A cup of tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

When we come to therapy, we bring with us conscious and unconscious assumptions about what has made us unwell, what can make us well, what we are capable of changing, and what is beyond our control. We carry experiences from past relationships, dating back to our foundational and formative connections with our caregivers—our encounters with anger, grief, and love. Our interactions with previous therapists, doctors, and authorities, and, perhaps most significantly, our relationship with ourselves in both good and challenging times also accompany us. To benefit the most from therapy, one must sometimes 'empty the cup' to see anew and allow for new thoughts, concepts and the process of building new internal structures to carry our weight. 

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