I came across this Zen parable in the Yoga Journal article "Living on the Edge" by Ezra Bayda:
Because the teacher rang his bell, the student had to leave. The next day, he returned, quite perplexed by what had happened the day before. "I asked you how I was doing in my practice yesterday," he said, "and you made me open my mouth, bend my head, and open my eyes. What did all that have to do with my practice?" The Zen master bowed his head in thought. Then he said, "You know, you're not really doing very well in your practice, and the truth is, I am not sure you are ever going to make it." Again he rang his bell.
The student walked out. You can imagine how confused and angry he felt. The next day he went back, still fuming, and said, "What do you mean, I'm not going to make it in practice? Do you know that I sit in meditation for an hour every day? Sometimes I sit twice a day. I come to every retreat. I have really deep experiences. What do you mean I'm not going to make it?" The master just sat there, apparently thinking. Then he said, "Well, maybe I made a mistake. Perhaps you're doing pretty well after all." And again he rang his bell.
On the last day of the retreat, the student went back to see his teacher, utterly exhausted. He felt distraught and confused, but he was no longer fighting it. He said to the master, "I just wanted to know how I was doing in my practice." This time, the teacher looked at him and with no hesitation, in a very kind voice, said, "If you really want to know how you're doing in your practice, just look at all of your reactions over the last few days. Just look at your life."
The wisdom of this Zen parable seems to apply to so many life questions:
How am I doing in my business? How am I doing in my relationships? How am I doing as a parent? Our reactions are often the first indicators of how things really are.