I remember a story about a student coming to a wise master with the request of teaching him. The master doesn’t respond at first but starts filling a cup of tea for the student. Even when the cup is full, the master still keeps pouring tea  which is of course then flooding the table. The student looks suprised at the master who says nothing but the words: how can I teach you anything if your cup is already full? 

I didn’t get the whole lesson behind this story at that time, but now it makes more sense to me. I’ve tried to write down my perspective of the story underneath. I hope it may help to understand what a ‘full cup’ really means. And why you would prefer an empty cup over a full one. 

From cup to buckets

For me, it’s a bit hard to relate to a cup as this is so small. So I’ve replaced the cup with some buckets. There are several of them, which makes it easier to understand that the cup can be filled with different kinds of tea. There are 3 different buckets in the game:

  1. A physical bucket
  2. A mental bucket
  3. An emotional bucket

These buckets are gathered in a bigger container or a bucket, which is making them into a complete whole. This is our spiritual bucket and counts as a fourth one. This one has a special role to play, but we will come to that in a bit. 

Separating the buckets allows you and me to check them one by one. It also makes it clear which bucket is actually being filled or emptied at any certain moment. Another important aspect to check is of course the specific content of each bucket. Is it filled with your stuff or did somebody else dump something in it? 

The physical bucket

To fill this one means using your body and its senses. It’s experiencing the world in all its forms, colours and materials. You fill this cup with everything that you do in your life. It’s the bucket where time and space are ruling and thus forcing the tides that come at you. Take a look at your agenda and you will immediately have an idea how full your physical bucket is. 

As you can imagine, this bucket has physical limits. You are limited in your space and time. One day, your time will run out and you will not longer be here to experience these things. You have probably also experienced the limitations of space, where you might have wished that you could be in two places at the same time.

If your bucket is full, it means that you go from one thing to another. Or that you are always occupied doing something, and only get some rest when you are knocked out in the couch or falling asleep in bed. The body tries to recover and heal itself from being exhausted in its sleep, preparing for another day of going from one physical experience to another. 

It’s probably pretty clear that a full bucket is not really a positive state for the body. As long as the recuperation time is long enough, the body can keep up. If not, you will get injured in some way, limiting you in your physical freedom. Ever had ‘a stupid accident’, a moment where your were not sharp enough to prevent a painful situation? 

By now, you probably have a good idea of how full your physical bucket is. Another question raises at this point. What is the content of your bucket? Are you filling that bucket with experiences that you really want yourself or is the bucket full of content that is actually fulfilling somebody else’s wishes and wants? When was the last time you said YES to something when you actually wanted to say NO? It happens to all of us. We are influenced in so many ways that it takes a conscious effort to think about our own wants and needs and to put those in front of all others when the time is right to do so. 

The mental bucket

To fill this one means using your mind. It’s thinking about past, future and maybe event present. This is a bucket which fills easy, almost in an automatic way and seems to have no limits. You can think as much about anything and in whatever way you like it. In truth, there is no limit to this level, but as all of the buckets are strongly interconnected with one another, filling this bucket can cause the other buckets to fill as well, which puts a limit to it. There’s only so much that you can take. Same goes for the physical bucket as well. If it’s full, it will start to fill the other buckets as well. 

To check how full this bucket is, you need to observe your thoughts, which is not always that easy. You might have created ways to flee from your own thoughts. There’s always something to do that allows you to escape the always present voice in your head. This bucket is strongly related to who you think you are as a person. This might be the reason why you’d rather not confront yourself with your thouhgts (it’s not always a pretty picture).

Looking at your own thoughts, observing them carefully, you will find out the content of your mental bucket. Here too, it’s vital to see if the thoughts are created by yourself or if those are thoughts that have been created by influence of others. This bucket is filled with all your plans for the future and it’s also the collection of all your previous experiences that colour your present thoughts. Whatever you have experienced, the mind has given it a label and a positive or negative feeling to it. Which leads us to the next bucket.

The emotional bucket

You can fill this one with all the inner feelings that you have by experiencing physical things and mental thoughts. Every action, thought, or physical experience will make you feel something. Feelings can have a whole range of colours and forms, but they are mostly divided into one of two big categories: painful or pleasant. 

Emotions are very futile and therefor fast to come and go, this makes it more difficult to observe at the present moment when you are actually experiencing them. Instead of experiencing these feelings fully, we keep the images that go along with them in our minds to revive the inner experience in the future. The pleasant experiences are relived by telling stories, by thinking about memories of experiences. These feelings inside last until something else catches your attention.

It’s sometimes hard to let go the positive feelings from an experience. You might catch yourself dreaming about something and by doing that, creating a desire to experience it once again. This might lead to certain habits, such as smoking after dinner. The feeling of that experience itself is stored in the body and is not being released, which creates a loop where you crave that same experience. On the long term, it will affect the body which will somehow ‘deform’ and show the habit in a physical way.  

The painful experiences however, are more often than not fully experienced and do not get a chance to leave the body by reliving it. We’d prefer to hide that painful experience deep within ourselves and forget about it. The problem is that life doesn’t allow forgetting. You will end up in situations that will ask to purify that feeling so you can let it go.

Not letting go and storing the painful feeling deep within you creates a simular pattern as reliving the experience over and over again. It will create a habit which protects you from experiencing it once again. It will create an avoidance strategy and that too leads to physical patterns showing over time. 

How full your emotional bucket is, can be checked by observing your habits. It’s how you inter-act in certain situations. This inter-action is expressed in your verbal en non-verbal communication. Habits are unconscious patterns that demand very little energy and attention. Habits are used as a protection method when the buckets are full and constantly on the verge of flooding the surroundings. 

The spiritual bucket

All of the buckets can be seen as separate ones, which are connected with one another. If one is full, the others will soon follow. However, this doesn’t need to be.

The buckets are always connected with another, but you can make a hole in each one of them, so that everything passes through. 

If you make a hole in one bucket (or preferably in all of them), your body will start to merge with your spirit. It’s the fourth bucket that contains all of them and has the capacity to purify all of your actions, your thoughts and your emotions. When this happens, your body becomes a channel in which all of these flow right through you without anything causing friction or resistance. The heart speaks the language of all of these buckets and it is the place where you want to go when you want to purify whatever is in these buckets.

Every bucket has a a specific way of emptying. In the article ‘the art of letting go‘, I explain how to empty each one of these buckets.

Why empty buckets

I am not saying you should have empty buckets all of the time. Out of experience I can tell that having a sense of what’s in a bucket is important to take control of your own life. When the bucket gets filled with stuff you don’t want, you will experience quite some friction and resistance when you want to pursue some goals. 

You can probably also see that when you want to achieve something and there’s something in a bucket that isn’t compatible with achieving that goal, you will block yourself in obtaining it. See for yourself what you need to let go of before you can obtain the new goal. 

Last but not least, when the buckets are (more or less) empty or in harmony with what you are striving for, you will become part of a bigger flow. It will make it easier to go from one place or to do something which might otherwise be a  hard thing to do. When the buckets are loaded, they will weigh upon you and slow you down. Maybe they even have the force to bring you to a complete stop. 

Once in a while, it’s a good idea to take some time to investigate which bucket is loaded and what it actually contains. You will find yourself moving lighter than before when you have done so. 

My own buckets

I started with emptying the physical bucket with saying radically NO to the things I didn’t want anymore in my world. This created time and space to just be with myself. Because of this (and I had nowhere to go to), I started to listen to my ‘internal and very present voice’ in my head, which at that point I still thought was me.

As that voice wasn’t a pretty one (dark, seeing everything from a negative side), I started to realize that my thoughts were actually created by what I was taking in from the outside world. I gave up social media, news, tv and other media. This stopped filling my mental bucket with crap that wasn’t mine and I’ve started to fill the mental bucket with thoughts about things and topics I had chosen myself. I did that by reading books and spending time in nature.

I noticed that the dark voice was still present but slowly fading away. I noticed that I could change this voice into any other voice, just like changing channels on tv. After some time, I managed to shut that voice down. In return, I received silence and with that silence came a feeling of peace. It’s the place where creativity is born.

This doesn’t mean that the dark voice is gone. Actually, every kind of voice is still present and I can turn to it any time I want. But I accept it. It’s part of who I am, just as white light has all of the colours in it as well, including the dark colours. I just don’t turn to it anymore or don’t act upon it when it pops up for some reason. 

Because I emptied the physical bucket so drastically by saying NO to almost anything that was around me in that time, I saw a remarkable change in my habits. I stopped drinking too much, even when going out (nowadays I don’t consume any alcohol anymore just for the sake of it), my eating pattern changed into a healthy (vegan) diet and I experience a flow that is in harmony with life & nature. I still have some work to do with some emotions that are still stored in my body, restricting some movements of my body.

What about your buckets?

I hope that I have given you an insight on how to check for certain things if you feel that something is not right or slowing you down. If you haven’t experienced flow in a while, dragging you from one place to another, or simply find yourself not enjoying things as much as you used to, then it’s time to check the buckets and maybe even empty them.