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How long can you hold a cup of water? (Part 1)

by Matt on July 8, 2010

I got an email from my Uncle Ron last week. It contained a story that really made me think (I don’t know the author, so if you do, comment and let me know). Here’s the story:

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.

“In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.

“So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can.

“Relax; pick them up later after you’ve rested. Life is short. Enjoy it!”

What kind of stress are you carrying? What do you do to take a rest? If you haven’t, subscribe to our blog, because Part 2 of this story has some tips for relieving stress.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary July 8, 2010 at 8:37 am

What a great story! Can’t wait for Part2!

David Cox July 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm

How simple the truths of life are… and we do our best to complicate life… I am sure part 2 will be simple common sense… Funny though how un-common sense can be…
Roll on part 2…

Asoki July 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Thanks for the Inspiration. I can use it right now.

Rita Singh July 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

It is a simple and very beautiful truth of life.One more thing I want to add if you don’t share your burdens with any one else, life become more depressing and unbearable.Yes it is very important with whom you share with troubles.

Jalus July 9, 2010 at 10:27 am

Gassho Matt,

How very simple . . . how very true

In my case AND how very hard! When I think I have detached from the past ~ I find myself thinking about it again. Knowing that if I’m still thinking about it I am still attached. big sigh

“Before enlightenment chop wood carry water. After enlightenment
chop wood carry water.” Yes?

In Metta,


Matt July 9, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow, thanks for all of the insightful comments. Mary (and everyone) check back tomorrow morning for part 2. Jalus, that’s a very unique quote! What exactly does it mean, that we’re still working and living normally after learning?

Jackie Paulson July 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm

If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.

What a great example of stress, I have been there done that! Thanks so much for sharing this.

Ruby Ray July 10, 2010 at 3:01 am

Thank you – this is a learning which i will carry all my live :)

SHARYN July 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

I agree with everyone else. Sometimes the truth opens you up to better situations and this one has done that!
Thanks to everyone for sharing, and we all contiue to want to move forward!


Jalus July 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

Gassho Matt,

YES! &):-)

It is a Zen proverb. Achieving enlightenment
(AKA: being awake and fully present in the moment NOW)
will NOT necessarily change your life materially, only spiritually.

Everyone has mundane tasks in life. Often times we resent time spent on them. As we mature spiritually we are fully present, labor is no longer a burden. Wood is chopped. Water is carried. Life happens. But doing these tasks we are at peace.

In Metta


Christopher July 15, 2010 at 1:28 am

It is a very inspiring message and I wait for Part 2 – really life is so stressful, and many a times life seems to be going in the wrong direction and after a period of time we just done seem to get anything right.

sanjee July 15, 2010 at 2:04 am

That is really nice to tell someone not to carry the burden atleast while going home from work

Jacob N. Shepherd September 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

My poems will no longer be appearing on the Simple Truths blog site. If you like my poems, I will be glad to add you to my friends list and you will receive all my poems on a regular basis. No charge of any kind. Just send me your name and email address to my email address above.
Thanks, Jake

Lisa Reinhart October 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Funny the way we interpret what we read, what it stimulates within. Of course our reactions are based on our life experience especially with what is on our minds at that moment. So, all said, I read the ‘Cup of Water’ lesson and the comments and thought–about the heaviness of the weight–deal with the issue with the intent and gusto to resolve it. Easier said than done, I understand, but sometimes….instead of patience and a break, one needs the intent to resolve. As my father would say to quote William James: ‘There is nothing so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.’

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