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The Story of the Broken Tea Cup

By Marcus Santer

Once upon a time there was a Zen monk living in Japan.

Every day after meditation he’d drink from his favourite tea cup. It was a thing of great beauty, made by one of the greatest pottery masters in Japan.

The monk adored it.

One day whilst sipping his tea, the monk was startled by a large spider that had fallen off the ceiling and onto his leg. The spider made him jump so much he nearly dropped his cup.

Brushing the spider gently off his leg he breathed a sigh of relief.

For if he’d dropped his precious cup it might have broken on the hard stone floor and that would have been terrible.

And then the monk smiled.

Held out his hand and deliberately dropped the fine tea cup where it shattered on the hard stone floor.


He’d realised that the things you own actually own you and being attached to objects is a barrier to spiritual enlightenment.

And so he let his beloved tea cup go and gained freedom from it.

Now that’s not the end of the story for the tea cup.

Shortly after the monk smashed his tea cup and his attachment to it, a friend paid him a visit. And seeing the pieces of the cup on the floor asked if he might have them. The monk said of course as he had let go of the cup.

The friend was a Kintsugi master.

He specialised in the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold and silver. He believed when something is broken and has suffered damage it has a history, a story and becomes even more beautiful.

And like the tea cup, we’ve all:

And I believe you should embrace your flaws and imperfections because they’re what make you human.

Here’s an example from my own experience.

When I first started teaching and writing about Qigong I was encouraged to act like I was perfect, the ultimate authority, that I never put a foot wrong and knew it all.

What a joke.

I felt like a fraud.

Because when it comes to Qigong alone, I’ve made nearly every single mistake in the book.

Eventually I let go of this ‘holier than thou’ attitude.

And I find my students learn more from me sharing my mistakes with them than they do from me pretending to be perfect.

Look, if you’ve got breath in your body, I believe you’ve got more to learn.

And I’ve learned it’s better to be the real you than a fake somebody else.

So in the spirit of transparency I’ve a couple of bits of news for you:

  1. Today, after 5 years, I’ve finally paid off all of my credit card debt. I still remember clearly the intense fear and shame I felt when I had to tell Clarabella the mess I’d got myself into. And today I’ve cleaned the slate.
  2. Today was also the date I’d planned to launch the ZEN+ Home Study Course. But I think we better shift that for another 30 days. I’ve been getting so stressed and burning the candle at both ends trying to meet this deadline. But it’s being making me ill and unhappy and goes against the ZEN+ principles I hold so dear.

Okay, the message I want you get from today’s ZEN+ is it’s okay to be flawed, imperfect or to have a history. Embrace it, let it make you a better person as you learn from it. Let it develop your character as you put yourself back together again.

And as you look at all the people you come into contact with today, realise they’ve suffered damage too.

Oh, and the monks repaired cup?

I think it would look something like this:

Repaired tea cup fixed by the Kintsugi method

Bye for now