When someone says they have an open mind, it means they are willing to consider new ideas and concepts presented to them. When asked, most people will say they are fairly open-minded. When it comes to their preferred topics, they probably are.
However, everyone holds onto a few subjects that they refuse to consider different opinions. It might be something with which they aren’t familiar or are perhaps uncomfortable hearing. If these subjects come up in conversations, they tend to shut down and stop listening. They might try to change the subject to avoid hearing things they don’t feel prepared to hear. Sometimes, instead of listening and considering, they spend the time preparing a rebuttal argument.
While it seems all the rage these days to be a social media warrior and make sure everyone is aware of where you stand on any given subject, these vocal rebuttals are a form of being close-minded. The alternative, seeking to understand another person’s viewpoint.
The story of “Empty your cup”
A wise Zen master, whose advice and teachings were sought by both the wise and powerful, received an important man who wished to learn about Zen. The important man’s goal was to open his mind to enlightenment and would only accept the teachings from a true master of Zen.
With each idea the Zen master introduced, the important man would provide a counterargument. Clearly, this was a man who was accustomed to getting his own way.
The Zen master smiled and asked to continue the discussion over tea. He set out a cup before the important man and began to pour. He continued to pour and pour until the tea spilled over the rim and down onto the table. The important man exclaimed, “Enough! Can’t you see the cup is full?”
To which the Zen master replies, “You are like this teacup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”
How to empty your cup
Contrary to what many may assume, you can’t just will your cup to be empty. Truly having an open mind and an empty cup means cultivating a curiosity about anything and everything. Go about your day seeking new things to learn. The world is full of surprises waiting for you to discover them. Not only will this fill your world with wonder, but it will also make you a better friend and a much better listener. Those who keep their cups empty are happier, wiser people.
For more thoughts on emptying your cup, click here.