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.
as always, thoughtful and though provoking–some of the challenges I have had to face turned out to be blessings in disguise (sometimes the disguises were really really good though)
YES!!! and not so often that Pollyanna lie to myself bit. Sometimes I have to dig way deep down under the feel sorry for my plight poor me another drink feelings to get to where I can just observe and do the next right thing, or the next tiny pebble of a thing that isn’t so heavy for me to move after all. All of life is an energetic experience to take in and to see what happens. You will please remember to feed me my words when I seem hungry or starving at some other moment, and I might remember to laugh and to want to kick you in your shins. I HAD heard that story, though I can’t recall where nor the ending. Though, I think it goes on until the end–is there an end? Maybe yes–maybe no.
Good Morning Kathy,
Yes! I have seen beautiful, amazing blessings come from illness and very desperate times in my life. And often when I feel overwhelmed with worry and anxiety—it takes a gentle reminder from a dear friend to not lose hope and to try to see all the possibilities this current challenge presents me. Once I shake the cobwebs from my head (and heart) then I can see and feel the opportunity for growth and the new direction for my life. Change is difficult for me but once I gain momentum and realize the direction I need to take, then it gets easier and more exciting. True, going through tough times is painful—especially when it includes loss. If we keep our eyes open to new possibilities, then we can feel a soothing balm wash over our raw pain and healing begins. (I’m working on this now in my life). Thank you for this post—it touches my heart ♥
I’ve certainly had my share of challenges that turned out to be blessings. I’m not particularly good at recognizing that in the moment though. The one that always surprises people (the one I did recognize in the moment) was when I was diagnosed with cancer. I’d been sick for so long, I’d been told it was all in my head, I’d been told I was lazy and just liked being taken care of. Getting the diagnosis, something to face directly, something that actually explained how miserable I was, it was a relief. We never know what the future will bring and I like to think those challenges are there to make what’s coming a little easier.
Definitely believe that blessings often come in the form of illness, rejection, and suffering. A resounding “yes.” I love how you expressed this today.
I had a number of such “challenges” early in my adult life. They were difficult but I survived and that survival has given me the courage and the strength to face uncertainty throughout the rest of my life. When problems arose with one of our children, the lessons I had learned early in my life helped me make a very difficult decision…that blessedly turned out to be the right one!
I have been gifted with great gifts from great loss. Immense. Just today is the third year anniversary of the day I invited my community to celebrate the loss of my mom by planting daffodils in the gardens of my yard. Under the grief, there is gold. Then more gold. Today, I am going to fertilize those bulbs and plant a few more. Always room for more conversation with loss, right? Tons of love, S
I like to think that some of the wise ones are correct, that life itself is the blessing. I think we can also turn things inside out just by changing our perspective on things. Sometimes blessings come disguised as bad things, and sometimes bad things are wrapped in blessings.
May you always find the everyday blessings that make life itself a blessing!
Kathy, I love this! I’m actually writing an article for our monthly news magazine that focuses on many of these ideas. We count our blessings at Thanksgiving time, but it doesn’t feel as “true” as the general grumbling and complaining that we do day to day. Could I use this lovely story of the farmer and his son? Thanks for continuing to count blessings, Kathy!
I’m one of those crazy people who fret for about 12 seconds when something “bad” happens and then I’m off to see what will come of the situation as if it were a new adventure.
Turn your world upside down or right side up. it is a matter of perspective.
It is being present in the moment. Honoring what is there. not judging it one way or another…
As you know I comment from a seemingly dark place in my life right now. seeing the road clearing is like a journey through the fog…
Blessings from adversity? Maybe yes- maybe no. Generally speaking or thinking, I’ve yet to reap much of a reward from anthing negative.Well on second thought, those bad times or bad use of judgement have taught me not to make those same mistakes twice. I call those “life lessons learned becasue I paid for them dearly.” And I’m still paying for some of them that will follow me till the day I die. It all depends on the severity and the consequences of “bad things” happening. Some individuals are luckier than others and can make “lemons into lemonade.” ~yvonne
PS: I’m not sure if I answered your questions in the proper relevency.
Everything is a blessing, even if we don’t see it at the time. I haven’t always felt this, but a bout of ill health a few years ago that left me with problems that I still have to deal with made me see life in a new light. Without that illness I have no doubt i would still be living that life and missing out on so much love, laughter and happiness.
I like to use the challenges in my life as a way to get closer to God (and Jesus). This closeness is the greatest blessing that I could ever have.
I love the Zen story that you shared Kathy, thank you.
(Pssst, is it only me, or do you see the eye-portion of a face peeking out from under the tree on the right-hand-side in your first photograph?)
These are lessons that each of us have to learn from experience. I wish you could just explain something like this to our children, but to truly understand and accept this they have to experience it themselves. Sometimes you need to be reminded of this yourself. Thank you for reminding us today!
Maybe yes, maybe no. 😉 Great story, and I love the images you picked to go with it.
This move and some other difficulties along the way have been teaching me to bring myself back, again and again, to the present, and to appreciate the gift of life itself. Being in the present has made all the difference in the world, or in my world, inner and outer. Before that, I struggled and resisted and struggled and resisted. The water around here has been teaching me about flow. 😀
Once again, you have me (and the rest of your fans) thinking things out over cyberspace. Is the glass half empty or half full? Some negativity is so bad we despair,and then some bad things turn into positive assets and we rejoice. Rejoicing more often is the secret.
Illness can, indeed, be a blessing. At least, I consider bipolar disorder to have been one in my life. Yes, it meant debilitation at times, but it’s also meant boundless creativity at others. Without the former, I’d never get to enjoy the latter! Great question, my friend!
Blessed in Ecuador,
I’m a “glass half full” sorta gal, so I try to find the bright side of things. When my Doctor told me in March that I had high cholesterol and was pre-Diabetic, I was all “Woe is me” for about 24 hours. Then I contacted a friend who is training to be a holistic nutritionist and my life changed. I’d always loved sugar. Lots of sugar. And I rarely drank water. Seven months later, I am addicted to water (with a slice of lemon) and have learned to enjoy dark chocolate instead of Caramilk and KitKat bars. Oh … and I’ve lost over 20 pounds …
Love the story you told and the photos you chose to illustrate it.
Do you have a licence for this Ministry you’re operating here ? Should we all be tithing ? 😉
All life has ups and downs – I’ve experienced both. When I tore my artery and had a heart attack, I thought it might be the end of adventures for me – perhaps the end of life itself. But, it’s possible to move past despair, to learn a healthier, better way to live. Life turns toward death at some point. Until then, I choose the gift and the blessing of life.
I love this…maybe yes; maybe no….you tell a good story for those who listen from the inside out.
I love the first picture of the intertwined roots!
I have read the Zen story before – it’s a treasure, a powerful illustration. It is what it is.
When my mother died my world seemed to be shattered, but her presence and guidance after her death opened a trap door and led me away from a fundamentalist sect. A pretty little mourning dove greeted me yesterday, giving me a dose of comfort as we struggle along in caring for my brother-in-law. Mourning doves always remind me of the blessings to be found in grief and suffering.
I’ve been called Pollyanna Pam from many people throughout my life. For a long time I thought it was an insult. Now I think of the name as a compliment. No, I don’t want to think that everything in life is good or happy. It’s not, But no, I don’t want to be miserable about all the bad. I like the farmer’s maybe yes maybe no, because each good thing can lead to something not so good, and each bad thing can lead to something better. I have experienced both. I think it’s all called ‘life,’ and I’d rather smile at it all, than frown. So, just call me Pollyanna Pam. 🙂
“The catalogue of the Musée Guimet of Paris describes a Mandara, in which the highest Buddha in the center of the group is surrounded by a number of his incarnations of various degrees and dignities. These are the Bodhisattvas, prophets and sages of the world, who have either taught mankind or set them good examples by their virtuous lives. On the right we see a group of personified abstracts, piety, charity, science, religion, the aspiration for progress. On the left is a third class, consisting of the ugly figures of demons, whose appearance is destined to frighten people away from sensuality, egotism, and evil desires.
The devils of Buddhism, accordingly, are not the enemies of Buddha, and not even his antagonists, but his ministers and co-workers. They partake of Buddha’s nature, for they, too, are teachers. They are the rods of punishment, representing the curse of sin, and as such have also been fitly conceived as incarnations of the Bodhi. In this interpretation, the Buddhist devils cease to be torturers and become instruments of education who contribute their share to the general system of working out the final salvation of man.”
– Paul Carus
History of the Devil
Very thoughtful post. Sometimes the blessings do not reveal themselves until much, much later …. I am always looking for the silver-lining, some days, it is just very hard to find.
This is such a great story. I always think of someone I hired years ago to a company that did regular downsizing. I said to my boss “I feel guilty recruiting her from a secure job even though this job is much more what she wants to do” (to which he replied “get over it”). In the end she (we all) were riffed, but she went back to her original company… in a location closer to family… in a job doing what she wanted (which they refused to offer her before)… with a big pay increase… and was much happier. So I learned not to try to predict the future (though I forget sometimes…)
I think sometimes yes, sometimes no, Kathy. I remember years ago when my mom was laid off, she and my dad sold the house, bought a boat and sailed away for years. She said losing that job freed her to do what she really wanted to do. I think she was fortunate in this case, but I don’t always believe that every bad thing that happens can be turned into a positive. I wish I could make myself think that way, but I can’t. Sometimes bad is just bad. ❤
I am not liking the Obamacare. I looked up the price for me, it will cost me $1,200 a month. That is as much as a house payment. Plus it is a real high deductible. I can’t get it. I wonder how many people won’t be able to afford it. I talked to the clerk at the dollar store. He said his will cost $600 a month with a $20,000 deductible. He works at a dollar store. He can’t afford that.
Very philosophical of you! My husband went through some very tough times; a couple of severe work-related accidents that resulted in him being unable to work at his chosen profession any longer. He’d always talked about going back to school, but the money he was making at work was too good to give up. Having those accidents, the Compensation Board paid for him to go back to school and he now has a lovely safe desk job. In a way, the accidents were a blessing, despite the pain & anguish they put us through at the time – very much like your Farmer’s Story. And the best part of all that – he survived. He’s alive to tell the tale(s) where another might have died. That, too, is a blessing. 🙂