I have always appreciated the parable of the Taoist Farmer, as I think it offers a valuable perspective on life and how you face change:
There was once a farmer in ancient China who owned a horse. “You are so lucky to have a horse to pull the cart for you!” his neighbours told him. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
One day he didn’t latch the gate properly and the horse ran away. “Oh no! This is terrible news! Such terrible misfortune!” his neighbours cried. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
A few days later the horse returned, bringing with it six wild horses. “How fantastic! You are so lucky. Now you will be rich!” his neighbours told him. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The following week the farmer’s son was breaking-in one of the wild horses when it kicked out and broke his leg. “Oh no! Such bad luck, all over again!” the neighbours cried.“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next day soldiers came and took away all the young men in the village to fight in the war. The farmer’s son was left behind due to his injury. “You are so lucky!” his neighbours cried. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
In each instance, the farmer does not judge the action as either good or bad. It just is. I like this story as it reminds me that even when a difficult thing happens, there are various ways to look at it. There is much benefit in being open and curious to what comes, rather than reactive and resistant. Even if something looks scary at first, you do not really know what it is or where it will lead you; a situation that looks unmanageable could reveal hidden strengths.
I have had a few events in my life which have broken me. And although they were some of the most painful and frightening times of my life, it also offered me many positives: positives of community; positives of insight; positives of growth. I would never be where I am today without having made it through those experiences, so I cannot think of it as only negative. It contained elements that were both negative and positive; and in many ways, I am grateful for it.
The story of the Taoist Farmer shows we can never know how a situation is going to turn out. The fact is there are no intrinsic ‘opportunities’ or ‘problems’: there is only what happens and how we choose to respond.
The story of the Taoist Farmer shows we can never know how a situation is going to turn out.
In which case, doesn’t it make sense to look for the opportunities in every situation? Doing this will bring us another step closer to embracing change.