A while ago I read a story about how we never know if something is good or bad.
The Taoist farmer
One day in late summer, a farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and decided to let it go into the mountains to live out the rest of its life in peace.
Soon after, neighbours visited him and said, “What a shame. Your only horse is gone. You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who knows? We shall see”.
Two days later the old horse came back, rejuvenated after its time in the mountains eating the wild grasses. With him were twelve young healthy horses that had followed him home.
Word got out in the village of the farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate him on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” Again, the farmer said softly, “Who knows? We shall see.”
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to train the new horses, but he was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one, villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, how will you survive? You must be very sad”. Calmly going about his usual business, the farmer answered, “Who knows? We shall see”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village to conscript young men into the army. Of course, the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who knows? We shall see!”, replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
Sadly, the other young village boys died in the war and the farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy”, to which the old farmer replied, “Who knows? We shall see!”
I find this story comforting. It is easy to label things good or bad, before we know what the outcome will be.
It seems to me that the only sensible response it to surrender to what is. To see it all as grace. To come back to reside in the present moment.
What if everything is flowing toward me in the perfect time? How much energy would be freed up by stopping the resistance to what is? By dropping the incessant analysis? By dropping the “why me?”
What would it be like to live a life of openness and acceptance? To let what wants to come, come and what wants to go, go? (They will anyway, with or without my consent!)
The decision to live in a state of surrendered gratitude is the only one I need to make. I tried to control my world and that led to burnout!
Instead of making a schedule, for example, I could listen to my body. I could listen for the inner prompt, that tells me when it is time to act. I know that voice, but too often when it doesn’t come quickly enough, I tell myself I am lazy, rather than accept its absence means it is still time to rest.
This takes practice and gentleness with myself and the willingness to stay here, in this moment and not spin off to some imagined future.
So, what IS here now:
Fingers on keyboard
Sun on the screen
Sound of rugby in the next room
Itch on my nose
A desire to stop typing and get something to eat.
It seems so simple but I sense it will be the practice of a lifetime.