We tend to think of blessings as positive happenings in our lives.
We win a million dollars, we secure the desired job, we raise perfect children, we finish school, we live secure and content happily ever after.
We tend to think of other events as challenges. We ache, we get cancer, our children make mistakes, heck, we make mistakes. We worry about money, Obamacare, our depressed nephew. We suffer from rejection, real and perceived.
It’s sometimes hard to find blessings in part of life, isn’t it?
In fact, sometimes when we look for blessings in despair it feels false. It feels like we’re not being truthful, that we’re mimicking Pollyanna, only looking at the sunny side.
Have you ever heard this Zen story? It takes the tale of blessing and challenge and turns it upside down. It takes the story of negative and positive and makes us think.
Once upon a time lived an old farmer who tended his fields for many years. He was very poor, but he owned a horse. One day the horse ran away. Upon hearing about it, the neighbors arrived. “Such bad luck!” they mourned.
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” replied the farmer. The people raised their eyebrows. Of course it was bad luck; what WAS he talking about?
The next morning the horse returned, accompanied by three wild horses. The neighbors arrived again; exuberant! “How wonderful!” they exclaimed, marveling at his luck.
The old man simply shook his head, “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said he.
The following day, his son decided to tame one of the wild horses. He jumped on its back, endured a harrowing ride, was thrown unto the hard earth, and broke his leg. The neighbors hurried back to the farm and expressed sympathy. “Your poor son!” they despaired. How would the farmer be able to work his fields without the help of his son?
The old man sighed and said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The very next day military officers arrived in the village to draft all young men into the army. Seeing the broken leg of the farmer’s son, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on the marvel of it.
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.
We lose our job. A challenge? A blessing? A despair? A gift?
Perhaps we’ll find a better job, one dearer to our heart.
We experience a heart attack.
A tragedy? Or a blessing?
Perhaps we’ll use this blockage to create new channels for expression. Perhaps we’ll slow down, cease fretting as much, choose healthier foods.
Some of the wise ones view life itself as the blessing. They don’t focus exclusively on the daily ups and downs as barometers of success or failure. They turn attention, again and again and again, toward the gift of life, of presence, of being here now.
Have you ever experienced a challenge that revealed itself as a blessing? Does turning back to life as blessing comfort you in times of worry or suffering?
*This is Week Four of my blessing post series. Continued thanks to Harula at wordsthatserve for the inspiration.