If we truly understood how much damage negative emotions cause – for ourselves and others – we wouldn’t indulge in them for a moment. This Zen parable perfectly illustrates the potential dangers that occur when we fall prey to negative emotions.
A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the monk replied with scorn, “You’re nothing but a lout—I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!”
His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled, “I could kill you for your impertinence.”
“That,” the monk calmly replied, “is hell.”
Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.
“And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”
The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrates the crucial difference between being caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. Socrates’s injunction “Know thyself” speaks to this keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur.
From Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
The first step is to be aware of the thoughts and emotions that are occurring in your mind. Then, encourage the positive emotions – like love, kindness, empathy, and forgiveness – and practice letting go of negative ones. This is how to discover true happiness and freedom. Yes, it takes diligence, but heaven can be yours in any moment.
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