Yesterday I overheard an interview with Marc Nepo. He is a poet, philosopher, and spiritual author. The interview covered many things, including his battle with cancer, the loss of his job, and his subsequent awakening. From what I can gather, because I haven’t read it yet, his most recent book “The Book of Great Awakening” is about presence, being conscious in the present moment. Those are a few simple words to sum up an enormous task. But as he speaks about it he makes it seem simple. And at its core maybe it is. But getting to that state of awareness is quite the journey. An excerpt from the book was read during the interview and I think it was one of the most beautiful and important pieces of writing I’d ever heard. Here is the excerpt:
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 un-happy young man to put a handful of salt into 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 mans 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 the 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 enlarge your sense of things…stop being a container. Become a lake.”