There is a story told by the Zen master Seung Sahn. Many years ago there was a young man living in Korea, and the young man felt that his life was quite empty. So he shaved his head and went up into the mountains to live the life of a monk. He studied diligently for a number of years, but still ...There is a story told by the Zen master Seung Sahn. Many years ago there was a young man living in Korea, and the young man felt that his life was quite empty. So he shaved his head and went up into the mountains to live the life of a monk. He studied diligently for a number of years, but still felt that he did not really understand how to be free.

The young man had heard of certain Zen masters living in China so he gathered his meager belongings and started a long and arduous journey across arid plains.

Every day he would walk for many hours, and would stop only after finding a patch of land that had a source of water. Finding water was not at all a simple task in such dry lands, but a task necessary for preserving his life. There were many times he had to walk until quite late in the evening before finding a suitable location in which to rest and be refreshed.

One day was particularly hot, and the monk walked on endlessly, unable to find an oasis. As day turned into a moonless night, the pace of his walking slowed considerably so that we would not fall and hurt or kill himself. When he did finally find a shaded area he collapsed on the ground and slept for several hours. He woke up some time after midnight and he was tremendously thirsty. He crawled around on his hands and knees in the darkness, and ran across a roughly made cup that must have been left by a previous traveler. The custom of leaving a cup with some water in it, for the next traveler to drink from was quite common. He drank the meager amount of water in the cup and he felt very blessed and very at peace with the world. He lay down again and slept quite comfortably until awaking to the light of the early morning sun.

Upon sitting up he saw what the night before, he had taken to be the roughly made cup. It was a shattered skull of a baby wolf. This skull was caked with dried blood, and numerous insects were floating on the surface of the small quantity of filthy rain water still left in the bottom portion of the skull.

The monk saw all of this and immediately started to vomit. He had a great wave of nausea, and as the fluid poured forth from his mouth, it was as if his mind was being cleansed. He immediately felt a deep sense of understanding. Last night, since he couldn't see he assumed that he had found a cup which had been left by a fellow traveler. The water tasted delicious. This morning, upon seeing the skull, the thought of what he had done the night before made him sick to his stomach. He understood that it was his thinking, and not the water, that made him feel ill. It was his thinking that created good and bad, right and wrong, delicious and foul tasting. With no thinking there was no suffering.

Having realized this, his journey was complete, as he no longer needed to find a Zen master.

Thinking is a major factor in the creation of suffering. The rational mind tends to understand life through the filter of "opposites" and by separating one thing from another. Right and wrong, good and bad, you and me, easy and difficult, are all created by thinking. When we are not thinking we are not attached to winning or losing, succeeding or failing. When we are not attached to the results we achieve, our body stays relaxed, adaptive, and flexible. People desire many things. Fame, fortune, sex, power. All of this desire comes from thinking. When we are thinking, we are not understanding our core self. When we do not understand our core self, we do not understand the truth. When we do not understand the truth we misrepresent and distort the world, and thus we suffer. Not thinking leads to intuitive action. Intuitive action leads to living calmness. When we don't think we don't know. When we don't know, we learn from everything.

Thinking can also be quite OK, and even necessary and fantastic. Without thinking nothing would run on schedule, there would be nothing to run on schedule, and I could not write this article. If you are not upset by your thinking, and if you are not convinced by your thinking, than thinking is very helpful. It is important though to keep a "not worrying" mind when you think. When you worry your thoughts draw your emotions and your body into a non-productive state, and you lessen your overall health and vitality.

When we do not think, all of our energy settles into one point in our body. When our energy gathers in this one point it is fully available to be directed to other points, other activities, as we desire. When our energy is settled we enter into a state of living calmness. This is a state in which we are most likely to manifest our full power. In Oriental culture, one is advised to empty one's cup if one desires more tea. In the same way, emptying our system of thoughts prepares us to receive new ideas, and take on new challenges.

When we think, our mind appears to be inside our head. This is a small mind. This mind is separate from others. When you are not thinking, your mind has no boundaries, no fixed location. This is a big mind. Everything is inside your mind and your mind is inside everything. There is no inside and outside, no audience and performer. There is no opponent and no winning or losing. This is the state to attain for peak performance. This is also the state to attain for at least a few moments everyday, in order to live an emotionally balanced life. When we are emotionally balanced we become more physically balanced. The opposite of this is also true. In Aikido we say that thinking raises the center of gravity of the body and thus makes us somewhat unbalanced emotionally as well as physically. When we are unbalanced physically we are not fully able to respond smoothly and effectively. When we intuitively feel that we are unable to respond smoothly and effectively we become emotionally agitated, and actually elicit attack. When we empty our mind, we lower our center of gravity, our ability to adapt and change is heightened, and we feel more at ease. At such times we tend to elicit friendly relationships.

We are much more masters of our own fate than we realize. We are the director, producer, and leading actor, in the movie of our life that we film on a daily basis. We can make our movie a comedy, a drama, a horror story, or anything in between. We can make ourselves heros, victims, "bad men" or angels. Recently my colleague Molly Gordon told a story about helping a business client realize how she was clearly sabotaging her career with negative thoughts, beliefs, and actions. This perhaps was the easy part of the job­ Convincing the client she was doing something that was not in her best self interest. Next Molly earned her money. She helped her client to feel EMPOWERED by this newly discovered truth. This is where the arts of positive thinking and high quality coaching come in. Molly helped her client to realize that indeed her thoughts, beliefs, and actions, were ALREADY having a MAJOR impact on what she was and wasn't accomplishing, and how she perceived the world. Her less than positive thoughts, beliefs, and actions, led to big time poor quality results on many fronts. The correlation seemed quite obvious once it was discovered. Negative thoughts lead to negative results. The client understood that what she thought and believed was already having a major impact on her business. This led the client to further understand that if she majorly revamped the way she thought and what she believed in, her new way of thinking would have at least as powerful a positive impact on her career as her previous way of thinking had led to a negative impact.

And please remember our monk friend as well. Upon seeing the skull he literally made himself sick with his thinking. But he did so in such a powerfully cleansing manner that at the same time, he did away with his thinking and thus his sickness. He understood that it was his thinking, and not the water, that made him feel ill. With no thinking there was no suffering.

How about you? Is there some situation in your life where you can now understand that your thinking is what makes for the suffering and not the actual circumstances that you are embroiled in? If this is so, it is a great opportunity for you to cleanse your mind and be free.

Author's Bio: 

Charlie Badenhop is the originator of Seishindo, an Aikido instructor, NLP trainer, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapist. Benefit from his thought-provoking ideas and a new self-help Practice every two weeks, by subscribing to his complimentary newsletter "Pure Heart, Simple Mind" at