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Empty Your Cup

When a Zen Master meets a new student, there is a tea ceremony. Tea is poured into the student’s small hand-held cup until he or she gives a small gesture to indicate “enough, thank you.”

A long time ago there was a mind-full, accomplished, self-certain monk who arrived at a temple for training. The Master poured tea. The young monk gestured and gestured to stop pouring, but the Master kept pouring tea until the cup overflowed. Why?

The Master explained, “When you arrived, your cup was already so full, there was no room for new. Empty your cup. . .”

Empty Your Cup

As a doula, I am constantly emptying my cup. I come home from births, throw my hands up in the air and say, “I know nothing about birth!”. That might make my clients a bit uneasy (lol), but hear me out. Birth is much more than the physical process, it is spiritual, transformative, and emotional.

In order to recognize the full potential of birth, I must empty my cup of all my “knowing” (well, not ALL my knowing, but maybe half of it) and then step into the birth space. Until I do so, I won’t be able to be fully present to receive what each moment brings. Emptying my cup helps me to hold the space for each individual woman and family.

Emptying my cup keeps my humble. It helps me serve. It keeps my eyes open to opportunities I might have missed if I was only focused on how full my cup was.

What Would Ina May Do?

While I was reading through Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth I was reminded how important it is for a care provider to be able to empty their cup.

Ina May wrote about the first time she witnessed a woman’s cervix open at the vocal command of the laboring mother and also about how a client’s cervix retracted when their mood changed or an unwanted visitor entered the room. If Ina May’s cup was too full, she would have dismissed such findings because “that is impossible”. Instead, her cup was say, half full, and she was open to the possibilities of the moment.

Have you been mindful and emptied your cup? If so, what possibilities did it bring to the moment?