I find that I mostly meet two kinds of students: the ones whose “cup is full”, and the ones whose “cup is empty”.
You probably know that zen story about the master who keeps pouring tea into the cup of his prospective student, and the student says “but master, the cup is full!” and the master answers “and you are very much like this cup.”
When our cup is full, we cannot receive instructions, because nothing can go in anymore.
There can be many reasons why someone’s cup is full…one of the most common one, in my experience, is attending too many workshops of different kinds of riding schools and therefore getting contradictory, confusing instructions. Another one is not having a clear path to follow, yet another one is constant worry about one’s horse (maybe due to a past injury or sickness), or also problems in private life. I see it as part of my job to help students “empty their cup”, to provide clarity, confidence…not only knowledge.
Whether a student can receive instruction can also change from time to time, because something happened in their lives, or they went to a clinic where they got different instructions from what I do with them. So for me, meeting the person and connecting, figuring out how to “empty their cup” is a large and very interesting part of my job. Of course, it is not always successful, because there needs to be a certain kind of openness in order to learn, even if it’s just a little bit.
When I am a student, I always try to empty my cup before the lesson. During my first internship in the academic art of riding, my cup was very full. I had read so much, tried so much. I thought I knew a lot of answers. Then I realised that I was not really able to listen and learn, so I had to empty my cup. I was amazed by the people who came to Bent’s place, how very far advanced they were in their riding, and yet how humble and how much they were able to listen. I knew that this was something I had to learn, and that it was even more important than a new technique.
So have a look at yourself when you get a lesson: is your cup full or empty?