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Heaven or Hell: A Zen Parable

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness. Today I'm going to share with you a Zen parable. This is actually one of my favorites. It's about how our minds can create heaven and our minds can create hell. So the story goes that once upon a time, a really notorious and tough samurai went to visit a Zen master.

And when he arrived, the master was deep in meditation. So the samurai used to getting his way and being respected, spoke forcefully to the Zen master, "Tell me the nature of heaven and hell." Now the Zen master just sat peacefully. So the samurai yelled again, "Tell me the nature of heaven and hell." The Zen master slowly opened his eyes and looked the samurai up and down. And then he replied to him with the same forceful tone, "Why should I answer to you? A rude shabby, worm-like you? Why should I waste my time telling you anything? Get out of my sight. I have no time for your stupid questions." Well the samurai could not bear these insults.

He was filled with rage and hatred overcome by them. So he drew his sword and raised it ready to kill the master. And the master then looked straight into the amurai's eyes with compassion and said, "That is hell." The samurai stood stone still. And he immediately understood that anger had taken him over. His mind had just created his own hell in an instant.

One filled with anger, hatred, aggression, and a total loss of control. He realized he was so taken over by anger that he was ready to kill someone he just met a few minutes ago. The samurai dropped his sword and dropped to his knees and began to weep. He knelt before the master and bowed in gratitude for the understanding. The Zen master gently bowed back and with a tender smile said, "And that is heaven." The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own suffering and unconscious behavior illustrates the difference between being caught up in a thought or feeling and being aware of a thought or feeling as they arise.

And this is what we might call self-awareness. And this kind of self-awareness means we can also self-regulate. Self-regulation is like an ongoing in a conversation or interaction with ourselves. It frees us from being a prisoner of our own feelings and impulses, which often creates hell in our lives, like the samurai, and it gives us back choice. So instead of reacting and probably just creating more hell, we can choose consciously to respond.

We can choose to respond with patiencem with kindness, with humility, or with courage. We can respond with presencem with awareness and therefore create more heaven in our lives. So now just to be clear, people with this kind of high self awareness and self regulation still feel bad moods and strong impulses, just like we all do. But they find ways to regulate them and respond in more useful ways to life. So today, as you go about your day, just remembering that we can choose to step out of suffering or in this, you know, parable out of hell and stepping into more heaven by being aware, when a strong impulse or emotion is arising, letting go of reacting and then choosing a wiser response.

And therefore creating more heaven in our lives. So as always thank you for your practice and your presence here with us. And now just inviting you to settle in for today's meditation.

Melli O'Brien

4.7

Heaven or Hell: A Zen Parable

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness. Today I'm going to share with you a Zen parable. This is actually one of my favorites. It's about how our minds can create heaven and our minds can create hell. So the story goes that once upon a time, a really notorious and tough samurai went to visit a Zen master.

And when he arrived, the master was deep in meditation. So the samurai used to getting his way and being respected, spoke forcefully to the Zen master, "Tell me the nature of heaven and hell." Now the Zen master just sat peacefully. So the samurai yelled again, "Tell me the nature of heaven and hell." The Zen master slowly opened his eyes and looked the samurai up and down. And then he replied to him with the same forceful tone, "Why should I answer to you? A rude shabby, worm-like you? Why should I waste my time telling you anything? Get out of my sight. I have no time for your stupid questions." Well the samurai could not bear these insults.

He was filled with rage and hatred overcome by them. So he drew his sword and raised it ready to kill the master. And the master then looked straight into the amurai's eyes with compassion and said, "That is hell." The samurai stood stone still. And he immediately understood that anger had taken him over. His mind had just created his own hell in an instant.

One filled with anger, hatred, aggression, and a total loss of control. He realized he was so taken over by anger that he was ready to kill someone he just met a few minutes ago. The samurai dropped his sword and dropped to his knees and began to weep. He knelt before the master and bowed in gratitude for the understanding. The Zen master gently bowed back and with a tender smile said, "And that is heaven." The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own suffering and unconscious behavior illustrates the difference between being caught up in a thought or feeling and being aware of a thought or feeling as they arise.

And this is what we might call self-awareness. And this kind of self-awareness means we can also self-regulate. Self-regulation is like an ongoing in a conversation or interaction with ourselves. It frees us from being a prisoner of our own feelings and impulses, which often creates hell in our lives, like the samurai, and it gives us back choice. So instead of reacting and probably just creating more hell, we can choose consciously to respond.

We can choose to respond with patiencem with kindness, with humility, or with courage. We can respond with presencem with awareness and therefore create more heaven in our lives. So now just to be clear, people with this kind of high self awareness and self regulation still feel bad moods and strong impulses, just like we all do. But they find ways to regulate them and respond in more useful ways to life. So today, as you go about your day, just remembering that we can choose to step out of suffering or in this, you know, parable out of hell and stepping into more heaven by being aware, when a strong impulse or emotion is arising, letting go of reacting and then choosing a wiser response.

And therefore creating more heaven in our lives. So as always thank you for your practice and your presence here with us. And now just inviting you to settle in for today's meditation.

Melli O'Brien

4.7

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