Early in January, while thinking about possible new years resolutions, I stumbled across the story of the three pots by Pema Chödrön. “This is it!” I thought. “An excellent reminder I can print out and stick to the wall behind my desk. Reminding me to keep a calm, open mind. Allowing me to fully experience all the good and bad things that will happen to me in this New Year.”
The three pots
Each of the three pots represents an attitude, preventing us from fully receiving what life has to offer. They are compared to three pots: A full pot, a pot with poison in it, and a pot with a hole in the bottom.
The pot that’s filled to the brim is like a mind full of opinions and preconceptions. We already know it all. We have so many fixed ideas that nothing and no one can affect us or cause us to question our assumptions.The pot containing poison is like a mind that’s so cynical, critical and judgmental that everything is poisoned by this harshness. It allows for no openness and no willingness to explore anything that challenges our righteous stance.The pot with a hole is like a distracted mind: our body is present but we’re lost in thought. We’re so busy thinking about our dream vacation or what’s for dinner that we’re completely deaf to what’s being said.
Take care of your pot
Everything we experience leaves a small imprint in our mind. Slowly our pot starts to fill up. One day the mind is so full, that we become incapable to learn anything new. We lose the ability to adapt to the changing world or our aging bodies.
It’s time to let some water pour out of our pot, creating room for new experiences.
Life is full of difficult moments. It’s harder to work towards our dreams than we thought. We might break a leg while skiing, or get hurt the moment we open up to a friend or our boss. These experiences will add small drops of poison to our pot, making it impossible to enjoy the next skiing trip or ever trust someone at work again.
It’s time to carefully examine the contents of our pot, trying to find a way to clear the poisoned water.
All day long we are bombarded with information. At work we run from meeting to meeting, over lunch we read the newspaper and play a casual game on our smart phone. We are using our mind so intensively, that the pot starts leaking water. Our mind is so busy entertaining itself, that we lose the ability to stay present.
It’s time to slow down and fix the pot.
New Years resolution
I asked a friend at work what he thought about my pot:
- There seems to be a lot of room left in my pot. I’m eager to engage in new projects and open to learn.
- I tend to get cynical if I grow tired and have the feeling that there is no progress whatsoever. Especially if I have experienced a similar situation before.
- If a try to do too many things in parallel, my pot starts to leak.
Ok then: I will try to be less cynical by reminding myself that each moment is unique, that what happened in the past does not necessarily need to repeat itself. It’s a new situation, a new possibility where I can simply try to do my best.
I wish you all a happy new year. May the metaphor of the pots help you to enjoy your life to it’s fullest.