There is a Taoist fable about an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years when 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.
The message of this fable is simple. Everything that happens to you is meant to happen. Every thing. Every time. Without exception. It may not seem fair, right, or just, but we never have the full picture. Our lives are made up of so much more than what we can see. When we incarnated into this life, we brought with us the experiences of our past incarnations, the accumulation of lessons learned as well as what we need to transform in this life. This fact alone serves to tell us that at any given moment there is wisdom and knowledge within our experience that we can’t immediately access. When we know that there is a much larger picture that we can’t see, we are able to choose how to frame our experiences.
This is the incredible power of perspective.
What is perspective exactly? Merriam Webster defines it as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” It is the way we see ourselves and our lives in relation to things, people, experiences, and situations.
Perspective often goes hand-in-hand with perception, which is the meaning we give things, and how much weight and understanding we put into what we see and are sure about. The way we perceive things is part of our perspective of them.
More often than not, we are the neighbors in the fable. We pass quick judgment on situations that are either good or bad based on our perceptions and perspectives, which are largely conditioned. They are learned. They come from our upbringing, our familial relationships; the external world. When our perspective is simply a reaction to external circumstances, we are disconnecting from the Light. We are caught in ego, thinking that we are the ones in control. Reconnecting with the Light can begin with releasing all the things we think we know and trusting something greater. Choosing a new vantage point.
The farmer experienced his horse running away and returning; his son breaking his leg and then getting skipped for the military draft. Those things happened to him, without a doubt, but his perspective remained calm. He didn’t judge anything as “good” or “bad” based on its appearance and as the people around him reacted in various ways, he remained calm. His reply “maybe” allowed him to remain in the consciousness that he didn’t have the whole picture and by doing so he created an opening for blessings.
Within the most obvious of things lies a deeper truth; a hidden wisdom, a secret gem, and it takes curiosity, non-reactivity, and, yes, a shifted perspective to find out what that is.
It can start by becoming a neutral observer, like the farmer; removing all opinion and judgment from a circumstance or person and simply observing it. Let’s say you plan a vacation to Hawaii. You saved up to afford this vacation and you are counting the days until you are able to spend sunny days on the beach. But then something unforeseeable occurs. The flights get canceled, a big storm has come in and is expected to stay a week which means you need to postpone your vacation another week after that. Now, you can be disappointed for an entire week, daydreaming about what you “should” be doing in that time and feeling sorry for yourself about why life is so hard OR you can take advantage of this newly opened time.
You have no meetings planned because you were supposed to be away. You can take the time to start a project or do something dear to your heart that you haven’t made time for. You have been given a gift of time, so start now. Plus, you still have a vacation to look forward to!
It’s a powerful gift we have, where we are able to pull back the viewfinder and experience life outside of ourselves; outside of our stories and judgments. Ideas and situations that formed us from childhood, experiences that molded our character and personality and defined our identities can all be transformed the moment we stop internalizing and judging them. When our perspective shifts, we finally see everything around us, all of the blessings we have, and even some blessings we may have missed.
Once we alter our viewpoint, we no longer have to be limited by a one-sided outlook. We then become stronger, more forgiving, and it keeps us growing. As we change our perspective, we literally see our lives change before our eyes. Suddenly, our life looks different and feels different until, eventually, it is different. As author Byron Katie puts it, “reality is always benevolent.” It is up to you to choose how you want to see it. And the choice is yours, in every moment.
Thought into Action
Think of a situation you are currently experiencing that you feel is challenging and become a neutral observer. What blessings can you find? What lesson is here for you? Where is the beauty?