Satya Yoga

True to Oneself

Keep Your Mind Young : Unlearn to Learn

By Shirly Oh | August 11th, 2015

A Cup of Tea
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?” <Source HERE>

Many of us come to the yoga practice with fixated ideas of who we are – ‘I am tall, short, heavy, skinny, flexible, tight etc…’ While having a sense of who we are is helpful, sometimes these ideas can limit our ability to learn and grow.

When we step on the mat we are challenged to learn and unlearn (about ourselves).

If we are stuck to our existing conditions and patterns, we create (more) obstacles to the practice. ‘I always breathe like this, it’s so difficult to change.‘My shoulders are tight.‘I have no strength to lift up.‘I can’t….. Our inner chatter is always ready to attack and criticize which often results in resistance and a mental block.

Our practice reveals not just our projected physical limitations but also our mental resistance. It is true that we can’t grow taller or have longer limbs. However we can build strength, lose the extra weight, improve flexibility through regular practice. Repetition is the key.

Time and time again we hear that repeating the sequence is boring. Our mind is bored because there is no excitement or anticipation of anything ‘new’. When there is no stimulation, the mind wonders. ‘When is the next pose coming?‘Can I skip poses and do what I want?

If you only do what you are already good at you will not improve on what you need to build on. Somehow kids seem to do this better than adults do. They are adventurous, explorative and excited with what’s in front of them. They are always in the moment ready and curious to learn what’s been given to them.

Indeed how can we fill our cup when it’s already overflowing? Similarly how can we learn when we are not willing unlearn and (re)learn new information and ideas? How can we move forward in life when we keep looking back to the past as a reference point? Is it useful for us to keep harping on what we cannot change?

The next time you step on the mat, ‘empty your cup’ and practice with an open mind. Let whatever emotions and thoughts come without resisting or self-criticism. Experience each practice with willingness and participate fully without limiting yourself but simply to do your best.

‘Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right. ~ Henry Ford


Leave a Comment