September 9 – You Know Too Much – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Two scientists traveled halfway round the world to ask a Hindu sage what he thought about their theories. When they arrived, he kindly brought them into his garden and poured them tea. Though the two small cups were full, the sage kept pouring. Tea kept over flowing and the scientists politely but awkwardly said, “Your holiness, the cups can hold no more.” The sage stopped pouring and said, “Your minds are like the cups. You know too much. Empty your minds and come back. Then we’ll talk.” Leroy Little Bear 

Knowing everyone’s birthday is not the same as feeling the wonder of birth. Nor is being accomplished in the many positions of love making the same as being passionate. It was the great Canadian scholar Northrup Frye who pointed out that understanding the principles of aerodynamics has nothing to do with the experience of flying.

If at times you feel numb or distanced from the essence of what you know, perhaps your mind, like the sage’s teacup, is too full. Perhaps, like a bowl too full of fish, your deepest thoughts have no room to move. Perhaps we all need from time to time to dump out all that doesn’t stick. To let God like a great wind rim our head like an empty bowl.

Information is not wisdom. The mind, while a great and irreplaceable tool, can store instead of feel, can sort instead of understand, can, like a beaver, build a dam of everything precious. If you cannot speak when your mouth is stuffed with un-chewed food, how can you think clearly if your mind is stuffed with undigested information?

But how do we empty the mind? By not overthinking. By not storing or sorting. By not replaying fears or dreams or doubts or praise. By choosing the most important thing on our endless list of things to do and doing it fully after tearing up the list.

All the wisdom traditions say to be still—that the stillness will bore holes in our useless knowing. But how do we begin? Every time you find yourself sorting life in your head, stop and notice what the brightest spot of light around you is touching. After a week of this, make a deal with yourself: trade five facts about how to live for one hour of unplanned living. Then have some tea.

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