Heaven or Hell? How Not to Believe Everything You Think

An Illuminating Lesson

Once upon a time a big, burly samurai came to a Zen master and asked him to explain the difference between heaven and hell.

The Zen master looked him in the face and said: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you anything?

The samurai was immediately consumed by rage, drew his sword and prepared to take off the master’s head.

The Zen master said: “That’s hell.

Instantly the samurai understood that he had just created his own steamy hell, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He saw that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears filled his eyes as he put his palms together, bowing in gratitude for this insight.

The Zen masters said, “That’s heaven.”

How to Put This Lesson to Work for You

Today, you might notice all the ways “heaven” and “hell” show up for you.

Then, notice that what makes this practice powerful is to accept the ebb and flow of both states of mind without the thoughts, “Hell is bad,” or “Heaven is good.”

Instead, once you have practiced this awareness for a while, you will learn that you can stop (known as the ‘sacred pause’), breathe, and notice the power of the mind to create the world we live in.

We learn to stop believing everything we think. We learn to question our narratives, the stories that we tell ourselves about what is happening.

We can move between heaven and hell several times throughout the day. Perhaps for you, heaven comes when it’s bedtime for your children, or while you walk your dog. And, perhaps hell comes when you are triggered by something or someone you find irritating, and then you might think something like, this ‘should not’ be happening.

By practicing this kind of mindfulness, we can develop an open heart and a mind that makes room for all of it.

In other words, we develop equanimity, which is the capacity to meet disturbance without disturbance.

Today, you might want to notice the various ways you may or may not believe everything you think.

Pay close attention because this practice may give “heaven” and “hell” a whole new meaning.

 


 

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