I heard a lovely take on this phrase recently from Ajahn Amaro abbot of Amaravati monastery (bio here) He was talking about generosity and how can be easier to give someone a physical gift rather than give them our attention and our time.
He described our inability to do the latter as being pre-occupied or ‘already full up’. In other words we are replete with ourselves and thoughts about ourselves so we cannot fit in time or thought for anyone else. We are unable to give or be generous because we are caught up in self cherishing thoughts
To jump Buddhist Traditions, Lama Zopa Rimpoche says “following self chasing thoughts brings only pain failure and disharmony” (from chapter 6 in Turning Problems into Happiness). Because our selfish mind wants us to be the best, smartest, most successful etc, when this does not happen we suffer from disturbing thoughts (called Kleshas in Buddhism) which affect our mind, ourselves and those around us negatively.
So being pre-occupied with ourselves is not a good way to be. Let’s see if I can get of my own bubble and have a look at someone else’s. Should do me some good 🙂
(p.s. here is a second nice turn of phrase he spoke of later the same day)