Maybe, We'll See

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Sometimes the hardest part of mindfulness for me is the practice of keeping an open mind. It’s all too easy to let my emotions hijack my better sense and cause me to forget that I actually don’t know what the future will bring. So it’s a good thing that Buddhist wisdom, and life itself, are always there to help me remember.

For instance, there is one well-known Buddhist story about a farmer, his son, and some wild horses that is meant to teach us the wisdom of remaining open-minded and open-hearted to whatever arises.  In the story, a series of events happen, some seemingly bad that instead turn out to be blessings in disguise, some seemingly good that, over time, cause the farmer big problems. With each turn of events, the farmer’s neighbors, like a Greek chorus, immediately catastrophize the seemingly bad stuff and celebrate the good. But throughout, the farmer maintains his composure, responding to his neighbors cheers and jeers with a smile and the simple phrase “Maybe, we’ll see.”

I’ve shared this story with my kids at bedtime, but the truth is that it can feel a little remote. After all, we don’t live on a farm, and my son hasn’t had to tame wild horses anytime recently. So part of my mindfulness practice is to pay enough attention so that when life delivers my family our own “maybe, we’ll see” moments, I don’t miss them. We had one of those teachable moments just this weekend.

My son is a hockey player, and this past weekend his team was scheduled to play a game at Nassau Coliseum on regulation NHL ice. This was a very big deal for a 10 year old boy (and for his hockey mom too!). So when the predictions for Winter Storm Nemo’s impact on our area started to go from bad to worse, it was hard not to bum out. It felt so unfair that Mother Nature would deprive our hockey team of this amazing opportunity. As the storm drew near, I, along with everyone else, got caught up in the drama and disappointment of the all but certain cancellation. We catastrophized.

And then life threw me a lesson. On Saturday morning, while we were still awaiting final confirmation of the game’s cancellation, my son woke up with a 103 fever. Winter storm or not, whether the game was cancelled or not, one thing was certain – he would not be playing. Huge bummer! And then the cancellation notice came, and so did the unexpected promise of a rescheduled game date. Winter Storm Nemo, which had for days been a source of anticipatory complaint, disappointment and unhappiness was, in fact, a blessing. Without Nemo the game would have gone on without us, but now we would be able to attend the rescheduled game and share in all the team festivities.

Maybe, we’ll see.

It would be missing the lesson in the story to get too excited about this. After all, the point is that we can never know what the future will bring. A million things will happen between now and game day. Maybe my son will get to play on the big ice. Maybe not. All we can really know is what is happening in each moment between now and then as it happens, remaining open to however the future may unfold. And while I admit, it can be fun to anticipate the good stuff, the disappointment when things don’t work out as planned is not so much fun. And I’d just as soon not waste my time and emotional energy worrying about the bad stuff, which may or may not ever actually happen. Much better to learn to abide in fierce open-mindedness, living each moment fully as it comes, however it comes. Never missing the opportunity to smile and remember some simple Buddhist wisdom as we go along.

If you are interested in learning more about the original Buddhist story, I encourage you to check out Jon Muth’s beautifully illustrated retelling in his children’s book, Zen Shorts (Caldecott Honor Book)
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