Chuang Tzu describes the situation where a man in a boat sees another boat on a collision course with his own. If the boat is empty, he just deals with the situation. If there is a person in the boat, the man will scream out to him and get increasingly angry as the boat driver does not heed his call. The parable advises you to become like an empty boat, with no ego, or sense of loss and gain, wandering peacefully through life. Besides being the empty boat, you can also be the man seeing the empty boat.
Although becoming an empty boat will bring peace and harmony to your life and the world, until you get there, you can recognize all the boats around you. See what makes you angry and upset. We are always getting upset with each other. The empty boat can help you explore your emotional reactions to those around you.
When you find yourself getting angry with somebody, try to imagine them as an empty boat. Imagine that you are getting upset because of your ideas instead of the other person’s. If your mom tells you to clean your room before going to the movies. Instead of thinking, my mother is ruining my life, imagine that the idea that you need to clean your room before you go to the movies has occurred to you. There is nothing more to be angry about.
On the busy river of life, boats are always bumping into each other. Until you are able to empty your boat, learn to recognize the difference between boats and drivers and then be compassionate with the drivers you encounter.