Last weekend as my daughter and I walked in the woods, she said that she had been thinking about what happens after death and how nobody really knows but people create stories of what there could be as hope of reward or fear of punishment. She said “I don’t think heaven and hell are places; I think they are in your mind and in how you treat people.”
Like the rest of us who are still alive, I can’t possibly say for sure what’s next, but I can wholeheartedly agree with my daughter that these are not destinations but rather the results of our decisions.
When I have chosen to ruminate on unkind thoughts, to criticize or condemn, to hold onto grudges and resentments, or to do harm to another person through selfish or spiteful actions, I’m hurting myself and others. Gone unchecked, that pain will metastasize and create a mental and emotional environment that thrives off the continuation of suffering, creating justifications for the behavior, and seeing the world as Me vs You – this is hell, a state of mind and relational interaction that is devoid of connection, empathy, forgiveness, and kindness.
Its counterpart is exactly the opposite – love. But creating heaven requires far more effort than constructing hell. Kindness requires ongoing practice, being compassionate, holding boundaries, exercising patience, and operating from an open mind and a warm heart is counterintuitive to how many of us were conditioned. But I can tell you personally that having lived in hell for quite a while in my past, and returning every so often in my present, that it’s not a place I want to be. Yes, love takes work… and the work is worth it.
Heaven and hell: our subconscious. All that must be transcended is within us. All the power of transcendence is also within us.365 Tao