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Become a Lake

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Someone shared this story with me on Facebook yesterday, and I wanted to pass it along:

An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, he 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?"

"Much fresher," remarked the apprentice.

"Do you taste the salt?" asked the master.

"No," said the young man.

At this, the master sat beside the 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."

Make Believe

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We live in a make-believe reality. We make up our beliefs and then live as if they are true, and in that sense they are true for us. But we make them up; we make believe. And in any moment, we can make believe something else. Belief is just a thought or pattern of thought, and in the time it takes to have a new thought, we can start to experience a new belief. If that new thought gets repeated often enough, then we say that our belief has changed, and therefore our make-believe reality has changed.

There is nothing wrong with this. We are by nature belief-making creatures. Just like squirrels hide their nuts, humans make up beliefs. It is how we create the meaning in our life and how we organize and define the story of our life. Each of us is the novelist or screenwriter for the story of me, and we do this by making believe that what we think about our life is the whole truth of that experience.

However, it is possible to realize that while this process of defining our reality is very creative, challenging for our minds, and even fun, it is never complete or fully accurate. Our beliefs, by their nature as thought, leave out a lot of the reality of a situation. If we believe someone is a nice person, we have left out that person's shadow side. If we believe that someone is a jerk, we have probably left out some of the good things about him or her. This limited nature of belief applies not just to our beliefs about others, but our beliefs about ourselves. We have an identity that is composed of our beliefs about ourselves, and that identity is therefore as fluid, changeable, and incomplete as any other set of beliefs...

How Do We Know?

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Self-realization is knowing who you really are. How do we know something? Is it enough to be told? Or is there something more that must happen for us to truly know something? And do we even need to be told who we already are? It would seem the easiest thing in the world to know yourself. After all you are right here. What could interfere with knowing this most intimate reality, your own self?

And yet from the very start we were not told who we really are, and instead were told something erroneous. We were told that who we really are is the body, mind, and personality. Not only were we told this explicitly, we were also reminded of it constantly by assumptions and implicit references to our body and mind as who we are. On top of that, we were reinforced for acting from our ego and personality. We were taught that good boys and girls do not do what comes naturally, but rather what their parents want them to do. And so we formed a false identity to make our parents happy. This was a necessary thing to do to get along and survive, and in the process we developed a lot of awareness and capacity to control ourselves and our own actions.

However, there comes a time when it is no longer necessary to control our actions in this way. It turns out that our true nature is actually quite loving and wise and careful. Even when our true nature acts spontaneously and a bit wildly, it is doing so in the context of its own great wisdom and perspective. So as we mature, our ego becomes a limitation and a distortion of our inherent wisdom and ability...