Take the Spoon Out of Your Cup

A patient goes to the doctor.

“Doctor,” she says, “whenever I drink coffee, I get this terrible pain in my eye.”

The doctor considers this briefly and replies. “That’s easy,” he says. “Take the spoon out of your cup.”

Sometimes the solution is right in front of us, easy to execute and still we leave the spoon in our cup. Maybe when a solution is so easy, so right in front of us, we don’t se it till someone points it out. Or maybe, once we see it, we think, “Well, that’s too easy. That can’t possibly be a real solution! Maybe we want to spend a lot of money on expensive and exotic remedies, training and so on – as if spending all that cash means the solution we’re buying has some instrinsic value because of how much it costs us.


1. Meditation is the easy solution to so much of our daily troubles. Focusing on the breath is something we can do to take the spoon out of the cup and alleviate a lot of trouble for ourselves and those around us.

2. Our own happiness is always right here with us too. Like the breath it’s always there yet often not much heeded. The happiness we seek in daily life is not out there somewhere. Yet, we spent much of our lives running after things, grasping at this and that, thinking it will bring us happiness.

3. If grasping after things brought us happiness, shouldn’t we all be pretty much ecstatic now? I mean a lot of us have way more of everything than we can ever possibly use and enjoy.

4. One of the reason all that grasping doesn’t work is that the very things we seek are by nature impermanent. Yet, rather than accept this as part of the natural order, we fight it.

5. Try this: Sit and observe the breath. Notice how each one arises, expands and then subsides into nothing. This is the nature not only of the breath but of all things. Try to see that just as the breath begins and ends without remorse, grief or narrative, causing us no trouble, so can we approach all things in life.

6. Make  a list of all things you love. All the things you hate. All the things you feel just neutral about. Consider each, one at a time. Don’t let yourself be swayed by your emotional attachments. Though many things seem to last a loooong time, are any of them truly permanent if you look at them clearly?

Just as we put the spoon into the cup and cause ourselves pain, refusing to see life clearly, as a parade of passing phenomena, each one impermanent, we cause ourselves trouble, sadness, grief, despair, irritation and so on.

So go ahead and take the spoon out of your cup. Follow the breath. Enjoy each thing and let it go in it’s own time. Experience even the things you do not like without getting wrapped up in a storm of emotions. Like it or don’t like it – it won’t last forever. No need to get upset.

When we can practice this way, so much of our daily struggles vanish, like each breath as it ends, as the pain in the eye when we remove the spoon. Even the coffee itself.


Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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