How much do we blind ourselves to the reality of the world around us? Consider the impact of using the words “good” and “bad” when speaking. Heather Lanier’s TED Talk gives us some insight. Her daughter has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome; a genetic condition that results in developmental delays. Does having a disability make one’s life bad? Lanier believes that using “good” and “bad” causes incomplete stories, diminishing our ability to truly see situations. Lanier recommends curiosity and wonder. She says, “When I released my grips about what made a life good or bad I could watch my daughter’s life unfold and see what it was.”

Consider this Zen story to gain perspective:

A wild horse arrives at a man’s farm. His neighbors tell him how lucky he is to receive such good fortune.

“We’ll see; hard to say,” replied the farmer.

Then, the horse runs away. His neighbors tell him how unlucky he is to receive such bad fortune. “We’ll see; hard to say,” replied the farmer. Then, the horse comes back with seven other horses. His neighbors tell him how lucky he is to receive such good fortune.

“We’ll see; hard to say,” replied the farmer.

Then, his son rides one of the wild horses, falls off, and breaks his leg. His neighbors tell him how unlucky he is to receive such bad fortune.

We’ll see; hard to say,” replied the farmer.

Then, the Army comes looking for recruits to fight a war, sees the son with a broken leg, and doesn’t take him. His neighbors tell him how lucky he is to receive such good fortune.

“We’ll see; hard to say,” replied the farmer.

We could continue with this story indefinitely. So what’s the point? There are at least four:

  1. We never know how one event will effect us in the long term.
  2. We tend to equate good with comforts and bad with stresses. Knowing that learning occurs in stress means that equating stress with bad makes us unconsciously move away from learning situations.
  3. We strive for a future that doesn’t include “bad” stressful events and does include “good” or comfortable events; we’re never present for the “good” or “bad” that is occurring now.
  4. The farmer has moved beyond good and bad, is open to each event, and curious to see where each leads him.

Life isn’t so simplistic as the good/bad lens indicates. By looking beyond this lens, we engage life with full attention to deal with challenges and enjoy them, as best we can. Life isn’t “good” or “bad” anymore; life simply is what it is. Accepting life without good/bad labels allows us to be present for it without unconsciously striving for some future “good” and running away from some past “bad.” Instead of blinding ourselves with good and bad, we take off our colored lenses and see life as it comes, moment by moment.

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