Empty Boat

A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He takes his boat out to the middle of the lake, moors it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation. After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own. With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising, and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared disturb his meditation.

But when he opens his eyes, he sees it’s an empty boat that had probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake. At that moment, the monk achieves self-realization, and understands that the anger is within him; it merely needs the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. From then on, whenever he comes across someone who irritates him or provokes him to anger, he reminds himself, “The other person is merely an empty boat. The anger is within me.”

For a technical writer, anger is natural. Especially when your document comes back from the editor. Sitting calmly, writing your document you can see your anger suddenly rising when you receive the email from your editor and you open the document with track changes.

The document seems to be far away from the original and you are ready to scream at the editor. This is when you must realise that the anger is not in the document that is corrected/edited. It is within you. It is connected to your ego which anticipates that the document you wrote was perfect and does not need any correction.

The anger is always within you. It just needs the bump of an edited document, the criticism from a senior writer, a missed appraisal, a salary revision not up to your expectations or a missed promotion. During you professional life you will encounter several instances when you will see your anger rising. It could be useful to remember the empty boat during such instances.