For me, this season has had its particularly stressful personal and professional experiences so far. In other words, things haven’t gone as smoothly as this control freak would appreciate. A few weeks ago I was in a yoga class and the teacher announced that the theme of the class was “emptying the cup”. She went on to describe how in our society we often speak in terms of our “cups” being “full”; we’re encouraged to look at the cup as half full rather than half empty. And then she shared this little story with us:
Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar’s cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: “Stop! You can’t add anything to something that’s already full!” The saint set down the teapot and replied, “Exactly.”
Whether it’s the blankness of a canvas to an artist, the silence between the notes in music, bare dirt for a new garden, the not-knowing openness of a scientist exploring new hypotheses, an unused shelf in a closet or cupboard, or some open time in your schedule, you need space to act effectively, dance with your partners, and have room around your emotional reactions.
Yet most of us tend to stuff as much as possible into whatever room is available – room in closets, schedules, budgets, relationships, and even the mind itself.
Naturally, this wise yoga teacher and the story she shared got me thinking. What could I do empty my cup? I had already accepted a job that was less than full time with the exact intention of “cup emptying” this year…so what else could I do? I decided I had to challenge myself a bit and do something out of the ordinary, so I ended up allowing myself permission to be a little self-indulgent. Note: This is usually pretty hard for me to do!
So, how has this self-indulgence taken shape in my life since I granted myself permission to do so? Let me count the ways!
1) Massages. I love massages. I’ve been booking myself a massage every week or two for the past few weeks simply because I have decent benefits through work and I didn’t use them for one single massage last year because I was too stressed out to even think about going for a massage. Weird, hey? I think I’ve used up all my massage benefits now, but I don’t even care. It’s been a fantastic and completely self-indulgent experience.
2) Random seasonal small purchases. There are a few things that make the autumn season simply that much more divine, in my opinion. For me these things include: Starbucks salted caramel mochas, new guilty pleasure reads and Frasier Fir scented candles from Chapters. Check, check, check.
3) Sleeping in. Because my work schedule is somewhat choppy this year, sometimes I work in the morning and sometimes I don’t. On my mornings off I’ve been sleeping in until 9am or later and it has been absolutely glorious. Do I feel guilty about it? Absolutely not.
4) Sunday family dinners. Now that my parents are island dwellers we’ve reverted back to our Sunday family dinner routine. It’s been eight years since we’ve had a structured Sunday family dinner practice and I’m really, really loving it being back in our lives.
5) Travel planning. Now this is a big dream, but I think I’ve nearly convinced my husband that it’s a really good idea. Our dear friends recently moved to Prague for two years. Two years! We used to hang out with them at least once every week at volleyball and now we won’t see them for two years. This is not acceptable, so I am trying very hard to convince Joel that traveling to Prague next fall is in the cards for us. This will be a bit of a financial stretch, but I’m holding on to hope that we can and will make it happen. Until then, I’m soaking up all the glorious European photos our friends iMessage us every few days.
6) Crafts. I’ve always been crafty. This autumn I’m making myself find more time to create. The rule in our house has always been that no artwork/photography goes up on the wall unless it’s been created by us or by someone we know; therefore, I’ve recently been crafting up some new wall displays for us.
After reading this list it might seem I haven’t understood the message of the cup emptying story at all because I’ve been filling my time and my space pretty nicely. However, in my opinion, I have done a pretty good job at emptying my cup because I haven’t allowed myself this much space or time to do exactly what I want to do in a long time. I am grateful that this year of teaching allows me more space to breath and be calm. I think I am going to learn a lot about work/life balance as the year continues.
I wish you all peace if you’re struggling to find or make some emptiness in your own lives. I hope you can harness the ability to dig deep and say NO to a few extra tasks and responsibilities. Like the cup of water on the left, too many drops makes life too full and crazy!