I love this story.  

There is an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. He relied on his horse for everything, from plowing the fields to getting to town. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer. “Maybe”

I long to be like that farmer. To go through life graciously accepting the highs and lows. I’m not there yet. I’m often distracted by the immediate. Sometimes when things get rough, I can’t see through the fog. It surrounds me. I fight back the only way I know how. By trying to climb my way back to the light with brute force. I over-analyze the situation, rationalize my reactions, and wallow in my misery. It’s exhausting and unproductive.

The thing is, I know hard times are in my future. They’re in all our future. Which is why I try to remind myself to be like the Taoist farmer. To embrace an ‘I don’t mind’ mindset. To recognize that the lows are a part of the journey as much as the highs.

Making this shift is difficult. I’m still working on it. When I start slipping down the hole of self-misery, I do two things.

  • I force myself to remember all the amazing things in my life. I don’t just think about them, I try to re-live them through journaling. Writing is the best way I’ve found to bring these memories alive.
  • I separate myself from the chaos of the world. For me this means diving in to nature. Surrounding myself with silence, space, and natural beauty reminds me how big life is. It reminds me this too shall pass.

The story of the Taoist farmer is just that, a story. But it comes a powerful message. Life is not smooth. Instead of trying to pave the road ahead, embrace the bumps you hit knowing they don’t stop you from moving forward.