The Zen Farmer

There are no holy books in Zen, no sacred texts, just stories that point the way without telling you what to believe or how to think.

Here is an example:

One day, a wild horse ran onto a farm and couldn’t find it’s way back out. The farmer went out and tethered it with a strong rope, securing it in his stable.

Later that night, the farmer and his neighbour were talking about the day’s events over a pint of cider.

‘You’re so lucky’, stated the neighbour.

‘Is that so?’ replied the farmer.

The following day, the farmer’s oldest son was beginning the process of breaking in the horse when he fell off, breaking his leg quite badly.

Later that night, the farmer and his neighbour were talking about the day’s events over a cup of tea.

‘You’re so unlucky’, stated the neighbour.

‘Is that so?’ replied the farmer.

The following day, an army press gang were travelling through the area looking to recruit young men for an upcoming war. They had no choice but to overlook the farmer’s son due to his badly broken leg.

Later that night, the farmer and his neighbour were talking about the day’s events over a meal.

‘You’re so lucky’, stated the neighbour.

‘Is that so?’ replied the farmer.

*The end*

By refusing to attach his mood and happiness to an external event, the farmer avoided a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows for himself over those three days.

The farmer knew that every experience is neither good or bad, every experience just is. EVERY moment no matter how light or dark is neutral, it is only the mind that desires to label everything.

Was the horse arriving at the farm a good or bad turn of events? It was actually both, therefore neither good NOR bad. It was neutral.

The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss our misfortune, as we never know what future will grow from it all.

As the farmer did, it is better to stay neutral to the moments that manifest in our life. This way, by taking the middle path, we avoid a disorienting ride of emotional ups and downs. We stay flexible to what happens, going with the flow like a tree avoiding damage by surrendering itself to the whims of the wind.

Every type of experience is both more AND less than the label our mind projects onto it, so it is better to develop the discipline to not project any kind of label at all. Otherwise the mind will indirectly create more suffering by attaching itself to its own shortsighted black-and-white limited perspective which, although nearly always innocently naive, is unable to see the future and the bigger picture.

The farmer was wise enough to let the story play out and not anchor his emotional state to a temporary experience, regardless of how happy or sad that experience made him feel.

We cannot always control what happens in life, only how we respond to it.

The middle path is the path of greater peace