the professor and the jar.

April 22, 2011 in advice,health,inspiration,life,optimism,quotes,thoughts

I have some {or a lot of} anxiety when it comes to my schedule and to-do list. I always feel busy. I can never get everything done, and there is always so much going on. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of it.
One of the ways that I try and take a step back from all of lifes stresses is power yoga.
A common expression used in yoga is to ‘leave it off the mat.’ When you come to your mat at yoga practice, you should be escaping all of the exhausting thoughts. For those of you who have practiced yoga or meditation, you’ll know that this is much easier said than done.
But during one of my recent yoga practices at Yoga Bliss in Akron, my teacher told us this amazing story. And I decided that it has to be shared:
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A Professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.


So the Professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The Professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The Professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the grains of sand.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else -the small stuff.
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“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Go out to dinner with a loved one. Play another 18.


There will always be time to work, clean and fix things. “Take care of the rocks first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The Professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”
This was exactly what I needed to hear. So many days I feel overwhelmed, and really I don’t have that much going on. I let it overwhelm me. And I shouldn’t.

This story will be something I revisit over and over again when I feel like I have no time for things in my life.

What helps you keep things in perspective?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Almost There April 22, 2011 at 2:01 am

Thanks for sharing that! 😉 totally something we all need reminded of!

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Dree April 22, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thanks so much for that story! Its message is so important, and I need to be a lot more aware of it.

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Simply Valorie April 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for that story! I really needed that today. 🙂

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Lil' Woman April 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Thanks for the story…it's important to hear sometimes.

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Amanda April 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I have a bad habit of letting things overwhelm me and worrying a lot. I always try to tell myself that no matter how much I stress, is it going to matter in the long run? Will anyone care that there are clothes on my floor or dog hair on the carpet….probably not. I try to do as much as I can but take time out for myself as well!

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