The 2nd Arrow
Imagine for a moment you 're casually out for a quiet stroll. Finally, through all the chaos in your life you’re finding a little time to breathe some much needed fresh air. Suddenly, you are hit in the shoulder by an arrow. You have no idea where it came from. No idea why, but regardless, there’s an arrow in your shoulder.
Now obviously you are in an incredible amount of pain. Adrenaline rushes through your bloodstream, preparing you to sprint or go into battle. You begin to unconsciously analyze your situation and your surroundings, Finding your best options for survival. Rather quickly you realize, this arrow in your shoulder is not immediately life threatening. It does hurt though, and a lot.
In this moment you have 2 choices, to accept the arrow as is, seek shelter and the necessary treatment needed to properly heal this wound or alternately, allow stories to arise in your mind. Instead of finding shelter you begin telling yourself a story of “why me? I wasn’t doing anything wrong!” Or maybe the story is you demanding to know who shot this arrow for the sake of what you believe to be justified retaliation. These stories leave you exposed and before you know it there’s a second arrow piercing your heart.
Instead of taking proper measures to heal the first, we get shot by the second- we wholeheartedly believe the stories. We ignore the pain for the unobvious suffering.
Let’s take this a step further, instead of an arrow, let’s say you lost your job? Again, you are presented with a choice. Do you ask, what are the next necessary steps you need to take in order to provide financially for yourself and those you are responsible for? Or, do you allow the archer to shoot you with another arrow? Do you allow unnecessary anxiety to overtake you? Do you blame yourself and your inability to sustain good work? Do you blame the circumstance you find yourself in on everyone and everything but yourself?
The first arrow is fact, call it bad luck. The first is the pain, the second arrow is the suffering. The second arrow is always optional.
Life is full of the unexpected- with circumstances beyond our control. But all circumstances are neutral and regardless of circumstance, there is a choice for self-control. Now, allow that to sink in for a moment- all circumstances are neutral. That could be a scary thought or an enlightened one.
But what does it actually mean though?
If we were to assume all circumstances are things, problems or actions, coincidences; whatever you want to call them, I’m sure we can all agree that all circumstances are facts. This happened! It actually happened! Whether it’s getting shot in the shoulder with an arrow or losing a job- these are unfortunate circumstances but they happened or are happening.
So when I say “circumstances are neutral” what I mean is that in that moment there’s no need to upset tranquility trying to justify the bad and at all costs make it go away. Neutral means impartiality, equanimity. Neither fight or flight. It just is.
When we accept this as fact, there's a wonderful spiritual component to it. It’s there. You’re tapping into a “bigger you”- a bigger mindset beyond the ego. We all know there’s no benefit in “freaking out.” But do we know why? I mean; anger feels good, in the moment it feels empowering but it sidetracks us, right? There’s no benefit in always reacting.
Anger might feel empowering in the moment but we know the consequence.
Those stories serve very little purpose other than appeasing our ego. Where there's ego there’s zero spirituality.
When dealing with a circumstance you must think conceptually about the nature of the problem.
You must think rational and realistic about your next move.
How does one do this?
Become mindful of the sensations in the body. The more often we do this the more often we can call upon it when we need it. Understanding how fear affects our bodies, to see fear as physical sensations instead of mental phenomena only weakens fear’s power.
The body never lies. The body reacts according to emotion. The more we curiously and compassionately notice these reactions in the body the more control we give ourselves. The more control we have the more we understand that all circumstances are neutral.
Remaining calm and in control of your abilities is a choice we all have, so why not make that choice? It isn’t to say all will work out how you planned, but it certainly gives the circumstance and the necessary actions that follow a fighting chance. Even in the stranglehold of fear, embracing this understanding only benefits and allows us to function from our strengths, and by now we all know that vulnerability is a strength. Vulnerability is crucial in extracting the honesty needed to understand fully the circumstance you find yourself in.
Fear is a natural reaction to danger. But sometimes what we fear is of no real threat or danger, at least not physically. The fear derived from ego does not really require a fight or flight response, yet our mind reacts as though it does. To say “I don’t know” or to even say “I’m afraid” takes guts and it opens our eyes.
Stress is a good thing! Therapists are paid a lot of money to reduce anxiety, not to get rid of it completely. But when either stress or anxiety become chronic, then there are problems. They become chronic because we compile them instead of just leaning into them with a little introspection- instead we run, we fight.
When we consciously make a choice, we are responding instead of reacting. We have decided to see the circumstance from all angles. To help, try saying this the next time you find yourself navigating through circumstance, “this is not happening to me, this is just happening. How do I best respond?” “I am not fear, I am experiencing fear.” (At the end of this blog, I will list the most common fears.)
Even one mindful breath can have an immense impact on your life. “This is me breathing in, this is me breathing out.” We use breath to bridge the mind and body and when the mind and body function simultaneously, we are here and it is now and in the here and now that pesky fear based ego cannot exist.
It’s fear that turns circumstances into unsatisfying problems. To understand this is to see with clarity and with clarity we are able to see the neutrality, we are able to respond with equanimity.
There’s no right or wrong, there just simply is.
Turn and face it. Do not avoid it.
Breathe. Bridge the mind and the body with a few good, mindful breaths.
Tune into your body. What are you noticing? Where is the fear?
Is it in the stomach, the chest, etc...
Ask yourself “what role did I play in causing this circumstance?”
Ask yourself “What is my best response to this circumstance?”
And as always reflect.
No hurry, no pause!
Top 10 Fears
Bugs and Insects
Small Spaces/Inability to escape
Fear of Germs