towards the valley and took the first step of their journey.