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Meditation, the Salt Analogy and How Our Self-Sense Changes as Our Meditation Practice Evolves

The salt analogy is this; if you put a teaspoon in a cup of water, stir it in and then taste it, it tastes horrible. However, if you take a bucket of water, stir a teaspoon full of salt into it and then take a sip of it, it will still taste basically ok.

In a similar way, if your mind is habitually small, contracted and claustrophobic then even small sufferings and challenges are going to have substantial power to knock you off balance and cause you pain.

If on the other hand you make a point of habitually relaxing in into the natural expansive space and stillness of your mind, making your experience of it as big as possible then this will mean that you will be able to bear small challenges and sufferings without any problems, and even larger challenges will have much less power to throw you off balance. You will be able to bear them with a much larger degree of equanimity.

At its simplest there are three objects that our sense of self can identify with; our body, our mind or the spacious awareness that surrounds and contains our experience of both our body and our mind. As small children our identification is almost exclusively with our body and sensory awareness. As we grow up our identification shifts from our body to our mind as our ability to think, feel and conceive in complex ways develops.

If we then as adults take up meditation our self sense shifts once more from the mind to the spacious witnessing awareness that surrounds and embraces our mental and sensory experience. The shifting of our self sense from the mind and body to our spacious witnessing awareness is one of the main goals of meditation; it creates a balanced, open inner environment that is able to bear our trails with equanimity and courage, and able to enjoy the gifts that life gives us with conscious appreciation.
I had my fortieth birthday last week, I was thinking about my approach to ageing, and one of the main things that came out of my contemplation is that it is really not so difficult to accept the gradual changes as my body gets older. This is because a substantial proportion of my self-sense is almost always resting in the experience of spacious witnessing awareness that has developed over seventeen years or so of meditation. Ageing just isn’t that big a deal for me, or at least I can say that it is a teaspoon of salt in a very large bucket!

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website