Empty Your Cup | zen story


Zen Master teaches Empty your Cup | I am technology. #blog

Empty Your Cup zen story | I am technology. #blog by Trey Warme, Charlotte, NC


Empty Your Cup is a zen story used in various flavors of Buddhist teachings, martial arts and even among some academic circles, that demonstrates how we must first sometimes unlearn what we think we already know in order to clear space for new learning to occur.

Empty your cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”


This is a common shared teaching of many enlightened teachers, or Way-Showers of different paths, elaborating on the need to unlearn habits of the past no longer serving us so that we can ‘make room’ to become what we wish.

This Zen parable may also attempt to show how much ego plays a role in our social interactions. Even when we go to someone for advice, our self perceptions and desires cannot help but show up. How often do we tune out others’ words, thinking instead about what we are going to say next? Can we really learn anything if we feel we already know? Perhaps we need to unlearn before we can learn. Also said, to be filled with spirit, we must be emptied of self.

Bruce Lee - Empty Your CupThe first step in listening is being silent, and realizing that when our head is full of preconceived beliefs, it is difficult to consider anything new.

To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things everyday. – Lao tzu

Get rid of what you do not want to make room for what you want. – Catherine Ponder

Empty your cup so that it maybe filled… – Bruce Lee

You must unlearn what you have learned. – Yoda

When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before. – Henry David Thorea

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2, NIV Bible

Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire. –

Yoda - Empty Your CupIn the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few. – Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. – Alvin Toffler

Listen to the teaching without trying to make it conform to your own self-centered viewpoint; otherwise, you will be unable to understand what is said…. Unify your body and mind and receive the Master’s teaching as if water were being poured from one vessel into another. – Zen Master Dogen

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. – Gloria Steinem

The shortest and surest way of arriving at real knowledge is to unlearn the lessons we have been taught, to mount the first principles, and take nobody’s word about them. – Henry Bolingbroke

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue. – Antisthenes

Empty Your Cup | your teacup overflowethWe must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive. – Bryant H. McGill

Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties. – Gail Sheehy

Be here. Let go. Open up. – Rev Wendy Craig-Purcell

If we let go of what we think we know we can experience freedom from our suffering. The future will no longer be stifled by our sorrow or expectations. We can experience the unknown with all its glorious possibilities. – Allison Carmen

When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu


Trey Warme | I am technology. #blog


Like what you read? Follow the author ➜ Trey WarmeWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | I am technology. #blog


#emptyyourcup | #ZenStory | #wisdom | #enlightenment | #selfknowlege | #ego | #listen | #unlearntolearn | #iamtechnology | #blog | @TreyWarme | #CLT | #NC