JANUARY 15 – HOW DOES IT TASTE? – MARK NEPO, THE BOOK OF AWAKENING
“The more spacious and larger our fundamental nature, the more bearable the pains in living.” Wayne Muller
(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 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 in 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?”
“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man.
At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering “The pain of life is our 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.”)
Over the past week and especially this morning, my heart, soul and mind have been with my dear friend Emily.
I have written about her in previous emails along this journey but as our friendship and connectedness has continued to grow, I am ever more grateful to God that our lives have been woven together and even in the most difficult circumstances.
Mike happened to meet her and John, Easter morning of 2017 in the Winship infusion center. She was newly diagnosed and preparing for her transplant and Mike was about 5 months out of his. Both young, not the norm statistic for cancer, so instantly drawn to some one else that felt and looked the same. They exchanged numbers and he gave her my number and from there, our friendship grew.
It amazing how God's Grace works, how in one conversation, one meeting you become instantly connected. I believe this happened because we were both suffering immensely and we needed each other desperately.
Suffering has it's benefits, isn't that ironic. Faith. Hope. Friendship. Love.
But my heart hurts tremendously now, as she is back in the hospital suffering more than any person should in their life time. It is not fair and makes me so angry. She has a husband and two children, ( not to mention the special children who they take care of on the Eagle Ranch) , and she lives her life selflessly. Someone I aspire to be. I do not understand why the suffering has to be quite so much and I struggle with this thought over and over in my head. But only to conclude that it is something we will discover in our next life.
My only answer is to be present to the pain, grief, and heartache in the moment. To stay alive to what is happening now, in this moment. Because in the depth of this pain, the love I feel for her and all people is overwhelming and this is where I know God to be most alive. All we have is the moment at hand. Enjoy EVERY moment. Don't hold back or live with regrets , forgive daily. You never know what tomorrow might bring.
The Cancer world is small and you can feel very small it. You feel as the world is closing in around you and your focus becomes very narrow on the very ugly reality it brings.
I read the devotion above this morning by Mark Nepo, I wanted to share it with you all , as I try to enlarge my sense of things, from this very narrow road I feel like I am on sometimes. From the sorrow of my suffering friend.
There are good things that have come from this narrow road, I want to believe in those things. When I put this pain in a bigger container, I see GOD AT WORK. I see connected, real, true friendships. I feel them. I see work to be done to make Cancer only a past story to read about. I see a doctor, who heals through his love for patients verse the next prescription prescribed.
I see a hero, Emily, who is an inspiration, and not defined by cancer.
Earlier this week I listened to an interview of Rachel Remen, on the difference between fixing and healing.
( if you are interested)
But many points hit home because we are dealing with an illness that doesn't seem to be able to be fixed. And what turmoil and anguish that can cause in my head. Yet this big perspective given to me through the interview was powerful.
We can still be healed.
The thing I have learned is that LOVE heals more than anything.
The love Emily and I share is healing for me.
The love that we have felt on this journey is healing.
The love Dr. Kota has shared with Mike, are only three examples of a book that would taken a lifetime to write.
But that love, that we all have at our core, is discovered amongst the worst suffering.
So as usual, I have gone off on a tangent :)
But I leave you with the thoughts above from Mark Nepo and from the interview. I hope you can find some hope in them as I did.
And I selfishly ask for extra prayers for my dear friend Emily whose Leukemia has returned. And her family. Especially her sweet mother Rebecca and her husband John, and her two kids.
I pray your water will taste less bitter today, and more fresh. I hope you can find good in even the most challenging and difficult days. It seems like a tougher task today but I will keep trying my best.