In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki wrote: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” One of the practices of mindfulness is to keep an open mind, like the mind of a child. This allows us to see things clearly — just as they are — without expectations or judgments. A story is illustrative:

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

The farmer was able to understand that “good” and “bad” are all in the mind. Often times we lose sight of this during difficult times. The most challenging times of our lives may turn out to have been the most important.