The Power of Maybe...A Story About Accepting What Is


There is an old Chinese story that goes something like this...

Once upon a time there was an old Chinese farmer who lived alone with his only son on their small farm.  One day, the farmer's one and only horse ran away.  Upon hearing the news, all the neighbors came over to console the old man.  "Oh no!  What terrible luck!" they said.  The old farmer shook his head and replied, "Maybe..."
The next week, the old farmer's horse came back.  And he brought with him a pack of wild horses.  All the neighbors watched as the many horses came into the man's yard and rushed over in excitement.  "Oh wow!  What amazing fortune!" they said.  The old farmer simply smiled and said, "Maybe...."
The man's only son worked hard at training the wild horses while helping the his father run the farm.  But one day, in the midst of his work, one of the horses threw him and the son broke both legs.  He was unable to work with the horses and even worse, unable to help his elderly father run the farm.  Upon hearing the news, all the neighbors rushed over to commiserate with the farmer who might lose his crops without the help of his son.  "Oh no!" they wailed "What terrible luck!"  The old farmer just looked at them and said "Maybe..."
The next week, the army came through the village and conscripted the eldest son of every family to go to war.  Because the old man's son was in bed with two broken legs, the army passed by the old man's house. All the neighbors came running over.  "We can't believe your fortune!  Your son was spared!  How lucky are you!" And you guessed it--the old man simply said "Maybe..."

I love this tale.  It reminds me of how quick we humans are to look at the events of our lives and declare them to be either good or bad, amazing or disastrous.  How quick we are to make up stories and to label the events in our life.   

If we look at it objectively, things happen.  Some things open up flow and create ease.  Some things close down flow and make life less easy.  Something create flow one minute but shut it down the next.  None of these things are truly good or bad.  Sometimes the thing (or job or person) we thought would save us creates nothing but heartache and the break-up (or lay-off or loss) that destroys in in the moment opens up a whole new possibility we never could have imagined.  In the moment we have no way of truly knowing if something is good or bad.  In the moment all we can truly know is that is ... well...that it is.

So what does this have to do with health?  A whole lot!  The stories we tell ourselves about our lives inform our bodies.  When we tell ourselves that what is happening in our life is a "disaster!" we turn on all sorts of stress hormones to help us get through said disaster.  These stress hormones may help us if we are running from a bear or a lion--or may help us push through a really difficult moment--but in the long run they divert resources away from digestion, internal repair and healing.    Over the long haul this can really tax our systems and create fatigue, dis-ease and illness.   We have fewer and fewer resources to heal from the viruses and bacteria that come our way.  We have less resources to repair the injured shoulders, broken bones and twisted knees.  

If we are able to drop the story of "good or bad" and just greet our life exactly as it is without judgement we create the maximum conditions for healing in our life.   We also by the way, free up resources to help us through whatever life is throwing at us.

That said, this is a practice and I am a beginner at it.  Most of us are.  Even the most devoted of teachers see this as a life long practice.  Look, from the time we were all born, society has been teaching us to label everything as "good" or "bad".  We do it all the time and often unconsciously.  And while it may be easy to drop the story around some  things like the weather canceling a fun outing or losing our favorite pair of sneakers it can be really hard when the foundation of our life is shaken by life's events.  When our marriage, our homes, or financial security or the health of people we love is what is in play.  When someone we love deeply is dying how can we not wail "THIS IS TERRIBLE!"  It takes nothing but complete and utter courage to hold ourselves gently as our world is shaken and simply whisper the word "maybe.." to ourselves. 

This is not about looking on the bright side.  Trying to force a positive story or silver lining onto everything that happens can be just as  dangerous.  That's why the story of the farmer is so powerful.  He does not deny that what is happening is hard, creates heart ache and shuts down the flow of his life.  But with the simple word "Maybe" he doesn't shut down possibility that it may end differently either.  He keeps life open.  And in the openness there is room for things to shift and for suffering to dissipate.  And that is a powerful lesson for all of us.  

Acupuncture treats at the body/mind/spirit levels and is therefor really helpful when we are in a working to accept life as it is.  It is also an incredibly helpful tool to support our bodies when we are going through hard times.  If you are interested in scheduling an acupuncture appointment reach out here or by emailing megcaseyacupuncture (at) gmail (dot) com or calling 301-408-9873.  I look forward to hearing from you!