Sei Weng’s Story
There is an old Taoist story about a man named, Sei Weng, that has relevance to what’s happening to us today.
Sei Weng was a Chinese farmer. He lived with his son. They had a beautiful horse that was the envy of everyone in the village. One day Sei Weng’s son left the gate open and the horse ran away. Sei Weng’s neighbor came over and expressed his condolences for the loss. “What terrible fortune that your horse ran away,” said the neighbor.
The following day, the horse returned to Sei Weng’s farm. The horse had run into a herd of wild horses that followed it back. Sei Weng and his son were able to get all of the horses inside their pen and close the gate without any trouble at all. The neighbor came by and expressed excitement over the free newfound horses. “What wonderful fortune that your horse ran away,” said the neighbor.
The next day Sei Weng’s son was attempting to tame one of the new horses that had come from the wild. While doing so, the son was thrown from the horse. He hit the ground and broke his leg. The neighbor came over and expressed dismay over the broken leg. “What terrible fortune that your horse ran away,” he said.
The day after that, news came that war had been declared. Every able-bodied son was required to report for military service. Because Sei Weng’s son had a broken leg, however, he didn’t have to go. Once again, the neighbor came over and expressed his excitement about the son not having to go off to war. “What fantastic fortune that your horse ran away, for it resulted in your son not having to go to war where he would die,” he said.
How It Applies Today
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air right now. A lot of people are terrified. Many are afraid of the health implications of the COVID-19. Some fear the economic implications of quarantining ourselves. What if we lose our homes or jobs or our ability to feed our children?
Although everything that’s happening seems a major disruption to the comfort of our normal routines, we simply don’t know what’s going to happen. Just like with Sei Weng’s horse, something bad might seem to be happening today that tomorrow will seem like a blessing in disguise.
We don’t know if terrible events truly will happen to us individually. But even if something catastrophic does, there might be good that comes of it. If you lose your job today, it might line you up for a more fulfilling job tomorrow. If you lose your home, it might result in you finding a nicer place to live.
The catch is to remind yourself that this is your journey. You can’t control the unknowns but you can control how you feel about them. Despairing over the broken leg today will will have been wasted self-torment if tomorrow you realize it saved your son’s life.
If calamity seems to have befallen you, simply solve the problem now and look forward to how this will be better tomorrow. It may not feel better immediately. But the way we perceive events alters how we experience them. You can have the most wonderful thing in the world happen to you and still feel terrible. After Sei Weng’s son was saved from death in war, he could have put his energy into dwelling on how horrible it was that his son’s leg was broken or how he had to spend time lamenting the loss of the horse in the first place. Or he could have rejoiced that his son was alive.
By allocating energy and focus to negativity we will feel bad. In contrast, even if something is happening we don’t like we can still put our energy and focus into the positives that will come of what’s going on. There are always positives, even if they’re as simple as, “I’ll be stronger as a result of the hardship I’m facing today.”
The only way it won’t be better down the road is if you acquiesce to despair today. Solve your problem and keep faith in your journey. No matter what happens today, something good can come of it.
(My Reality Generator contains this story and journaling exercises related to it. To learn more about the journal, go to www.myrealitygenerator.com.)