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Stories on Mindfulness

Zen Stories
& other Wisdom Stories

Here, we bring to you a selection of our favourite zen and wisdom stories. These stories have left us feeling inspired, thoughtful, calm and sometimes even amused. We hope that reading these stories will help you feel more connected with the present moment.

A cup of Tea Mindfulness story

A Cup of Tea

A story about understanding Zen

What's your wish mindfulness story

What's Your Wish?

A story about desires and wanting more

The burden mindfulness stories

The Burden

A story about the weight of holding on to the past

Maybe Mindfulness Stories

Maybe

A story about learning to accept impermanence

The new city mindfulness stories

The New City

A story about inner change

Learning to meditate mindfulness stories

Learning To Meditate

A story about the art of listening

the haste mindfulness stories

The Haste

A story about ‘mastering’ Zen

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By Sadia Saeed

Our Blogs

A Cup of Tea

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?”

What's Your Wish?

Five children were playing this Wishing Game. The first one was asked, “If you had a wish what would you want” and the child said, “If I had a wish I would want an ice cream.” She liked ice cream.

The second child who was a little bit older said, “If I had a wish I’d wish for an ice cream factory.” The first child thought that was really clever because if you had an ice cream factory you could get an ice cream whenever you wanted one. Not just one ice cream but hundreds of ice creams.

The third child was asked, “What’s your wish” and he said, “I’d like a billion dollars. Because with a billion dollars I can buy an ice cream factory, a cake factory, a fish and chip shop or whatever else I want, and I could do a lot more”. The first two kids thought, ‘Wow! Aren’t we stupid? Why didn’t we have think of that?’ They thought that this young fellow who wished for a billion dollars was a genius.

But the next child when asked what he wished did even better than wanting a billion dollars, he said, “I wish I had three wishes, so that I could wish for an ice cream factory with my first wish, a billion dollars with my second wish, and with my third wish I could wish for another three wishes.”

They thought, ‘Wow! You can’t do better than that.’ Can you think of a wish that is even better than that – to have three wishes and the third wish is that you can wish for another three wishes?

But the last child did surpass that, he was the Buddha to be, and said, “I wish I had no wishes.”

Isn’t that interesting? 

Imagine what it would be like if you had no more wishes, completely happy with whatever comes along, completely happy with this present moment. You don’t wish for it to be anything else. 

The Burden

Maybe

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.

This story reminds us of a beautiful quote about Mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”

The New City

The Art of Listening

The Haste

A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master, “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen?”

The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”

The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast, how long then?”

The Master replied, “Well, twenty years.”

“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student.

“Thirty years,” replied the Master.

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?”

The Master replied,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

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