The Winding Path

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April 2016: Is-ness

Posted on Apr 17, 2016

April 2016: Is-ness

I read an article this morning about a different way to approach life with nondualism—judging things as neither good nor bad, but just “is.” The article began with an Asian parable about a farmer who lived in rural China hundreds of years ago.

            [The farmer] had a son who was the apple of his eye and owned a prize stallion that he treasured. At the end of a long day, the farmer noticed that the gate to his pasture was open and that his stately horse was nowhere to be seen. When the villagers found out that his stallion was missing, they came over one by one and announced their condolences. They said, “Your valuable stallion is gone. Oh, it is so bad!” The farmer answered, “Who knows? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The people returned to their homes.

The next day the farmer sent his son to search far and wide for the stallion. He found it grazing in a field several miles away with another majestic steed and was able to guide them both back to the farm. The villagers came round again and declared, “You have reclaimed your noble stallion and acquired another beautiful horse to boot! Oh, it is so good!” The farmer answered, “Who knows? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The people returned to their homes.

The following day when his son was attempting to break in the new horse, it bucked him off and he crashed to the ground, breaking his leg. All the villagers came over and asserted, “That foul beast has broken your son’s leg! Oh, it is so bad!” The farmer answered, “Who knows? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The people returned to their homes.

As it happens, the emperor’s army entered the village the next day announcing that a war was starting and all of the young men were required to enlist. The farmer’s son could not go because he had a broken leg. The villagers congregated at the farmer’s home once again and proclaimed, “Your son’s leg is broken, so he cannot go to war! Oh, it is so good!” The farmer answered, “Who knows? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The people returned to their homes. And so it goes…[1]

We have a tendency to label experiences and people as good or bad depending on our levels of pleasure or pain. We reject the one but embrace the other, trying to force the good to stay and the bad to go, putting a lot of energy into manipulating life’s experiences towards only those labelled good. To quote the author,

            The truth is that no event or person is inherently good or bad, but rather everything just is; and in this “isness,” there is an opportunity to love. People and events are neutral. The experiences of pleasure and pain do not define the inherent value of events; and the choices that people make do not define their worth…Dualistic thinking sees the world as either/or, setting things in opposition to one another.

Nondualism, on the other hand, allows for experiences and people to be “both/and.” Instead of dividing into groups or categories, unity is possible. Experiences and people can be both good and bad. There is possibility for love and for growth no matter what the label might be of a person or experience. Good can come out of negative situations as seen by the above parable.

However, if we are constantly rejecting “bad” experiences and people while straining to hang onto the “good,” we thwart living fully and completely. We miss out on the “isness” of life. All experiences and people have the potential for good and for bad. It is up to us to alter our perspective so as to embrace unity and neutrality—living with the “both/and” perspective rather than segregating with “either/or.”

This is something for me to think about: how I label experiences and people which only shortchanges me. This is not to say we condone injustice or wrongdoing; but it certainly affects how we approach righting the wrongs of this world. Do we welcome or reject? Do we include or exclude? Do we show love or hatred or apathy? Is there opportunity for growth or risk of stagnation?

May you find love, growth, and fullness by embracing the “isness” of life.


[1] Excerpts from article entitled “Who knows?: On Nondualism and Spiritual Direction” by Andrea “Ani” Vidrine as published in Presence, Vol. 21, No. 3, p. 43-44.

1 Comment

  1. If you choose to label things then you can get stuck or stagnated as you put it and sometimes even depressed. In every situation there is always the opportunity to grow, help, show love or include. Yes bad things do happen, but do you choose to stay in that sorrow or bad situation or turn your perspective around to say, this is only a set up for me to come out of this better off then when I went in. It is all in your perspective and sometimes your perspective needs a bit of a flip. Have faith that things will work out for good.

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