I was recently reminded a story that my acupuncturist told me when I was going through a "rough period" where everything happening seemed "bad."
The Story of the Taoist Farmer:
"Among the people who lived close to the border, there was a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : "what makes you think this is not a good thing?"
Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb barbarian stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: "what makes you think this is cannot be a bad thing?"
The family was richer from a good horse, his son enjoyed riding it. He fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: "what makes you think this is not a good thing!"
One year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the valid men drew their bows and went to battle. From the people living around the border, nine out of ten died. But just because he was lame, the old man and his son were both spared."
This story reminds me how useless judgement can be. I have to ask myself, can I see this situation from a different perspective? How is my interpretation of this situation effecting me? What am I getting out of this interpretation? Is it a useful interpretation? What's the reality of the situation?
4 tips on Awareness and Being Non-Judgemental:
1. Identify Reality vs. Your Interpretation. Check in with yourself regularly and ask yourself, "Is this reality or is this my interpretation?" It's important to identify what you "think" about the situation vs. what is the universally accepted reality of the situation.
2. Identify your Feelings. Between reality and your interpretation, there are feelings. Identifying what you feel will help you be more in touch with what you are truly experiencing.
3. Embrace your Feelings. Whatever you feel is okay. You don't have to make meaning out of it or answer the question, "why do I feel this way?" Just accept and embrace your feelings and you'll find you'll be more at peace. Let them move through you.
4. Be willing to let go. Once you identify reality, are aware of your feelings, and are willing to be in touch with your emotions, you will start to relax. This will allow you to let go of the need to interpret the situation in a way that you are used to and create space for a new experience to happen.
Remember, no matter what, be kind to yourself through this process.
The Story of the Taoist Farmer is from Explaining Conjunctions from The Book of Lieh-tzu: A Classic of Tao, translated by Angus C. Graham, New York: Columbia University Press (1960, revised 1990)