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The Cup is Already Broken and The "Myth of Normal"
A short story on mindful living and a new book summary...
This week’s study in Happiness brings a short story and book summary.
A monk had a beautiful, delicate tea cup.
His student asked him about the cup. And much to the student's surprise he replied that the cup is already broken. “What do you mean?” – asked the student.
The monk said – “To me this cup is already broken.”
“I enjoy it. I drink from it. It holds my water admirably – sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put it on the shelf and the winds blows it over or I knock it off the table and it shatters on the ground then I say - of course.
When I understand the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”
This is the essence of a mindful life.
This is the way to view everything in the phenomenal world – our possessions, our loved ones, and, above all, our own lives. This is the difficult art of loving nonattachment. How can we love others and engage in our lives wholeheartedly without clinging and without fear?
By knowing that the cup is already broken… The end is certain. This life of mine is already over. Everyone, everything is here and gone in one breath.
And this is what makes life so dear: the precious precariousness of it all.
(I’ve seen this story attributed to several folks – this one is adapted from Mark Epstein in Thoughts without a Thinker. Most attribute it to teacher Ajahn Chah.)
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A couple weeks ago I finished a dense, yet profound book called The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture by Dr. Gabor Maté.
The thesis — today’s crises of addiction, lifestyle disease, and mental health deterioration are natural consequences of a toxic culture. They are not “disorders” insomuch as normal responses to unhealthy circumstances. If you’re interested in understanding how society and culture set us up for unhappiness then check out this 20 minute chapter by chapter summary.
Bye for now. Your happiness nerd,