Advice from a zen koan. If you own a teacup that is very precious to you, you have two choices: you can be obsessively careful with it, and live in fear that you'll drop it, or someone will chip it, or an earthquake will come and it will fall out of the cabinet. This object, intended to bring you pleasure, can become a burden.

Or, you can imagine that it is already broken -- because in an important sense, it is. It's sure to break someday, just as you're sure to die and the universe is sure to come to an end. Then, every time you drink from the cup will be a pleasure, a gift from the gods, a special reunion between you and something you had lost. You will be sure to appreciate every chance you have to use it, but having already said goodbye you will not need to use it with fear.

This can be applied to personal relationships, to your job, to money... if you give up feeling that you need things, you can appreciate them more fully.

Some people worry that if they give up attachment to this extent, they will not have the will to get what they want; they'll end up living in a discarded refrigerator box and starving to death because they're so laid-back. In fact, there is substantial evidence that having a goal and enjoying a process is not the same thing as kicking your ass all the time, or being motivated by fear of failure or of becoming a bad person. You learn to act with what various groups call the original mind, flow, or True Will and do what you do because it's you, not because you're being bribed or threatened by an internal parent.



In a now-deleted writeup, zgirll pointed out that you can effectively free yourself by giving the teacup away. This is an asymmetry between the possession issue and the relationship issue: giving away an object is an acceptable way to keep it. Giving away a person is stupid, unless your relationship (or the person) is dying on its own. The difference is that a possession is something you can fully know, and so your internal model of it can provide the same satisfaction as it can itself. Friends, on the other hand, are far deeper and we never really "figure them out." Ending a relationship that might otherwise have grown is a serious sacrifice which, I think, does not do any good in and of itself.

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