Giving From Our Overflow

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It’s been said that better questions lead us naturally to better answers, and that it’s in not knowing that we open the doorway to knowing. I’m Scott Lennox and you’re listening to The Beautiful Question, a consideration of things that truly matter in a complex world.

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It’s perfectly clear that when our car’s fuel tank goes dry, we’ve gone as far as we’re going to. So why is it that when our personal tank gets low, we keep on going like nothing’s wrong?

Join me this week as we consider the imperative of taking good care of ourselves before we serve others.

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Photo by Team One


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In a peaceful place, a Zen master sits in front of his student. Gesturing in silence, he asks for a cup of tea from a nearby pot. Bowing in a gesture of respect, the student carefully lifts the pot and lowers the spout over the lip of the waiting cup. But his efforts to do what the master has asked are in vain. As the master knew it was, the pot is empty. If the student is insightful, he will see that the lesson has nothing to do with magically pouring tea from an empty pot. In fact, it isn’t about tea at all. It’s about having nothing to give when we are drained and exhausted.

That seemingly simple lesson is a pivotal one for our time, especially when we’ve become depleted.

It’s obvious that you can’t pour anything from an empty pot, but if you’re not paying attention, how would you know whether or not the pot was empty? Every week, I speak with clients who are in just that situation. Attending to their own needs seems as foreign to them as trying to speak Navajo or piloting an airliner. As a result, they become mentally, emotionally, and physically drained or burned out. I certainly don’t judge them. As someone who is giving and caring by nature, I have to concede that I’ve experienced that kind of burnout myself, and for the same reasons.

But not anymore.

As a matter of self-preservation, I had to learn how to put healthy boundaries in place and keep them there, starting with the ways I honor and care for my own life and the things I must do for myself that no one else can do. I had to learn how to live from the inside-out and not the other way around.

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When I talk with people about self-care and the necessary shift in priorities that makes it possible, I often hear some variation of the rebuttal, “But I don’t want to be (seem, appear, act) selfish.” Each time I hear it, I challenge the one saying it that a clearer and more accurate definition of “selfish” is in order. An accurate definition of “selfish” points to the disregard of others, but that’s far from what we’re considering here.

Though you may have been taught otherwise, we’re not being selfish when we take care of ourselves first. In fact, we’re behaving in ways that are exactly the opposite of selfish. You can see that healthy self-care is the necessary condition that must be in place before we can be of use to anyone else. It might be interesting to think of self-care as engaging in things that are self-loving, self-nurturing, self-motivating, self-calming, and self-honoring. Another way to look at it is to think of self-care as any act of healthy self-investment.

The truth is, when we’re neglecting ourselves by not meeting our own needs, someone else will invariably have to clean up the mess or take up the slack.

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This past week, I talked at length with a client about making a few simple changes that would amount to taking better care of herself. I suggested that she make a quietly intentional game of it instead of working at it. We talked about ways she could put a handful of things into place and then notice the difference they made.

Because she’s an educator, the demands on her time and energy are strong ones that can’t be brushed aside. Nonetheless, by giving it a few moments of consideration, she was able to schedule a brief yoga workout three or four mornings a week. She also agreed to take steps the night before to make sure that everything was in place for the following morning.

I’m looking forward to hearing the good things she’ll tell me when we meet again in a couple of weeks. She’s about to learn that acts of self-care take nothing away from anyone else. When she’s better rested and puts her exercise routine back into place, she’ll actually have more to offer those she cares about, including the students who depend on her.

It really is that simple.

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So, that brings us to this week’s three Beautiful Questions.

One: When it comes to taking healthy care of yourself, what have you been neglecting and what has that been costing you mentally, physically, or emotionally?

Two: What simple changes will bring the things you need back into your life?

Three: What will you do to keep those things in place and what will most likely change as you do?

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As always, I look forward to hearing about the discoveries you make and the changes you bring to your own life. Have fun with it.

As I say each week,
My Light with your Light

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Thank you for joining me in these podcasts as we keep doing what we can to respond to life in increasingly effective ways. As always, I’m open to your comments and feedback.

You can be further inspired by visiting my friends at Kosmos Journal. That’s K O S M O S Journal. Their mission is to inform, inspire, and engage global transformation in harmony with all life. You can easily find them online at Kosmos Journal dot O R G.

And at, you can read the illustrated transcript of each podcast as you listen. You’ll also find an archive of all previous podcasts, including episodes three and four, guided relaxation audios that can help you practice letting go on a daily basis.

If you find these podcasts useful, don’t hesitate to share them or tell others about them. That’s a great way of helping me get a voice of calm and collaboration and balance and encouragement out into the world.

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I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.

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The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced, and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.

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