I came across this awesome story recently. It really touched me and I'd like to share it with you here and talk about it a little bit. Here it is:
Become a Lake
An aging master grew tired of his apprentice’s complaints.
One morning, he sent him to get some salt.
When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” said the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same amount of salt and put it in a nearby lake.
The two walked in silence to the lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt into the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man.
At this the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”
A fresh perspective
The thing I love about this story is that it shows us who we really are. Too often we identify not even with the glass of water but with the salt (pain) itself. Of course, this applies to all types of pain - any areas in our life in which we may be suffering.
The story shows us that we are the water, not the salt. The pain that we have exists within us but it is not us - we are not defined by it. By this I mean that the pain we have controls our perspective and our behaviour. Here are some things you might hear someone who is identified with pain say:
This happens when we are the glass of water. The salt is all that we can taste and so it is all that we can focus on. So, how can we expand the glass and become the lake?
Expanding into emptiness
I'd like to focus on physical pain here, but like I said, this applies to all types of suffering.
Let's take an example of having pain in your knee. You can of course imagine pain anywhere on your body for the sake of this exercise, wherever is most personally prominent for you.
With pain the natural reaction is to seek to alleviate it in some way. You may immediately begin to start moving or supporting the area in pain, or you may seek medication, or some method of distraction. This creates an identity around the pain, in essence you see the pain as being separate from yourself - an unwelcome guest.
Instead of doing this, we can go into the pain and examine it. We'll override our averse reactions to the pain by working with breath to relax and soften. And then we'll observe the pain for what it is, allowing it within us to the point where we become the pain. The funny thing that happens here is that suddenly, when we are no longer defining the pain as 'pain', then it no longer defines us. There is still the feeling but not the suffering that comes with it. Suddenly we have become the lake.
6 - Step process to becoming the lake
So, here's a step by step process for becoming the lake:
My personal experience
I'd like to leave you with a personal experience of mine that happened a few years ago. It was my first taste of being the lake, and it was such a revelation I couldn't understand why it wasn't being taught to everyone.
'I came across something amazing today. I was out walking and it was very cold and wet. I felt like it was seeping through my bones and I couldn't stop shivering. I just wanted to get back inside and warm up by the fire.
But then I remembered something I'd heard in a martial arts film about becoming 'one' with things. So I gave it a try. I noticed that my whole body was tense. I unwrapped my arms from around my sides and and worked to relax all my muscles. That's no easy thing when they are going into spasms from the cold. I let the cold come into me instead of pushing it out and imagined that I had become transparent. The wind was blowing through me and not coming up against any resistance, like I had become the air itself.
Suddenly I realised that I was no longer shivering! The cold was so much a part of me, that I really was one with it. I didn't suffer any more as I continued walking. Wow! I never thought such a thing was possible.'
Finally, for anyone who resonates with this approach, I can really recommend Stephen Levine's book 'Healing into Life and Death'. It focuses on examples of people who are going through the dying process but much of it applies to anyone who is experiencing some kind of pain, which lets face it, is pretty much all of us.
If you want support with managing physical pain or processing emotional or mental pain please book a session.
My name is Richard. I love to write, and here you can find my general musings, observations and articles. Enjoy!
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