No Good or Bad and Everything is a Choice
I have found it so helpful to not judge things that are happening around me as good or bad. It helps me stay open and present in the moment.
The story of the Taoist farmer is a helpful reminder to not get caught up in labeling everything as good or bad.
There once was a Taoist farmer. One day the Taoist farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the Taoist farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”
About a week later, the horse returned, bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the Taoist farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”
A couple of weeks later, the Taoist farmer’s son’s leg was badly broken when he was thrown from a horse he was trying to break. A few days later the broken leg became infected and the son became delirious with fever. The neighbors, all hearing of the incident, came to see the son. As they stood there, the neighbors said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”
At that same time in China, there was a war going on between two rival warlords. The warlord of the Taoist farmer’s village was involved in this war. In need of more soldiers, he sent one of his captains to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the Taoist farmer’s son he found a young man with a broken leg who was delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”**
We just never know and so I try to face whatever is in front of me with the knowledge that I make it what it is and that I never know why a particular situation is happening and where it might lead me. But I can always choose to learn and grow and be.
And that leads to EVERYTHING is a choice. How I deal with challenges. How I act in the world. What I do at every turn. I always have a choice. It’s so empowering. I don’t believe in “have tos”. The understanding that I always have a choice relaxes me in the face of challenges. I’m able to look at what’s in front of me with a peace, knowing that I can decide what feels best to me.
Let’s take a simple example like dirty dishes. That can feel like a ‘have to’. If I approach them that way, I could feel resentful, mad, angry, bored, etc. If, instead, I realize it’s a choice, possibilities open up. I could throw them away, let them sit for a week, call a friend or a cleaning person, ask for help or I could realize that I enjoy having a clean sink and *choose* to do it. Then I’m coming from a place of gratitude. I can then find joy in the task, the warm water, the shiny dishes, the thought of our next meal, the view of the back yard. It can become my Zen time. Any of those choices are valid, none is “better” than the other. It’s just a choice and for me the guide is ‘how does that make me feel’. Then it’s easy. I enjoy finding the Zen time but I might, just as easily, enjoy sharing the task with a friend and then helping her with her kitchen or setting aside money for paid help. Each decision can be look at honestly without the burden of “have to”. So, letting that go makes it easy to find a myriad of options.
We recently had an interesting example of this when our daughters were offered parts as extras in the “Hunger Games” movie. This was a BIG deal. It was the talk of the town and everyone wanted to be in it. As it turns out, the dates of filming conflicted with my older daughter’s play. It was her first big production and she had an integral part. She was in every scene. She had a choice to make.
At first she was upset, she felt her hands were tied. She couldn’t do the movie. But I told her that it was completely up to her. She didn’t HAVE to do the play or the movie. Life would go on either way. That freedom allowed her to look at her choices and find the one that felt best to her. So instead of being upset that she “couldn’t” do the movie. She was happy that she made a choice to do the play because after her deliberation she knew that would bring her the most joy and satisfaction.
I have a choice when I’m relating to others, choices about who I want to be, how I want to relate to them, choices at every turn. I keep that in mind always, so that I feel empowered, grateful for the choice and open to all of the possibilities.
** This version of the centuries old Taoist story is from an article written by Kent Moreno. He has written a beautiful article applying his interpretation of the Farmer’s story to children with disabilities. You can read his full article here: http://www.pediatricservices.com/prof/prof-47.htm