There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.


“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.


“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.


The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.


“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.


“We’ll see,” replied the old man.


The following day, his 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.


“We’ll see,” 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.


“We’ll see,” said the farmer.[i]


Sometimes we forget that how we imagine or anticipate an experience to be may not even resemble what that experience will actually be like. Your anticipation often says more about you than it does about the experience that you are anticipating. Sometimes, what you desire most is not nearly as good as you imagine it to be like. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for…

We spend a lot of time and energy frustrated that we did not get what we wanted. Yet, we never know if what we wanted was better than what we got. All we have is the reality of what you have and the fantasy of what might have been. So it is no surprise that the fantasy looks better.[ii]

On the other hand, the counterpart can also be true. Sometimes we fight and resist an experience because we imagine that we will not like it. What we don’t like is the fantasy that we have conjured up of how we imagine the experience to be like. In the end, you may find yourself delaying and resisting a wonderful experience because you thought that you would hate it.  In either case, to judge an experience before you really know it is only going to lead you to false assumptions. By detaching from what you want to happen, you spend less energy on pointless frustration and become more able to perceive what is best regardless if whether it is what you prefer.

However, there are times when attachment can be an asset. After all, sometimes the only way to achieve your dream is to stick with it and pour in all your drive, determination, and attachment into its successful outcome. In my opinion, the only difference between perseverance and stubbornness is the context and the outcome. They are both the same determination to achieve your goals, but others may judge it as a strength or a failing, depending on whether they approve of your ambition. So to classify attachment as completely a negative is inaccurate. It is up to you to figure out whether attachment serves your best interests, or whether it causes your suffering.


* * * *

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see that one that has been opened for us.”

-Helen Keller


* * * *


“So long as (you) follow attachment

Satisfaction is never found.

Who ever reverses attachment

With wisdom attains satisfaction.”

-The Buddha


[i] We’ll see… – Taoist Story (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2009 from American Buddhist website:


[ii] According to Buddha, attachment is the origin of suffering. Attachment to physical objects, to ideas we believe in, and to our perceptions. Suffering comes from our yearning, clinging craving, striving, desiring, and pursuit of wealth, prestige, fame and other temporary pleasures. Because the objects of our attachment are temporary, they can only offer temporary satisfaction before we inevitably find ourselves unsatisfied again, and we become stuck in a cycle of perpetually trying to fulfill our desires.

The Four Noble Truths (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2009 from the Big View website:

The Four Noble Truths (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2009 from the Secrets of Yoga website:


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