Two years ago, during my yoga teacher training course at Dharma Yoga, one of our teachers, Camila, shared a story to demonstrate the level of power our reactions have over our experiences. That same story came back to me two times in recent weeks, so I decided to include it (or at least a much less eloquent version than the one Camila told) at the beginning of one of my new yoga videos.
In the parable of a Chinese farmer, one day the farmer's horse runs away. His neighbors hear about it, and they come over to express their concern. The farmer is unaffected; he says "I do not know whether this is good news or bad news. All I know is that my horse has run away. We will see what happens." The next day, his horse returns with a group of horses. The neighbors are back, this time to convey their excitement. Again the farmer replies, "I do not know whether this is good news or bad news. We will see what happens." Soon, while his son is helping to break in one of the horses, he falls off and breaks his leg. The neighbors, of course, are anxious. The farmer is much less worried. "All I know is that my son has broken his leg," he says. "We'll see what happens." Then, some short time in the future, the army comes to town to enlist young men to serve as soldiers in a battle with a neighboring village. The son's injury saves him from being drafted. The neighbors stay at home that day.
When something unexpected happens to us in life, we can be so quick to categorize it as a positive or negative event. Much of our energy is spent celebrating little successes or course-correcting when something goes wrong. However, over the course of a lifetime, we find many examples where what seemed like a loss eventually resulted in a much greater gain, or when we yearned for something that only led to trouble down the road. The example of the Chinese farmer teaches us to sit quietly and observe while we take in a wider perspective. When we step back from the day-to-day action, we are able to see that these small ups and downs become part of a more majestic whole.
I hope you are enjoying the videos! Thank you for putting up with my story telling.