Become a Lake

In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo relates the story of a Hindu master and his young apprentice. Weary of the novice’s complaints, the master sends him to purchase salt.

Upon the apprentice’s return, he is told to put a handful of salt into a glass of water and drink. “`Bitter’” is how the apprentice describes the water. The master smiles.

They walk to a lake. The apprentice is told to throw a handful of salt into the lake and then drink from it. “`Fresh’” is the apprentice’s appraisal of the water’s taste.

“`The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain… remains…exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.’” 

The salt of my last few days—staggering car repair costs, injured feline, lupus lurking, increasingly arthritic canine, a mere 320 words whittled from Chapter 1, no regular blog post, no Leashed post for—disheartens, discourages, what ifs abound, fear surrounds.

Five-and-a-half pound feline EmmaRose snuggles the Internet modem box, her laceration and antibiotic injection not even a memory. Beagle mix Cooper James yips as he runs through his dreams; when he awakens, he’s just as happy.

“`So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is…enlarge your sense of things….Stop being a glass. Become a lake.’”

ROW 80 ebb and flow for January 8-15th:

  • Drafted a new plot point for my novel; wrote through its context and purpose.
  • Anchored structure of novel; opening scene revision close.
  • Incorporated ROW 80 goals into my meditation work with Nepo and Dyer.
  • Became a lake.

Attribution: Hindu story and excerpts from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Conari Press, York Beach, ME 2000.

13 thoughts on “Become a Lake

  1. Beautiful post, Karen. It reminds me of a sermon I once heard. A person who worked as a hamburger maker at a fast food restaurant was tired when he saw a tour bus pull into the parking lot and stop. The bus driver ordered 100 burgers for his passengers. The priest said the exhausted hamburger maker could choose to be happy or unhappy about the work, but no matter what, he still had to make those burgers.

    The Sunday Fr. O’Sullivan gave this sermon, our four small children had been ill at home all week. Hearing him speak, I felt almost as if Father O. had written the sermon for me. And my husband thanked him as we shook hands leaving the chapel!

    Everything that lives has to struggle. It’s up to us to use that struggle to find our way out of the glass and into the lake, but then, that’s something you accomplished long ago. I hope everything else in your life improves soon.


    1. A hundred hamburgers, four sick children, or a handful of salt, it’s the same experience, which is so extraordinary to me, every time I remember. Thanks, Leigh, for enriching the experience, as always.


  2. Love your “become a lake” theme, Karen; can think of all sorts of ways to apply that simple (yuh, right!) message to various aspects of my life. I must give this more thought … you’ve expanded my horizons yet again, friend, and I thank you.


  3. A truly beautiful post Karen. Some days I lack even the dignity of the water glass and am nothing but puddle. A muddy one. When things are worst I strive for the larger view, the one in which I am insignificant and the world would sing on with or without me. The easiest way for me to achieve that is to go outside and stare into the treetops. The light has a way of catching there that is balanced between the right-now and the eternal.


  4. This is such a beautiful way of looking at the strife and struggles of everyday life. I hope your cat heals quickly, your car gets repaired, and your dog has plenty of wonderful memories left to make with you. You’ll have time to catch up on all your writing when your life is balanced again.


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