I recently watched an interview with Oprah and Mark Nepo, author of the best-seller, “The Book of Awakening“. For anyone looking for a book full of small vignettes of inspiration, this is your book.
As we finish our discussion on navigating through the pain and struggles of life, I wanted to share an excerpt from Nepo’s book, as he puts the concept of pain in perspective.
How Does it Taste?
An aging Hindu 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,” said the young man.
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”.
Each of us, at different times in our lives, will experience some pain and struggles. As raw and real as the experiences are, Nepo teaches us that when we broaden the space in our minds to house the pain, we start to taste the sweetness of life that still exists.