“A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, ‘You’re nothing but a lout — I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!’
His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled ‘I could kill you for your impertinence.’
‘That,’ the monk calmly replied, ‘is hell.’
Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.
‘And that,’ said the monk, ‘is heaven.’
The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrates the crucial difference between being caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. Socrates’s injunction ‘Know thyself’ speaks to the keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur.”