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These 6 Amazing Zen Stories Will Teach Everyone Some Important Life Lessons

I love stories. Their messages can be so useful for people of all ages in all ages, particularly Zen stories. They're well known for teaching lessons in meditation and contemplation. We can all learn much from these six Zen stories.

1. Everything Changes

“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”

Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed.

“Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.

One of Buddhism's foremost teachings is how everything in life is ever-changing and impermanent. Suzuki Roshi (Shunru Suzuki of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) refers to this impermanence when he says "everything changes". This seems like a pretty simple teaching but it is actually one of the deepest lessons one can learn. I'll try to sum it up in as few words as possible.

2. Empty Your Cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

This story is self-explanatory, so I'll leave it at that.

3. Non-Judgment

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

4. Right and Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

5. Be the Boss

A horse suddenly came galloping quickly down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go.

Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied,

“I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

6. Watch Yourself

There was once a pair of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a young girl by the name of Meda. These acrobats performed each day on the streets in order to earn enough to eat.

Their act consisted of the teacher balancing a tall bamboo pole on his head while the little girl climbed slowly to the top. Once to the top, she remained there while the teacher walked along the ground.

Both performers had to maintain complete focus and balance in order to prevent any injury from occurring and to complete the performance. One day, the teacher said to the pupil:

‘Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance and prevent an accident. Then we’ll surely earn enough to eat.’

But the little girl was wise, she answered, ‘Dear master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourselves. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way I am sure we will avoid any accidents and earn enough to eat.’

Spirituality

How To Be More Confident In Just 5 Minutes, Try It

We're Not Born With It

We weren't born confident. Confidence is a quality we need to cultivate by thinking outside of the box and refusing to live only to please others. Think back to when you were a child. You didn't need to be confident then, you simply cried when things didn't go your way. But, as you grew up, you start to notice the impact of how others see you and you become self-conscious. We're the ones that give power to others by letting what they think to dictate our confidence when really it's how we feel about ourselves that will radiate confidence.

That's why all it takes to be more confident is five minutes designed to rewire your thought pattern to bring the attention back where it belongs.

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Strike A Power Pose

woman makes vshape with her arms

Elisabeth Wales / Unsplash

Guess what? No one is confident all the time. Not even those who have a full makeup and hair team every single day. The key is knowing how to switch confidence back on when it seems fleeting. You can actually trick your own brain.

Go into a room where you can be alone. It helps if there's a mirror. Then extend your arms up in a "V" shape. Stand as tall and as big as you possibly can. This is called the Victory stance and is a power pose. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart ad your chin up, and stand there in silence for two whole minutes. It might feel awkward for the first 30 seconds, but it'll fix your posture, bring a smile to your face and restore your confidence. Take that power out the door with you by keeping your head held high and your body standing straight.

Maintain Eye Contact

close of woman's blue eyes with makeup

Ismail Hadine / Unsplash

Eye Contact is arguably the most powerful form of communication. When interacting with others, looking them in the eye makes them feel seen and acknowledges every word they say. When you keep your gaze fixated on them, after a while you genuinely stop noticing everything happening around them, and in a way you make them feel like the only person in the world.

You can do the same thing to yourself. Stand by a mirror and stare straight into your own and watch the world melt away. Remind yourself with the intention that at this moment all that matters is you. Everything else is on hold because to face it, you need to first check-in with yourself. You have all the power to make that happen because you love yourself, you have a purpose, and you matter. Remember who you are and ground yourself.

Are you still searching for your life purpose? The numerology of your birth date, regardless of what month you were born, can reveal surprising information about your personality.

Lose The "Ums"

woman sits on brown staircase and laughs with eyes closed

Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

A confident person articulates and speaks with intention. Instead of blurting out whatever comes to mind, show assertiveness by taking a second to think before you speak. Not only will this help you lose the ums and uhs but it will make what you say seem more valuable. the same goes for awkward giggles at the end of a sentence.

Laughing when you're done is like saying that everything you just said was a joke and completely discredits you. You can practice this even as you think. Train your thought patterns so they flow.

Relive Your Most Glorious Moment

dancer does split jump in desert environment

David Hofmann / Unsplash

This step is most beneficial at the moment right before you're about to be in the spotlight. Close your eyes. Think of the last time that you were proud of yourself in a situation. Remember how you felt, what you said, and why you did it.

Remember how successful you were and how capable you are of creating such success. Imagine all the details of that last moment of success and take the confidence it brings you into your next glorious moment.

Recreate Your Environment

man walking in forest

Jan Huber / Unplash

Do you know why some people who spend their days in offices aren't happy no matter how much money they make? It's because of their environment, constantly being in front of a screen and between four walls. Some research shows that taking even just two minutes to walk in greenery can completely change your mood. Remember that happiness is confidence so you want to be stimulating your brain and its perception of the world in every way that you can.

Whenever you're running low on confidence go and connect with nature, or experience a new place, or just change your environment to somewhere that makes you feel good and watch how it changes your mood. This then will reflect in how you present yourself to others.

Reframe Your Breath

woman resting hand on her chest with her eyes closed

Darius Bashar / Unsplash

​When you're anxious and experiencing low self-esteem, your breathing physically changes. You start breathing heavily, and faster. The more shallow your breathing becomes, the worst you feel.

Instead, try breathing deeply with intention. Stand up and breathe in for five seconds, completely filling your diaphragm, and then breath out for another five seconds. As you take control of your breath, start visualizing a future where you are in control. Tell yourself "I breath in peace and I breath out anxiety" If you do this for a couple of minutes, you should feel relaxed and in control afterward.

Stop Chasing Someone Else's Ideal

If you're looking for a sign on whether you need a change then you're here for a reason. This is your sign.

Take a quick zodiac reading here to find out what your universe has to say about you right now. Understand your purpose and your potential so that you can take control of your emotions, your life, and your future by clicking HERE. The time to become your most confident self is now!