A lesson from the Taoist farmer

Fundamentally, all life is, is a continuous marathon of moments strung together. Some events are pretty unremarkable, others are good… some are bad. But is that really the case, or do we make it that way?  Let me illustrate what I mean through the following Taoist parable: 

A farmer named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare that was praised far and wide. One day, the mare ran away. All of the villagers offered Sei Wang sympathy for this stroke of bad luck, to which he replied, “What makes you think this is bad?”

After some time, Sei Wang’s mare returned and brought with her an entire herd of wild horses, led by a majestic wild stallion. Again, the villagers came to Sei Wang, only this time it was to congratulate him, to which he replied, “What makes you think this is good?”

One day while riding the stallion, Sei Weng’s only son fell off and broke his leg. And again, the village people expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng’s misfortune, to which Sei Weng again replied, “What makes you think this is bad?”

Soon after, a war broke out and all the able-bodied young men were drafted and sent into a bloody battle. Only Sei Wang’s son, with his broken leg, stayed behind. The village people were amazed at Sei Weng’s good luck, but again, he replied, “What makes you think this is good?”

As illustrated by this parable, there is no way for [most of] us to see into the future, yet we attach meaning to [most] everything that goes on. It’s only human. But the thing is, none of us really know what the future holds. Moreover, if 95% of what we experience as reality is in fact just a reflection of our thoughts and perceptions – literally stories that we make up to make sense of what’s going on around us – then if we must attach meaning to things, why not choose the more optimistic story? Regardless of whether we sit around and think the worst about a situation or read hostilities or negativities into people’s actions, things outside of our control will unfold the way they are going to unfold. So, as an intermediary step to just accepting things as they are, why don’t we choose to sing a happier tune?

Maybe my boss is just really busy and that’s why he seems so short lately. Maybe my friend isn’t returning my emails because he has a lot going on at the moment? Maybe things aren’t working out with my love interest right now because the timing isn’t right? Maybe this job opportunity didn’t work out because there’s something that’s a better fit for me just around the corner.

I don’t know why this is happening, but I’m trying my best, and so I trust that what’s meant for me will come at a time and in a way that will best serve me.

Regardless of the meaning we assign to the things around us, the end destination will still be the same. But by changing our thought patterns, we can make the journey a lot brighter.  

2 thoughts on “A lesson from the Taoist farmer

  1. Anna,

    You make a very compelling argument – an interesting topic to ponder.

    I would add that most of our negative perceptions or thoughts stem from the development of our instinct to protect ourselves from harm in the present and perceived future. This can be both destructive and beneficial depending on the circumstances. I would argue that it is necessary to see the multitude of outcomes from an event in order to choose the path or action that works best for the situation. If one were to simply assume the positive without preparing for the negative they are left exposed to their perceived possible harms (emotional, physical etc).

    We can only determine actions based upon perceived and experienced agents that can only act within the present. The key is to work towards our perception of a positive outcome while acknowledging the possibility of a negative outcome/event. Only by acknowledging the darkness can one see light.

    My 2 cents hehehe.

    • Jonathan, you make a very good point! It doesn’t make sense to always try to take the “positive” view point – i.e. I’m in a dark alley, and am being approached by three individuals in dark outfits, one of which is wielding a knife… I’m sure they just want to talk politics and so I should stay around and chat instead of running like a bat out of hell :). That’s just crazy talk!!!
      This post was aimed at our thought patterns regarding events that are out of our hands. All you can (and should) every really do is try your best and respond to situations in a way that aligns with your Higher Self and the realities of the situation – which incorporates what you said about seeing the multitude of possible outcomes and acting in accordance with what you believe will help lead you to your preferred outcome. Once you have responded in a way that is true to you, however, you can “fuck the ‘what if’ monster,” and focus on the positive because you did all you could do. What more can you ask of yourself?!? Things are now out of your control and will unfold as they are going to unfold. By chilling out and focusing on calm and positive thoughts, you are putting yourself in a mind space that will be beneficial for making a clear decision when the opportunity to make another move presents itself.

      Thanks for the awesome feedback!!! Made my morning ❤

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