An old teacher of mine, Laurence Follows, once said, "There is what you think you know, what you don't know, and what you don't know you don't know."
In The Living Gita, a very accessible translation and commentary on the ancient yogic text, The Bhagavad Gita, Sri Swami Satchidananda speaks to the importance of "emptying your cup."
Ugh. I know. Confusing, right? For so long it's been, "Fill your cup up!" "It sounds like you need a break to fill your cup!" "Take some self-care time, you can't pour from an empty cup." And now this dude is saying we need to empty the damn cup we've barely just filled?!
Sri Swami Satchidananda isn't speaking of self-care when he suggests operating with an empty cup. Rather, his commentary is related to the "what you don't know and what you don't know you don't know" observation. It brings to mind the concept of the "beginner's mind."
When we are willing to learn, or at the very least consider more than we've experienced or perceived in our past, Sri Swami Satchidananda would say we're emptying our cup. We cannot receive guidance, insight, or knowledge if our mind is in a state of "I know, I know, I know." The incoming information just spills all over the floor because we're too busy interpreting the input according to what we already think, believe, or have perceived in the past.
Having a truly Empty Cup is a difficult thing, I've decided. I think we like to wear our perceived knowledge like a Badge of Superiority, or a shield of protection. If we "know," then our sensitivities are hidden, and our vulnerability can't be touched.
I'm reminded of a time in high school when my stepmother and I were attempting to reach a mutual understanding. Much of my teen years was spent with my dad and stepmom on one side of a trench and me on the other side... or maybe rather in it (Trench of Teen Angst and Pain)... and us all hollering at each other, the syllables lost and scattered in the wind. Like the Tower of Babel.
During a particular "discussion" between my stepmother and I, she said something like, "You always know. I can't really talk to you because you're always saying, 'I know.'"
I was stunned. What in the f$#k was she talking about?! I didn't do that.
Except, I probably did. As a reflexive defence mechanism. My own personal fortress that went up the moment I sensed invasion or the potential for attack. My way of giving the finger and saying, "You won't get to me. I already know what I need to know, want to know, and you can't give or take a thing."
It's scary to admit that we may be wrong about something, that our perceptions weren't the be all and end all, and even scarier to let the walls down and bare our vulnerable, beating hearts. But there is something really liberating about saying, "I don't know!" and being open to possibility and a completely enlightening revelation.
Think about all of the advancements we've made historically, as a species. Think of the many times genius inventors, critical thinkers, or scientific pioneers have dared to present their theories, only to be told by those with full cups, "Never. Not possible. You're quite insane." The potential for growth and expansion spilled all over the floor, until eventually another opportunity came along for the tea to be poured into an empty, waiting cup.
Think of how much more we've to learn, to grow, to remember who we are and how we're connected. Empty your cup and be open to receive.