There once lived a farmer whose prize stallion ran off. “What bad luck!” the villagers exclaimed.
The farmer shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe,” he said.
A few weeks passed and the stallion returned with a wild horse. “What good luck!” cried the villagers.
“Maybe,” shrugged the farmer.
Then his son was thrown from the horse and broke his leg. “What bad luck!”
“Maybe,” replied the farmer.
A few days later, the country went to war and recruiting officers took all the young men away to fight. As the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they left him behind. “What good luck!” said the villagers.
“Maybe,” smiled the farmer.
This is a shortened version of a tale, rooted in Taoism, which I read to my son from a fabulous children’s book called Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth.
As Blue Monday is, according to a mathematical formula, the “worst day of the year”, I wanted to share this story with you.
It reminds me that we never really know what’s around the corner – nor whether it will turn out to be beneficial or not. Maybe that’s what makes life such a wonderful adventure.
My son, for example, has been suffering with hearing problems for some years. Consequently, he watches DVDs with the subtitles on. Recently, we discovered he has a reading age of a 10-year-old (he’s just turned seven). Has his hearing loss benefitted his reading ability? Maybe. It is some consolation as we traipse backwards and forwards to the hospital.
I think we all have a tendency to cling to something when life’s seas get choppy. This is not always a bad thing while we’re tossed about on the waves – it depends what we cling to. Certain states of mind can get us through tough times, but can be destructive in calmer waters, creating storms where none existed, or dragging us down into depression.
Several years ago, I was going through a difficult patch. What got me through? Letting go. I stopped clinging to the past, put an appeal out to the universe for help... and relaxed. That was the turning point. Every passing moment is, so they say, another chance to turn it all around. It wasn’t the end of the journey, and there would be bumps, dead ends and wrong turnings ahead. But, as the Taoist saying goes: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
One thing I did learn on the way was that there is no point in beating ourselves up with the fact that there are people in the world far worse off than us. There are. And that realization can indeed be a spur to social action, watering our compassion. If this happens, great. If not, we must first develop compassion for ourselves. Otherwise we will only end up inflicting our suffering on the world. We must first heal ourselves.
During my healing I did train with the Samaritans. In the end, my life took a different direction, but it did teach me about the strength and fragility of the human spirit and gave me a deeper respect for life and the importance of living it as fully and humanely as we are able.
After all, what we do all have in common is that none of us wants to suffer and we all want to be happy.
I’ll leave you with this, possibly Sufi, story. A king asked a wise man for one phrase that would prevent him from getting too inflated by success or too deflated by failure. The man said: “This too will pass.”
So, is Blue Monday the “worst day of the year”? Maybe. Whatever the case, it will pass.
Need someone to talk to? Call the Samaritans on 08457 909090.