Your cup doesn’t need to be clean; it just needs to be empty.
Eventually, even the cup will be broken to pieces.
These were the words I found myself speaking recently to someone who was suffering from an attack of self-criticism and doubt. How full we keep our cups with beliefs, with judgments, and with endless attempts to purify what we believe is impure, to make worthy what we imagine is unworthy, to improve what we think is not enough. And all of this effort and agony without ever questioning who is not enough! Our mind lives in fear, in a prison of believed thoughts, trying desperately to escape, or feeling doomed to a life sentence. But do we ever look inside to see if there is actually a prisoner?
“I’m not enough” is one of the most common core beliefs that minds hold. If projected, it becomes “He/she/they/life isn’t enough.” Or perhaps we cling to “they weren’t enough,” and then our cup is filled with all the ways we are victims of life rather than expressions of life. Can we begin to see clearly, without judgment, and with compassion how innocently we come to feel “I’m not enough?” We carry the human conditioning of identity being an image, an “I-thought”. An image, however, is highly changeable, as any photographer knows who watches an image through the change of light and shadows in a single day. Likewise, our self-image can inflate or deflate with a single look, a single thought, a single projection. But are you an image of yourself, an idea, a concept, or something deeper?
Imagine a newborn–open, vulnerable, unafraid to gaze into your eyes or out into the world from the depths of wonder and innocence. Is this little one enough? Fast forward through the messages from mom, dad, teachers, friends, partners, the advertising media in magazines, television, self-improvement books—that vast array of messages that say you need to be smarter, prettier, stronger, thinner, taller, shorter, calmer, friendlier, have straighter teeth, a whiter smile, make more money, always be in control, and never ever be angry, sad or confused. Add to that our innocent and often painful misinterpretations of why daddy left or mommy seemed angry or our lover broke up with us, and our image keeps feeling tarnished.
The list goes on and on, and we believe in myriad ways that how we are, and where we are, and who we are is not enough. This, of course, is reinforced a thousand-fold when we begin the so-called spiritual journey. Now the list gets longer and the stakes seem even higher. Now we imagine we can’t even admit the truth of a moment’s experience if it does not fit into the “enlightened should’s” the mind has added to its list of all the ways it is unworthy and unfit for love or happiness.
What if the shape of the cup, its past history, thoughts, or deeds, were not what awakening is about? What if being worthy or unworthy to love and be loved made absolutely no sense to the Truth and Love that we are? Are we open to questioning our concepts, to emptying the cup and discovering what we truly are? No matter how shiny or polished an image, in the long run, it will never be “enough” because we are not an image.