A respectable English professor traveled to Tibet to meet the famous Zen master and learn from him about the world and life. While the master was preparing tea, the professor tried to impress him with his knowledge of Zen. He quoted the great Zen thinkers, compared their conclusions, and analyzed their influence and significance for humanity.
After a few minutes of attentive listening, the Zen master placed an empty cup in front of the professor and began to pour the tea into it. After filling the cup to the brim, the Zen master continued pouring the tea into the same cup. For a moment, the professor hesitated to ask him why he was doing this – as if he couldn’t see that the cup was already full – but then he couldn’t resist and finally said, “The cup is already full; there’s no room for more tea!”
The Zen master replied, “It’s the same with your mind; if you don’t empty it, you won’t understand Zen wisdom.”
Whether it’s our personal, professional, or spiritual development, if we don’t create “space” in our minds to receive new knowledge/information, we can only “receive” the knowledge that can penetrate our existing mental filters. “If we walk around with green sunglasses, everything we see will have a green undertone or hue.
So if you want to learn and explore new perspectives, it’s not enough to just get new information. You also need an attitude open enough to explore that new information. In other words: If you want to learn something new, “switch” to a beginner’s mindset. Read, watch or listen as if it were the first time. Throw out any preconceptions you may have. Forget for a moment that you know anything about the subject you want to know better, and imagine you’ve never heard of it before – regardless of your previous experience. We’ve often heard the adage that there are countless possibilities in a beginner’s mind, while experts have only a few.
Our previous experience helps us a lot because it allows us to do things easier and faster. The automatism we achieve through experience helps us move forward instead of focusing on the first steps. But it’s precisely this automatism that closes our access to new knowledge and insights and clouds our perception.
So the next time you want to gain a new spiritual insight or develop your business or anything else, remember that it’s not just about meeting new people or getting new information, but your attitude is also a crucial factor – and by that I mean an attitude that is open enough to explore that new information and treat it as if you were hearing it for the first time.
Therefore, remember: only a beginner’s mind can think outside the box!