Thursday, January 23, 2014

Teaspoon of Salt

One of my favorite metaphors for dealing with suffering is to compare the intensity of our pain to a teaspoon of salt.  When we put the salt in a small glass, the water is very salty.  When we put the same amount in a large bowl, the water is less salty.  And when we pour it into a lake, it doesn't do very much to change the saltiness of the lake water.

Having a big container (Joko Beck called this the ABC of Zen practice -- A Bigger Container) doesn't mean that we minimize or ignore our pain.  But held with a spacious view, we may find that our suffering can be borne just a wee bit more than we ever thought possible.  We even develop the capacity to touch the great pain of the world.  Rather than turn away, we can turn towards it, and then act in a way that takes it into account.

Recently, one of my students, Bob Waldinger, sent me this photo of the landscape of Patagonia, with the following comment: "When suffering arises, this is the kind of place that overwhelms that little teaspoon of salt."  Thanks for the photo and the thought, Bob!

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