Morton salt doll

“You’re all salt dolls afraid to walk into the ocean.”

A Buddhist teacher named Hilda* said that in a lecture at St. John the Divine in New York City many, many years ago.  I never forgot it.

She was right about me.  I was a terrified little salt doll dancing around on the beach, scampering back if a wave of happiness got too close to my dried up little feet.  Surrendering to the Ocean seemed like annihilation, and perhaps it would be in a way—the absorption of my limited self, the melting of the false persona that I created that I hoped (mistakenly) would protect me from hurt.  Unfortunately, what it really did was block me from my own light.

As a teacher I have witnessed so many students afraid of their talent, their beauty, and their power who have built false personas diametrically opposed to who they really are.  Maintaining such an untruthful exterior frustrates and aggravates the people around them.

Why do we cling to these false, empty personas?  What are we afraid of?  Love?  Happiness?

What if we dared to walk into this Ocean, relinquished our dried-up, old, limited beliefs about ourselves, and became who we really are.   But, oh, the terror of surrendering our pseudo poor-me selves! Not to mention the exhaustion because we use so much energy maintaining these defenses.

For me, the idea of being the entire ocean was too overwhelming.  Lately it seems that I have been willing at least to step into a small salt pond.  As I relax and enjoy the marshes and the herons, the old idea of me is dissolving because surrender is surrender:  it doesn’t matter if in a salt pond or the ocean.  Maybe happiness takes tricking the mind a little.  Maybe happiness takes some practice.

Here’s an idea:  what if you were to take a bath tonight (maybe even add some Epsom salts) and step into it with the willingness to surrender that very limited, salt doll persona you’ve had for so long?  What if you made a kind of ritual of it saying, “Here I am God.  I let go of all the negative, useless, fearful, willful, stubborn ideas about who I am and what I think I should be.  From this moment on, I am who I really am!  I am willing to be happy.” Start with enjoying the bath.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

And when you pull the plug, watch that water and your salt doll self drain away knowing every drop will eventually end up in the Ocean anyway.  Hah.

*If you have more information about Hilda, please let me know.


When I was a little girl, my mother force-fed me a bunch of Pollyanna books.  I hated them.  Pollyanna was a goody, goody two shoes who always saw the bright side of everything.  I suppose my mother hoped that Pollyanna might become a role model and transform me from the gloomy, depressed child I was into the happy, malleable little girl she wished I was.  It didn’t work.  I loathed humorless Pollyanna.

I have been more in tune with Monty Python’s bitterly funny song sung by a man hanging from a cross “Always look on the bright side of life!  Deedee dee dee dee dee dee dee!”

However, after years of practicing the Being Present process I see myself starting to slip into Pollyanna Land–surprising myself when I don’t lapse into negativity or worry as I used to.  I said to a friend recently, “Well, it’s been one thing after the other,” and then realized how cheerful I was because these events did come one after the other rather than all at once! Wonderful.  Such timing seemed miraculous.

First the water heater broke and created the Great Flood downstairs.  The company I called showed up immediately with a crew and finished everything but the carpeting.  During the work, I struck up a conversation with the guy who was redoing the wood around the doors.  “Say,” I said.  “Would you take a look at my barn?  It’s really old.  I’ve been using it as a kind of garage, but it’s been tilting more and more over the 33 years I’ve been here.  The posts it’s standing on are really rotten, and I’m scared it’s going to just collapse.”

He walked around looking at it—admiring the great old hand-hewn beams and the barn wood, noticing the tilt, the gaping holes above in the ridge of the roof, and said, “Sure.  I can reinforce it.  No problem.”   He gave me a reasonable quote and I hired him on the spot to come back in a few days and save my barn and maybe me.  How lucky the water heater broke which led to this great guy to take care of the barn!

But, then he had to cancel for whatever reason, and said he would come back after the much- advertised Frankenstorm Sandy passed through.

I’m probably the only person who evacuated to the coast of Connecticut for the storm.  My friend Liz who has a house high above a cove with a generator and a complete, separate apartment invited me to stay with her.  I really didn’t want to ride it out alone, so I was exceedingly grateful.

Some instinct told me to take both my van and my car over to her place, thank God, because after the storm, when I went back to visit my house, trees were downed by my driveway which was obstructed by many small logs and branches.  Clearly some freak gust of wind must have whipped through like a train, creating general chaos and then exited out my old barn knocking down what was left of the back and leaving half a tree on the roof tilting the whole thing even more.  Somehow, my poor barn was still standing, but had my vehicles been there, no doubt they would have been severely damaged.  How fortuitous!

The fact that these events did happen one after the other was in perfect order.  Had The Great Floodt occurred after Hurricane Sandy—the machines to suck out the water and dry the basement couldn’t have been plugged in because of the power outage.  The company who did the work probably would have been too overwhelmed with emergency calls to respond as fast as they did—if at all.  How fortunate, too, that the carpeting had not been put down because the power shut off and caused a water leak onto the floor. from a toilet pump.  It wasn’t a flood and was pretty easy to clean up, but the rusty water would have ruined any new carpet.  Thank goodness I didn’t spend the money to reinforce the barn before Sandy, because now it’s going to be torn down and replaced with a simple garage thanks to my insurance company!

Barn after Sandy

It’s all good!  Oh, I’m so lucky, lucky, lucky!  I can look on the bright side of life!  Dee dee.  Dee dee dee dee dee dee!

Uh oh!  Here comes Pollyanna.  Oh, no!  Maybe my Mother was right after all.