It's hard not to judge an experience or situation that, on the surface, in the context of our limited frame of reference, may seem like a horrible tragedy or a major win. Something "bad" or something "good".
It's a helpful practice to question what we think we know, to test the boundaries of what we think is real. Each of our realities is based on a set of conventions established early on in life. The boundaries of these conventions were set up via family systems, societal rules, religion, and education. Not all boundaries are without good reason. But reason, as in "the intellectual faculty that adopts actions to an end" is likely to change. And change, as you've probably heard, is the only constant.
You don't have to change your mind but you might want to entertain the possibility that what you think may not actually be true. Or at least entirely true.
Only when we do not try to resist change, control an outcome, or cling to any solid thing or certainty are we free to experience the mystery of life unfolding and all the gifts that way of being brings.
No one can exactly predict the future. Why not stay centered in the present moment and wait to see what actually unfolds? This is a practice for an open mind.
Is That So?
(Zen Story about Hakuin)
The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a town in Japan. He was held in high regard and many people came to him for spiritual teaching. Then it happened that the teenage daughter of his next-door neighbor became pregnant. When being questioned by her angry and scolding parents as to the identity of the father, she finally told them that he was Hakuin, the Zen master. In great anger the parents rushed over to Hakuin and told him with much shouting and accusing that their daughter had confessed that he was the father. All he replied was, “Is that so?”
News of the scandal spread throughout the town and beyond. The Master lost his reputation. This did not trouble him. Nobody came to see him anymore. He remained unmoved. When the child was born, the parents brought the baby to Hakuin, “You are the father, so look after him.” The Master took loving care of the child. A year later, the mother remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at the butcher shop. In great distress they went to see Hakuin to apologize and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.” “Is that so?” is all he would say as he handed the baby over to them.
The Farmer's Son
(Taoist variation on a theme)
An old farmer who had worked his crops for many years set his aging horse free to pasture. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors said, "Such bad luck, to lose your only horse." "May be," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man.
The following day, the farmer's 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. "May be," 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. "May be," said the farmer.
And then, of course, the young village men were killed in the war and the farmer's son, limp and all, was the only able bodied man remaining. The farmer and his son prospered. When his neighbors praised his fortune, well, you know how the farmer replied. "May be".
Here's Eckhart Tolle’s commentary on Hakuin’s Zen story and its Taoist variation:
“The story of the Zen Master whose only response was always “Is that so?” shows the good that comes through inner nonresistance to events, that is to say, being at one with what happens. The story of the man whose comment was invariably a laconic “Maybe” illustrates the wisdom of non-judgment, and to the fact of impermanence which, when recognized, leads to non-attachment. Nonresistance, non-judgement, and non-attachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”
― Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose)