The Power of Mediation: Embracing the Taoist Perspective
Don Schapira

The Power of Mediation: Embracing the Taoist Perspective

According to an Taoist parable, an old farmer had a horse that ran away, prompting his neighbors to remark, “Oh, that’s bad news.”

“Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer reportedly replied. Soon after, his horse returned with a second horse, which many labeled a stroke of luck. The farmer again withheld judgment and gave the new horse to his son, who broke his leg when the animal threw him off.

“Such bad news,” clucked sympathetic neighbors.

“Good news, bad news, who can say?” was the farmer’s response.

Days later, the emperor’s soldiers entered the village to round up able-bodied young men for war. The farmer’s injured son was spared, and the neighbors congratulated his father upon hearing the “good news.”

Life’s events often bring us joy or hardship, leading us to label them as either good or bad. However, the Taoist teaching story about the farmer and his horse reminds us of the limitations of such judgments. In this blog, we will explore the wisdom of the Taoist tale and compare it to the practice of mediation, highlighting the transformative effects it can have on our perception and overall well-being.

Finding Balance and Neutrality:

Just as the farmer refrained from categorizing events as good or bad, mediation teaches us to approach situations with neutrality. In mediation, we aim to facilitate resolution by remaining impartial and unbiased. By setting aside preconceived notions and embracing an open-minded perspective, we can help parties find common ground and reach mutually satisfactory solutions. Mediation encourages us to seek balance, recognizing that every situation has multiple facets and interpretations.

Embracing a Holistic View:

The farmer’s response of “Good news, bad news, who can say?” reflects a holistic view of life’s events. Similarly, mediation invites us to consider the bigger picture and examine the interconnectedness of circumstances. Rather than focusing solely on individual incidents, we analyze the underlying factors and long-term consequences. This broader perspective allows us to make informed decisions and find resolutions that address the root causes, rather than superficial symptoms.

Facilitating Effective Communication:

Mediation emphasizes the importance of effective communication, just as the farmer’s responses encouraged dialogue. In the story, the farmer’s neighbors expressed their opinions, while he remained open to their viewpoints. In mediation, facilitators encourage parties to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns, fostering understanding and empathy. By promoting active listening and respectful dialogue, mediation paves the way for constructive conversations and the exploration of creative solutions.

Encouraging Collaboration and Harmony:

The Taoist story highlights the interconnectedness of events, and mediation embodies this principle through its collaborative nature. Mediation brings conflicting parties together to find mutually beneficial resolutions, fostering a sense of harmony. Similarly, the farmer’s refusal to judge events enabled him to maintain harmonious relationships with his neighbors, regardless of their differing opinions. Mediation allows us to transcend adversarial positions and work towards shared goals, fostering sustainable solutions and nurturing positive relationships.

Empowering Individuals and Promoting Self-Determination:

The farmer’s ability to navigate challenging situations demonstrates personal empowerment and self-determination. Mediation, too, focuses on empowering individuals to make their own decisions and craft solutions that align with their interests and values. Mediation recognizes the agency and autonomy of each participant, creating an environment where individuals actively contribute to the resolution process. By fostering self-determination, mediation promotes long-term satisfaction and empowerment.


The Taoist parable of the farmer and his horse serves as a valuable reminder of the limitations of categorizing events as good or bad. Mediation provides a framework that aligns with this wisdom, emphasizing balance, neutrality, holistic perspectives, effective communication, collaboration, and self-determination. By embracing these principles, we can navigate conflicts and challenges with grace, promoting understanding, harmony, and sustainable resolutions. Incorporating the essence of the Taoist tale into mediation allows us to transform our approach to conflict resolution, fostering positive change and personal growth

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