Heaven and hell in your mind


Erik Boomer, a whitewater kayaker, wrote this:

The first time I tipped over in my kayak when I was just starting out, you could say I was experiencing hell. It was dark, I couldn’t breathe, I was upside-down and strapped into this boat without any ideas about how to right myself. At the time I thought that was hell. After learning to roll I found heaven and hell were actually in the same place at the same time, it was just my fear and then my elation that defined them. Heaven was just as present when I was out of air, in the dark and afraid, as was hell. I get to choose heaven and hell every time I paddle …

What’s really awesome here is: “Heaven was just as present when I was out of air, in the dark and afraid …” And hell is just as present when we are elated and happy.

This is the lesson of non-dualism. No good without bad, no bad without good. In Zen we go so far as to say good is bad, and bad is good. It does not mean that it doesn’t matter — that there is no moral truth. It does not mean that at all.

“Good is bad, and bad is good” serves only as another example of cutting through our delusional view with skillful means. Don’t reject the paradox. Remember Erik Boomer, upside-down in the dark, gulping water, terrified. Where is heaven? Roll over, and gulp air.



5 responses

  1. Sweet site…

    I recall a conversation some twenty+ years ago… with a young, Catholic woman, who was expressing a fear of purgatory. A response came from the depths of my being… ‘this is purgatory’. We were both a bit surprised – and she dismayed – to hear this, because it did indeed ring true. Her concern is understandable when taken in a purely religious context.

    Purgatory, sans religious embellishments and fear, describes this life. The ‘knowing’ that was missing when I first uttered those words to my friend, is that we have the authority to choose heaven or hell. It is not by necessity that we struggle in a place of torture awaiting salvation… or perhaps it is, until our reckoning that heaven is here and now.

    We are blessed to have discovered ‘the great gift’. -ss

  2. In reality there’s no good or bad and in reality there’s good and bad. In reality it doesn’t really matter. šŸ™‚

    Wonderful post, thank you!

    With palms together,

  3. @Stream – Thanks for your comment. It reminds me of something I heard once: some teachers say the god realms and the hell realms are right here in this world we all see. If you are fabulously wealthy and have no need to work, for example, that might be a god realm. It doesn’t mean you are happy …