Sometimes, we all have problems getting started on something.  This may be something as trivial as doing the washing up, to something as difficult as having a difficult conversation with someone close to us.  This can be through everything from laziness (the washing up), to fear of a really bad outcome – that the reaction we’ll get from the close friend will cause the end of a cherished relationship.  Everyone does some variation of this – some of us seem to do it almost hourly, indeed!

So, you might well ask, might meditation and mindfulness help us with this?  And what’s it got to do with a broken cup?

Well the Zen Buddhists have a phrase: they say “the cup is already broken”.  It comes from one of those lovely but slightly odd Zen stories, this one about an old master’s answer when his students asked him how he could be so happy, knowing that terrible things could happen in the world.  He held up his teacup, and said: “Someone gave me this beautiful cup for my tea.  I really like the patterns on it, and I love the sound it makes when I stir the tea.  It keeps my drink at just the right temperature, and it’s comfortable to hold.  And one day I may drop it as I’m washing it, or the wind will blow the my book open and it will knock the cup to the floor, and it will smash.  And I say ‘ah, now it has ended’.  I know it may end, in a day or in ten years.  So every moment with it now is precious, and I admire its beauty”.

It can be the same with getting started on something.  Acknowledge the end you fear – maybe it’s certain to happen.  All things come to an end.  But also remember that it may not happen today, or next week, or next year.  And, in the meantime, enjoy the cup to its full.  In the future, it is already broken, but right now, we can, and should, enjoy it – the laughter of friendship over a misunderstanding, the feeling of warmth on our hands as we wash the dishes. 

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