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We meditate. We juice vegetables. We try to stay zen when muscle trucks tailgate us on the 405 freeway. But still, we sometimes lose our spiritual center and find ourselves gripped by the force of external events. It’s not easy to stay calm when it feels like your life is falling apart. There is a Chinese expression “Old Sai loses a horse” that comes from an ancient folk tale.

Old Sai lived in northern China. One day for no reason, his horse ran away. Everyone tried to console him for his bad luck by telling him what a terrible tragedy it was for him to lose his only horse. But all Old Sai said was, "Could be good. Could be bad."

A few months later his horse returned, bringing a gorgeous nomad stallion with her. All the villagers came by to congratulate Old Sai on his good luck. But all Old Sai said was, "Could be good. Could be bad." Everyone admired the new horse, and how much richer it made his household. Old Saiís son was particularly fond of the stallion, but the horse was difficult to ride, and one day the horse threw him, breaking Old Saiís sonís hip. Everyone tried to console him for his bad luck by telling him what a terrible tragedy it was that his son was injured. But all Old Sai said was, "Could be good. Could be bad."

A year later soldiers rode into the village, forcing every able-bodied man in the village to go into battle. Only Old Saiís son remained behind because he could not ride. All the young men of the village died in the battle except Old Saiís son, who remained behind and cared for his father. Could be good. Could be bad.

Could Be Good, Could Be Bad: Staying Calm Through the Chaos
By Tom and Linda Peters


As Spring approaches, we’re thinking of new beginnings. We’re trying to take a more balanced view, to live in the moment but also look at life with the perspective of a Facebook timeline. We’re inspired by the mutual friend who lost his long-time corporate job and felt that all was lost, then landed his dream gig nine months later. Or the distant cousin who suffered through a messy breakup and then met her soulmate in line at Starbucks.  

Maybe our setbacks this year are clearing the way for new growth. During the last twelve months, we’ve dealt with the death of a parent, business losses, plumbing issues, inflammatory illnesses and major surgery. Could be good, but it sure feels bad while you’re in it. But when we find the strength to step back and take a longer view, we can see some of what we’ve gained: increased intimacy, more home-cooked meals, time for creative projects, potentially better health in the future, and the love of a cocky middle-aged Pomeranian who we both adore.

Sure, we’ll wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and wish for good luck, but we’ll also stay open to the idea that our misfortune may not always be what it seems. And when life throws challenges and chaos in the middle of our neat and tidy, feng-shui’d path, we’ll try our best to look at each other, smile and shrug.

Old Sai loses a horse.


Tom and Linda Peters are a married couple who write and speak about new age and healthcare topics. Tom, a composer and GRAMMY® nominated performer, writes new music for classic silent films. Linda is an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor and the author of Way of the Whale, a novel about a trapped orca whale who uses ancient wisdom to transcend the perils of captivity.

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