I don’t know the author of this but it has appeared with variations online for awhile. This is my favourite version. The empty mayo jar equals our empty awareness.
The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
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 golf balls. 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 a 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 empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and 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.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. 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. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls 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 and said, ‘I’m glad you asked. ‘The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.’
In the heart of Emptiness there is a mysterious impulse, mysterious because there is actually nothing in the heart of Emptiness (for there is nothing in Emptiness, period). Yet there it is, this mysterious impulse, the impulse to…create. To sing, to shine, to radiate; to send forth, reach out and celebrate; to sing and shout and walk about; to effervesce and bubble over, this mysterious exuberance in the heart of Emptiness.
Emptiness empties itself of emptiness, and thus becomes Full, pregnant with all worlds, a fruition of the infinite impulse to play, hidden in the heart of your own deepest Self. If you rest in the Witness, settle back as I-I, and look very carefully for the Looker – if you turn within right now and try to see the Seer – you won’t see anything at all, for you cannot see the Seer. All you will find is a vast Freedom and Emptiness, in which the entire Kosmos is now arising. Out of the pure Emptiness that is your deepest suchness, all worlds arise. Your own impulse of looking has brought forth the universe, and here it resides in the vastness of all space which is to say, in the purity of your own primordial awareness. This has been obvious all along; this you have known all along. Just this, and nothing more, just this.
from Ken Wilber’s book One Taste.
This is Ken