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Finding Meaning in a Broken Glass

finding meaningHere’s a past post that I wanted to revive due to a lot of recent interest. Enjoy!

Over the course of our lives we’ve been labeled or labeled ourselves as a glass half full or empty kind of person. But what if the glass was already broken? That’s the lesson that Ajahn Chah gives to a group of students including Psychiatrist Mark Epstein, author ofThoughts Without A Thinker.”

Ajahn Chah was a highly respected Buddhist Teacher, maybe well known to some as Jack Kornfield’s teacher. What was he talking about when he said the glass is already broken and how does that relate to our lives?

He says:

“You see this goblet? For me, this glass 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 glass on a 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.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

On the surface he was making the statement that if he considers the glass to be already broken then he can open up his mind to be more present with it and appreciate the time he has with the glass. At the same time, if it breaks, he’s not so attached because he understands the natural course of it is to break so he’s not as attached.

We can take a lesson for our lives. The question isn’t is your glass half full or half empty, the question is, are you able to see the glass as already broken? In other words, do you comprehend that our time here is short and eventually will pass? Are you able to see that the label of half full or half empty that you may be so identified with is just a story in the mind that is also already broken and will eventually pass away?

If you understand this you may just find yourself at times lying in a field beyond half full or half empty where your cup is completely empty ready to receive the wonders of life that are all around.

Worth pondering…

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Broken glass photo available from Shutterstock

Finding Meaning in a Broken Glass

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2012). Finding Meaning in a Broken Glass. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Aug 2012
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