The Cup Is Already Broken

By Darren Buford
[Editor’s Note]

“You see this cup?” the master asks the student. “For me, this cup is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this cup on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the cup is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”1

There are many versions of this parable. And while I particularly enjoy the descriptive nature of the above, I’d like to tack onto it this coda from Jack Kornfield: “When we understand the truth of uncertainty and relax, we become free.”2

The story resonates with me because it’s part Buddhist proverb and part carpe diem (“Seize the day!” Dead Poets Society, anyone?). What better inspirational tale for facing today’s unpredictability and uncertainty?

In the past five months, we’ve looked square in the eye a worldwide pandemic and resulting historic unemployment, systemic racism, and political unrest. And none of these things will be fully remedied anytime soon. We’ve closed our doors. In some cases, we’ve reopened. In some cases, we’ve practiced anew, cautiously with new equipment and protocols. In some cases, we’ve closed our doors again. And, in some cases, we’ve closed our doors permanently.

I can’t offer you a master plan or a way out, or promise you that things will get better soon, but what I do know is that impediments can often be our path forward. Years ago, I read The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday, a modern take on Stoicism. This idea can be briefly summed up with: behind every setback, there’s opportunity.

The famous proponent of Stoicism Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”3

There are obstacles now. There will be obstacles in the future. That much we can count on. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. Will you see this setback as temporary, the end, or the beginning? 

In this issue, we dive deeper into COVID-19’s effects on our profession, your practice, and your clients. Ruth Werner, Carole Osborne, Cal Cates and Kerry Jordan, and a cast of other experts—they’re all here providing guidance for your deeper understanding, your next move.

“Objective judgement—now at this very moment,” Aurelius wrote. “Unselfish action—now at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now at this very moment. That’s all you need.”4

Let the words inside inform and inspire you. Your advancement awaits. What do you have to lose?

The cup is already broken.