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  • Heidi Broecking

The glass is never empty...


"Emptiness refers to the absence of something that, for some reason, one expects to find—as when we say a glass, normally used to hold liquids, is empty even though it is full of air. The point is not that there is nothing there at all, but rather that what is there differs from your expectations." — William S. Cobb, The Game of Go

I subscribe to Tricycle Magazine's Daily Dharma email list. It drops a little bit of Zen wisdom in my email inbox each morning. Some days I get them, some days I am utterly flummoxed by them and need to think about/revisit the little nugget of Buddhist confusion many times over. Then, there are days when they hit me like a hammer, like this morning. Little gems of wisdom that are so direct that I find they create an immediate change in my mind/perception.

I'm not sure whether the point was supposed to be about emptiness (sunyata) or expectations, nor does it likely matter, but it was the expectation part that hit me. The metaphor that was so clear. Crystal clear--that was too easy. We expect a glass to contain liquid. When it does not, we say it is "empty". It is not. It is full of air. Air is certainly not nothing. It is actually, everything. Just because we cannot see it doesn't mean it's not there. We breathe it, we smell it, we need it. It is vital to our physical being. That changed my perception. Then, that made me wonder, how many of our other expectations can have this litmus test/question applied to it? How many times a day, can I change my perception of something I "expect"? I'm guessing it is a bunch. To be mindful of these moments feels like a practice all in itself.

And to the metaphor, it would follow that the glass in never half full or half empty. It's always full. Half with water and half with air. So much for the pessimist/optimist comparison. We can all be optimists.


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