There is a Taoist parable in which a farmer had only one horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss, “You must be so upset. This is horrible.” The farmer simply said, “We’ll see.”
A month later, the horse came home, this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. “You must be so happy. Such lovely strong horses!” The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
The farmer’s son one day was riding one of the wild horses and got thrown and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. “This is such bad luck!” The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
Soon after, a war broke out and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because of his broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. The farmer still steadfastly replied, “We’ll see.”
That’s life. How do we stay open to all things? It seems almost impossible because we lean into only the things that make us feel good and deliver a wonderful outcome. But the challenge of being alive and living a life that doesn’t constantly throw us from one extreme to another, is to try to stay open to things we don’t fully understand from our limited ego perspectives. So that means staying open to the stuff that in the moment we judge to be “bad” or “incomprehensible” or “negative.” It’s neutral after all. They’re just events happening. Period. Not to us. Not against us. Just happening. We ascribe moral judgments to things and then get ourselves into all kinds of trouble (i.e. drama!) when life doesn’t comply with our demands as to how it should be.
Staying open is a practice of mindfulness. It means allowing ourselves to feel things that want to shut us down because they feel icky. Living an open life doesn’t mean just being open to free swag, backrubs from your girlfriend, a trip to Honolulu and winning the Mega Million Lotto number.
Staying open means learning how to accept what the moment is trying to teach us. Sometimes through extraordinarily difficult situations. Through pain. Through discomfort. Through defeat. Other times just by remaining open to unexpected turns of events or weird coincidences or hiccups that reveal beautiful miracles.
Sometimes that might later on lead to some sort of experiential correlation. “Thank Gawd I caught my two-timing ex-husband cheating on me (!) or I’d never have moved from Kentucky, started my own business and built a refugee center for displaced women from Syria.”
Things falling apart sometimes lead to things coming together.
And sometimes there is no direct link. (Or maybe it’s all interconnected by some thinly drawn string like the unseen silk of a spider’s web that’s only illuminated when it’s backlit by the Sun. It’s there but not there.)
So if we just breathed into all moments a little more, we’d see that it all just might be interconnected and work out anyway.