How many times have you contemplated an event in the future, work or social and judged it before it even happens?, only to find out that your judgement wasn’t even close to the reality. The social event you judged to be awful turned out to be great, the work meeting you thought would achieve nothing was actually constructive.
Equally, when events happen in our lives unexpectedly we often rush to assess its negative aspects before we consider the positive aspects of a situation. That is not to say ‘bad’ things do not happen and we may be right to judge them as such but too often our minds are engaged in excessive habitual judgements. One of the best illustrations of the fallacy of this tendency is the parable of the chinese farmer. It reads
Once there was a Chinese farmer who worked his poor farm together with his son and their horse. When the horse ran off one day, neighbors came to say, “How unfortunate for you!” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
When the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild horses, the neighbors gathered around and exclaimed, “What good luck for you!” The farmer stayed calm and replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
While trying to tame one of wild horses, the farmer’s son fell, and broke his leg. He had to rest up and couldn’t help with the farm chores. “How sad for you,” the neighbors cried. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.
Shortly thereafter, a neighboring army threatened the farmer’s village. All the young men in the village were drafted to fight the invaders. Many died. But the farmer’s son had been left out of the fighting because of his broken leg. People said to the farmer, “What a good thing your son couldn’t fight!” “Maybe yes, maybe no,” was all the farmer said
The farmer rebuffs the natural tendency to label a situation good or bad. He is the ‘voice’ of the space that develops as we become more mindful and start to drop the traditional and constant narrative of judgement of our experience. As my mindfulness practice develops and my awareness has increased I have found that there is an ability to see an emerging judgement for what it is… ‘a thought’. To let it emerge, dissipate or maybe become something more substantive but to avoid the need to immediately react.
The practice is not easy and we can all slip into habitual panics as we approach new situations and judge them . In reality though the habitual judgement has no legs and mindfulness encourages us to be open to the present moment experientially . The benefit? To approach situations more openly, with a lightness, as we are freed of the ‘defense’ of the thinking mind. To see that experience rarely falls between the extremes of good and bad, but has an ambiguity and a beauty more open than the narrow limitations of good luck or bad luck.