I read a lot of different material but one of my favorite authors is a Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron. I love the depth and meaning of her work but also its simplicity. This week the following passage from her book "Comfortable with Uncertainty" resonated with me and seemed also to be relevant to those around me. Entitled Heaven and Hell, Pema goes on to tell this story. "A big, burly, Samuari comes to a Zen master and says, 'Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.' The Zen master looks him in the face and says, 'why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?' Consumed by rage, the Samuai draws his sword and raises it to cut off the Zen master's head. The Zen master says, 'That's hell.' Instantly, the Samuari understands that he has just created his own hell-black-hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger and resentment. He sees that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears fill his eyes as he puts his palms together to bow in gratitude for this insight. The Zen master says, 'That's heaven.'"
I love this story. I have read it a dozen times and I get something new each time. I recognized how I and those around me create our own hell. The beauty is that once we recognize that the hell we are in is created by us then we are free to leave it. We often struggle to find inner peace but keep thinking that it will come from somewhere other then ourselves. This story reminds me that I am the author of my internal story. If I choose to write a version that goes over and over the pain then I will be in hell. If I recognize that I am capable to leaving this hell by paying attention to myself then I can spend more time in heaven.