Do we actually know what is in our our best interest let alone someone else’s?

This blog is inspired by my own life experience, and Harvard professor Michael Puerto who has written the book The Path and Heather Lanier Ted Talk -“good” or “bad” are incomplete stores we tell ourselves.


The phrase “getting what I want” or is it a broader interest of “doing what is best for all those I come in contact with.” I struggle with this question during this phase of my life. I am halfway through my life and as I reflect I had desired to have accomplished more and yet grateful for everything that I have created in my life. I struggle with this question in regards to advocating for my aging parents. Different things matter to each of us; we see things through a different lens of life (personally, history, values). This question weighs on my life as it takes a dramatic shift. As my parent’s age and I am looked upon to make decisions for them in the future. I mean I indeed live a different life than my family will I make the decisions about their life that they had envisioned for themselves.


This struggle comes from my western view of good and bad, as I learn through my yoga practice to stop fixating on solutions for whatever I deem as not reasonable and instead learn to take life as it comes. As I learn that things aren’t one or the other and get a higher perspective of a bigger picture I learn that it is about finding the middle ground between the opposites. As I practice this, I begin to notice more peace, joy, and love in my life. There is this ancient Taoist parable that is about 2,000 years old it is a story about a Farmer who lost his horse. One day his horse runs away. And his neighbor comes over and says, to commiserate, “I’m so sorry about your horse.” And the farmer says “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?” The neighbor is confused because this is apparently terrible. The horse is the most valuable thing he owns. But the horse comes back the next day, and he brings with him 12 feral horses. The neighbor comes back over to celebrate, “Congratulations on your great fortune!” And the farmer replies again: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?” And the next day the farmer’s son is taming one of the wild horses, and he’s thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m so sorry about your son.” The farmer repeats: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?” Sure enough, the next day the army comes through their village and is conscripting non-disabled young men to go and fight in the war, but the son is spared because of his broken leg. And this story can go on and on like that. Good. Bad. Who knows? The point is the western paradigm of labeling things as good or bad is a false dichotomy because it isn’t clear. If I look at my life events thus far I can see this in my own life.


Maybe you are familiar with the Yin Yang symbol in yoga. We see things as black, white, wrong, right, good, bad but they all flow and melt together on this symbol. It is not contradictory but complementary. Knowledge helps you to bring flowers to bloom again and again. In Chinese philosophy, they talk about four things. TAO “the path” no path leads in a certain direction; because we create the way as we go. MING “fate” things we can’t control happen all the time with the main question of how do we react to them? CHI “energy” when you smile, you offer someone else a little piece of happiness. Chinese philosophers say that refines our chi. YIN “head heart” train your head and heart to work together so you can think clearly and be in touch with your feelings at the same time. It is when we as humans show ourselves without reservation, our armor falls off, and it feels like glimpsing into each other’s souls. We gain wisdom through our experience – good, bad, storytelling and so on that speak to our human condition.


As I continue the second half of my life and I ponder the phrase “in our best interest” for myself and my loved ones, may I stay focused on the larger picture. May all beings be happy and free, and may all my thoughts words and deeds; contribute to the happiness and freedom of all living creatures.




The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life

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