Episode 21: Seven Minutes To Success and Satisfaction: Heaven and Hell On Earth
In this episode Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of SmartPowerDrinks.com, explores the real world effects of living in a heavenly or hellish existence here on Earth. Through touching stories and examples, he shows how we can learn to approach each situation in our lives as an expression of divinity and live with love, joy, and beauty.
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Mark Lewis: Hi, this is Mark Michael Lewis, host of “Money, Mission and Meaning: Passion at Work, Purpose at Play”. You're listening to another edition of “Seven Minutes to Success and Satisfaction”, a series of short, to the point, practical ideas to help you create pleasure and profit in the business of life.
Each of them points to heaven and hell as ways of relating to the world, ways of relating to our lives such that we're actually enjoying what we have, such that we're experiencing the feelings which are heavenly such as love and joy and beauty.
Today I want to talk about a more lighthearted topic than normal – heaven and hell. Not in some religious sense of what moral dogma you need to follow in order to avoid eternal damnation, but about the ideas that heaven and hell are present and how they affect our daily lives.
First, let's begin with two stories about heaven and hell that I not only find enjoyable and insightful but which point to the deeper truth that I find practically so helpful in creating a fulfilling life. The first story, strangely enough, involves a Zen master at a monastery in Japan. One day while the master is working in his garden, he sees a local magistrate walking across the garden in order to come talk with him. As the magistrate approaches, he stands in front of the master and says, “I understand that you're the master of this monastery. I'm trying to understand the difference between heaven and hell and I understand you're the person to talk to. So please explain this difference to me.”
The Zen master, after looking up at the man for a moment, turns back to his gardening and begins tending the flowers. After a moment the magistrate becomes a little upset and says, “Excuse me, I said that I want to know the difference between heaven and hell. Would you please tell me now?” Again, the Zen master looks up at him for a moment and then turns his head back down and continues his gardening.
Becoming infuriated at the master’s gesture of disrespect, he puts his hand on the hilt of his sword and says, “You are now tell me the difference between heaven and hell or I will kill you.” Again, the master looks up at him for a moment and then goes back down to his gardening. In rage, the magistrate draws his sword, lifts it above his head, and gets ready to swing. When the master looks up at him and says, “Aha, that is hell.” As the magistrate recognizes that what the master says is true, he takes a deep breath and is filled with understanding. Just then the master again says, “Aha, and that is heaven”.
Now the second story I want to tell is slightly more conventional. It's about a man who dies and is talking with St. Peter before the Pearly Gates. “Before you come inside,” says St. Peter, “let me show you the difference between heaven and hell.” As Peter says this, he leads the man down a wide path into a forest. After walking for a few minutes, the man begins to hear a loud waling and screaming and sounds of torture and suffering. As they get closer, he realizes they're about to enter into a clearing, and when they do, he sees table after table filled with delicious food of all types and drink. However, all the people who are around the tables have spoons and forks in place where their hands would normally be. Their arms are so long that try as they might, they cannot bring the food to their mouth and wail in frustration and suffering.
After just a few minutes, the man pleads for St. Peter to take him away so he doesn’t have to hear the horrible screaming. Again, St. Peter leads him away from the clearing and back into the forest down the path. After a time, the man begins to hear actual laughter and singing as they approach a clearing. However this time, when he gets into the clearing, he finds again tables filled with the best food of all types and wonderful drink, except the people around the tables have spoons and forks where their hands used to be. Their arms are so long that try as they might, they cannot feed themselves. However, with smiles of laughter and joy they feed one another.
Each of these stories point to the meaning that we attribute to heaven and hell rather than the idea of physical torture or physical pleasure. Each of them point to heaven and hell as ways of relating to the world, ways of relating to our lives such that we're actually enjoying what we have, such that were experiencing the feelings which are heavenly such as love and joy and beauty versus the pain of hate and suffering and despair. It's these ideas of heaven and hell that are so important in our lives because we can live a heavenly life here on earth today if we choose, if we're willing to learn how to bring a mindset and attitude of heaven to anything that we do. On the other hand, if we're not careful, we can end up taking something that might even be beautiful by someone else’s standards and end up relating to it as if it's hell, finding what's wrong with it, missing out on the real opportunities to experience the glory of being alive.
Interestingly, it's easy to think about what hell would be after you die. You know, eternal pain and torment. You can kind of get your hands around that, but when you think about what heaven would be in the classic or say Christian tradition, it becomes a little bit more difficult. Is it like sunny beaches? I mean, you can get that in lots of places. Is it having all the things that you want? Wouldn’t that get old and boring? That might be good for a couple of months or maybe for a couple of years, but for eternity? How many ice cream sundaes can you really eat without guilt?
Fortunately, over the centuries, different philosophers and theologians have actually looked at this concept and how they described heaven is not so much that it's just lots of pleasure and fun and ease and relaxation and angels with really good harp music. Instead, heaven is described as being in the presence of God, that just being in God’s presence is so overwhelmingly beautiful that it's heavenly. And as you think about that, you think “What would it be like to be in God’s presence? What would it be like to be in the presence of Divinity?
On the other hand, hell isn’t fire and brimstone and burning and pain, but rather the separation from Divinity, the not being in the presence of all that is beautiful and good and true. And that brings us back to our stories because each of the stories point out that which is true for all of us everyday. While it's possible that it might be true after death, it is certainly the case that it's through [xx] our life here on earth.
Heaven comes from the insight and the openness of sharing the beauty of understanding and the love and intimacy that can only come when you share your heart with another person. Unfortunately, those who thinks that we get to choose in our lives, it's not something that’s given to us whether or not we're good or bad, but an attitude and the decision and practice at bringing our whole heart and soul to any interaction that we're a part of. In this sense, both heaven and hell are choices and the key to living a life filled with money, mission and meaning is to make choices that you can look in the mirror and look into the eyes of someone you love and say, “I've done something that I feel good about, that I feel proud about, that I feel worthy of being paid for.”
Joseph Campbell suggested that we follow our bliss because when we're actually doing something that we love, we bring our whole heart and soul to it and we do it with excellence. When you do something valuable with excellence, there's no limit to the amount of money, joy and interpersonal wealth that you can create.
Again, I'm Mark Michael Lewis, host of “Money, Mission and Meaning: Passion at work, Purpose at play” on PersonalLifeMedia.com and this was “Seven Minutes to Success and Satisfaction”, providing you practical tools to create pleasure and profit in the business of life.
Talk to you next week.
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