An aging master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. “How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter” spit the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in 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 who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But 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 Hindu Parable
Life moves at an incredible pace and many times we feel compelled to squeeze as much into each day, hour, and minute as possible. The compulsion comes as both a carrot and a stick. Simultaneous, we feel the pressure to conform and to seek. If you don’t look this way or have these things, you are missing out. If you don’t live on your own terms and fully actualize, again, you are missing out.
It is appealing, in fact, it seems like a sanity-preserving measure to live within the confines of “the glass”. If you create a world that is smaller it must be easier to control and organize- right? At first, it certainly appears to work.
My theory on this is because you have not yet added the full portion of salt.
My experience is that many of us can actually survive in quite a “bitter” situation. We’re skilled anesthetists and warriors who can flex between numbing and fighting through. Although eventual we will exhaust ourselves and be overcome by pain and then there is simply not enough room (all of the salt will be added).
The salt, even if it has dissolved in the water is taking up room. With so many things in our lives, it then becomes a fight to keep everything in the glass and things start to happen.
The fight to keep everything in the glass becomes exhausting. We experience confusion about what we are doing with our lives and feel overwhelmed.
The water spills over. We start to feel our lives becoming “loose” around the edges. We snap at people we love, we miss deadlines (who cares), we can’t get off the couch.
We start to chuck things out of the glass to preserve space. Unfortunately, chucking the salt out isn’t an option (it’s already dissolved). So we throw out things like taking care of ourselves, seeing our friends, being in nature.
With all this churn inside such a small vessel, it still feels full to the brim (even though we’ve thrown things out) and like we still have to fight to keep everything together. However, at this point, we’ve thrown our anesthetics out and we are too tired to warrior through. The salty bitterness is all we can taste and we are overwhelmed by it.
In different ways, something similar to this is happening to many of us every day. So what happens when we trade our glass for a lake?
At first, it would be easy (and reasonable) to think that the bigger “vessel” would have more room for overwhelm, but as this parable illustrates it’s actually the room that saves us.
Allowing more water (or allowing for more of our “selves”) not only dilutes the salt to a point where it’s much harder to taste but it also means we don’t have to fight for control. We can allow as much as we want or need to flow in when we want and when it’s too much we can allow it to float away (either to another part of us we aren’t focusing on or it can rest on the shore until we are ready to come back to it).
We don’t need to anesthetize or warrior through because there is enough space for us to grow and let go.
The larger we allow our fundamental nature to be, the greater perspective we are able to have, and in this perspective lies more freedom.
I’d love to hear from you. Are you living like the glass or like the lake? Click here to leave a comment or join the conversation on Facebook.