The Gifts of Grief

“You never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.” – Alan Watts

In his lectures, Alan Watts spoke of the importance of recognizing that, due to our limited understanding of the complexity of creation – the web of life, forces of nature – we cannot presume to know the value of any specific circumstance or experience. To exemplify this teaching, Alan Watts tells The Story of the Chinese Farmer, demonstrating the possibility of gifts and opportunities in what appear to be trials and tribulations. Grief is one such powerful space – wherein we have the capacity to transform suffering into treasures of expansion and authenticity. This path is not for everyone, and a truly healing guide will neither make you feel compelled to take this journey nor guilty for declining it.

Though the process of embracing and reframing grief can be confusing and even painful, the gifts of seeing embracing grief as an opportunity are many. Here is a short list of some of the powerful promises of applying the Principle of Maybe to Your Unique Grief Journey:

  • Understand and experience what it means to be at peace.
  • Feel confident and capable of handling anything that comes your way.
  • Not be afraid or anxious when difficult circumstances arise.
  • Know yourself in a way that you can’t imagine you don’t right now.
  • Feel safe, empowered and at peace with yourself and your life.
  • Finally be able to make sense of your past.
  • Your purpose will reveal itself to you.

The Story of the Chinese Farmer, as told by Alan Watts…

“Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”

The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

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