The calendar tells us that we are now in the last quarter of 2020, a year of upheaval and change like none other in our memory. It is part of wisdom and maturity to seek to grow from our experiences, and each of us has the opportunity to seek the life lessons embedded within this challenging year. In his wonderful day book, The Book of Awakening, poet and author Mark Nepo relates a deeply wise parable about the nature of life and pain. I have thought of it many times in these passing months and each time I have been challenged by its deep wisdom. I hope it speaks to you as well.
A wise old Hindu master grew tired of his young apprentice complaining, so, early one morning, he sent him for some salt. The master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. When asked how it tasted, the young man complained, “Bitter!” The master then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and the two walked together in silence to the nearby lake. The old master then asked the apprentice to put the salt in the lake. After the apprentice had swirled his handful of salt in the lake, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.” As water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?” “Fresh,” replied the apprentice. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the master. “No,” replied the apprentice.
At this, the master sat beside the serious young man who reminded him so much of himself and together they looked out over the serene lake. After some time had passed the old master offered this: “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.”
Become a Lake
Yesterday I was clever,
so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise,
so I am changing myself.
Sometimes our light goes out
but is blown into flame again by another person.
Each of us owes deepest thanks
to those who have rekindled this light.
Own the pain,
but don’t make it a dwelling.
Witness it, observe it, grieve it,
then move forward with
new awareness, knowledge, and wisdom.
Life is a shipwreck,
but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.
The secret of life is to fall seven times
and to get up eight times.
Pain is a part of life. It does two things:
it teaches you and it tells you that you are alive.
Then it passes away and leaves you changed.
Hopefully, it leaves you wiser and stronger,
but regardless, pain leaves its mark.
Always seek the positive lessons.
May you live every day of your life.
The only way to get through life is to
laugh your way through it.
You either have to laugh or cry,
and I prefer to laugh.
Crying gives me a headache.
If any of you lacks wisdom,
ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault,
and it will be given to you.
God gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.