“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles
We long for the story to end while things are good, while we are on our way to having what we always wanted or are already there. But we know that things change. And yet our relationships, starting with our relationship with ourselves, can deepen and grow. Our view and understanding of our lives can open and become more generous.
In the ancient Zen (and also Taoist) story of the farmer and the horse, a farmer reacts to the mishaps and windfalls that befall him with an attitude of “who knows?” When the farmer’s horse runs away and his neighbor laments his bad fortune, the farmer says: “Who knows if this is good or bad?”
The horse comes home leading 12 wild horses, and the neighbor congratulates the farmer on his amazing good fortune. But again, the farmer replies: “Who knows?” Next, his son breaks his leg trying to mount a wild horse, but still the farmer keeps an open mind. Who knows if this seeming catastrophe is good or bad? The very next day, military recruiters come around to draft all able-bodied young men for battle, and the son is passed over.
Dana is a Buddhist term for generosity. It means giving—the giving of teaching and refuge or the giving of donations to support the teaching. It is considered to be an important practice because it cultivates a heart and mind that is generous and loving and open, not grasping and afraid. It transforms our relationship to others and to life. Giving dana supports and nourishes and builds trust. I feel love and gratitude when I receive dana. Thank you! And we can also practice dana in the way we view ourselves, giving ourselves the gift of an attention that doesn’t rush to judge.