Good News, Bad News, Who’s to Say?
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the lessons from a Zen Buddhist Fable, or as I remember it, the story of an enlightened farmer. As the story goes…
One day in late summer, a farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So, he let his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who could say? We shall see.”
Two days later the old horse came back rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainside while eating the wild grasses. Returning with him were twelve new and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the farmer’s good fortune, and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate him on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” The farmer softly said, “Who could say? We shall see.”
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one the villagers arrived to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy you have had! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself. How will you survive? You must be very sad,” they said. Calmly going about his usual business, the farmer answered, “Who could say? We shall see.”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who could say? We shall see.” replied the farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again, the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh, what bad luck you have; too bad for you!” But the farmer replied simply, “Who could say? We shall see.”
As it turned out the other young village boys died in the war and the farmer and his son were the only able-bodied men capable of working the village lands. The farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are; you must be very happy” to which the farmer softly calmly said, “Who could say? We shall see.”
We all have an opportunity with the Coronavirus to respond to what is happening from at least two perspectives…from horrific distress filled with fear and distrust or from an open-minded imagination about what is possible as the world slows down dramatically and we all take a breath. Personally, I prefer the latter – at least most of the time. Along the way, I am certainly staying informed through reliable medical sources, and I’m doing my due diligence to stay safe. The attitude, tone, and tenor of how we talk about this virus, its virility and fast-spreading properties however, is all up to us to choose and choose wisely. We’ve seen the painful statistics, and too, we’ve seen people banding together to sing from their rooftops and windows, musicians playing music on social media to quell fear and lift the spirits of friends and strangers alike. There have also been thousands of people who are volunteering to help all over the world – to deliver meals to homes where people cannot get out themselves to buy food; to help at clinics and hospitals in any way they can; to drive the ill to and from appointments or simply to get hospital care. Profound willingness to JOIN THE EFFORT to heal and stay as positive as possible.
From one of the cancer patients who was part of the Hay House docuseries in March called “Radical Remission,” I heard, “We are not on this Earth to heal diseases, diseases are here to heal us!” An amazing insight that we can take to heart ourselves with COVID-19. There is so much healing for us to undertake. Not just for the individuals suffering with the virus itself, but for the larger society where we notice our downfalls—and there are multiple! This outbreak of Coronavirus shines a light on several of them including: climate change due to thoughtless abuse of the planet; senseless greed; self-absorbed focus on “having one’s own” and having little or no regard for the whole; lack of forethought and dedication to building reserves for outbreaks based on well-researched scientific brilliance; skepticism toward scientists who gave early warning of the potential for catastrophe; leaders not taking the time to discover, organize, and absorb the knowledge that was dispersed across different pockets of expertise. And the list goes on.
There is still much more that we can do and indeed, ways we can be in the world as we heal going forward. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, now is the time to envision and embrace your JOY. Even in the presence of grief, there is also great joy available to you simultaneously. We must be open to it and willing to feel more than one feeling at a time. A close cousin to joy is to call upon your appreciation. Pulling in all that you have to appreciate right now is precisely what is needed. You will feel lighter – even if for a short period – and in that lightness, you have greater access to your wisdom, your calm inner guide that shows you how to proceed lucidly, rather than being scattered or in a state of fear. Take time daily to sit in silence and focus within—you can do that by writing, painting, creating, meditating, and countless other ways. The key is to spend time with you and you – not interacting with anyone else. The best way we know to serve others is to first love ourselves—be patient and caring and loving with yourself purposefully and daily. Then how you show up for others is fuller, deeper, and much more caring. We need this for our collective healing.
Please be prudent and dedicated to as many things as you can that lend themselves to your strength, vitality, capacity to thrive and be a force for ourselves and others in this great healing ahead. Eat responsibly—hosts of whole fruits and vegetables, cut the sodium, add healthy fats, bump up the fiber, and eat a variety of foods of many colors. Get quality and proper quantity of sleep. Exercise, even in your own home—walk, bend, stretch, move! Take breaks from watching, reading, and listening to the news—hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and create overwhelm. Drink between 8-10 glasses of water a day. Breathe attentively on a regular basis. Keep loving yourself and loving others—believe in the wonder of the world!
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