The Empty Cup

Sometimes when I answer a question, I notice that the asker has stopped listening.

Midway through my response I feel a shift….I know I am about to hear some familiar words, words that we all tend to use from time to time…..

Yeah, but.

Yeah, I hear what you are saying, but that won’t work for me because…. Yeah, that’s a good idea, but I can’t do that because….Yeah, I hear what you are saying, but my situation is completely different…..

This is a common response when I offer a new parenting or self care solution, when I share another way to view misbehavior or discipline, when I suggest feeling emotions or allowing children to share emotions.

I usually notice a shake of the head and a look that conveys, yeah, that works for you, but…and then a list of challenges that stand in the way of real change.

At some point or another all of us yeah, but our way through a conversation. It’s a way of being protective of our choices, our reasons, our way of thinking.

It’s the way of communicating that all doable options have been explored, our circumstance is different, and no one can understand our unique situation.

There is truth to this, it is impossible to fully comprehend another’s life experience or situation.

But at the same time, real growth in life depends on our ability to be open to new possiblities.

It’s like the proverb of the “empty cup” – when we seek to learn, we must arrive with our cup empty so there is space to take in something new.

So many of us show up with great questions, but we are unable to hear answers because our cup is entirely full, spilling over with what we already believe to be true with no room for a new idea.

There are parts of my personal and professional life where I tend to carry a “full cup” of knowledge and experience….I have moments of believing that I have heard or seen it all.

But really, I know this isn’t true….the older I get the more I realize how much I don’t know.

So I make it a practice to be attentive – in everyday situations, but also in areas outside of my comfort zone. I find something that intrigues me, usually something I have let go of at some point in my life, and I attempt to re-learn.

And right now it’s all about tap dancing. Believe me, I am the most beginner of the beginners in the beginners class which means I must listen with great attention, watch the others around me, and fully engage in the learning process. My cup is big-time empty.

This isn’t always comfortable; my ego has to be checked at the door. But it’s also pretty great because I feel like a kid experiencing something new – I am present, connected and fully engaged.

It’s a great overall learning and it inspires me to bring this type of studentship into my everyday life….especially in the areas where I think I know it all.

Like when my husband wants to share something that I think I already know (or at least know better), I want so badly to yeah, but him…

But like in dance, I check my ego at the door and practice good studentship. I make an effort to empty my cup, soften and listen.

And when I do this I feel him soften because he realizes I am not competing. I don’t need to be right or win, and neither does he. Then we truly begin to hear and learn from each other.

Yeah, but is a built in defense system, the way we invest everything in our need to be right, our past experiences, what people have told us could happen, or what we fear could happen.

It’s not a completely bad thing, in theory it can guide us to informed choices, but it can also be limiting.

If we go through life yeah, butting, we may miss out on the new idea, the door opening, or the new path to clarity.

And all you have to do is take a breath, practice listening and allow the other person to share.

Hey, you may find you really don’t agree with what you hear, but maybe you can respond with that’s interesting or thanks for sharing.

Or, you may find that you hear something amazing, something that changes your perspective or guides you towards what you have been envisioning.

And this guidance or perspective changing “advice” can come in the simplest forms.

Like when I am at my computer, struggling with what to write and my daughter says, “Look at me mom, look at me spin, look at what I’m doing!”

I so badly want to say, yeah, I see, but I am busy…..yeah, that’s great, but don’t get hurt while doing that…..”

But instead I breathe, stop and watch the way she spins around in a circle. She is sharing with me in that moment; she is indeed offering her wisdom.

Mom, watch me spin, watch me live….look how free I am….look how I enjoy my moments…be like me…..

I empty my cup…..I see you, I hear you……I learn.

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