Be Like Salt

t was the first time I had practiced with, or been in the presence of, Gopi. She trained most of the people I currently practice with - as a teacher or alongside as another student - so I had been anticipating her visit to the studio for weeks. In her master class last night, before I found myself twisted in postures I had never thought of, she blessed us with a short story...

A student asks their guru how to achieve greatness, and the teacher responds with three pieces of advice. The first suggestion, and my favorite of the three, is to “be like salt”. When we use salt in preparing a meal, it enriches all the other flavors of the dish and elevates what could have been mediocre to something great… however, we never say, “the salt in this dish is so good!” Salt takes no credit. In our lives, we should aspire to bring out the best elements in our world, our community, and those closest to us, but with humility and reserve...
Next he says to “be like the chicken”. In many countries where chickens roam free, they go through piles of trash to peck out abandoned food. Other birds and animals consume garbage in their hastiness to feed. In being like a chicken, we are able to select and take on the good qualities in anything, passing up the negative yet tempting stuff; we should surround ourselves with like-minded people and not associate with petty gossip and greed.

Lastly, the guru advises to “be like the crane”. When a crane stands tall over the water, it looks down into the pool and quietly waits. It sees many small minnows swimming by, but is patient and focused on getting a satisfying meal for her and her family. When it sees a big fish, it plunges its head into the water with all its vigor. As with the crane, we should not use our energy on that which does not serve us or others.

ach of these analogies urge us to find. Maybe salt is my favorite of the three because I swoon when my boyfriend cooks us a meal, always with a little smile when he uses the “perfect amount of salt!” But I think I love it most because it’s the strategy that abolishes our ego most. Being positive like a chicken who finds the good stuff in a world of bad, or being diligent like a crane who reserves its strength only for the most beneficial of actions, takes discipline and the art of attention. Taking no pleasure in being acknowledged for finding these things is even mightier of a task. And when we can bring out the best qualities in others, and still not take credit, we are truly great.

Martel Catalano