The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”
The first arrow is our human conditioning to cling to comfort and pleasure and to react with anger or fear to unpleasant experience. It’s humbling to discover that willpower is often no match for these primal energies. We believe we should be able to control our “negative” emotions, then they just storm in and possess our psyches.
The second, more painful arrow is our reaction to these “failures.” Sometimes our self-aversion is subtle; we’re not aware of how it undermines us. yet often it is not- we hate ourselves for the way we get secure and flustered, for being fatigued and productive, for our addictions. Rather than attending to the difficult emotions underlying the first arrow, we shoot ourselves with the second arrow of self-blame.
Awakening self-compassion is often the greatest challenge people face on the spiritual path. When we’re addicted to the message of the second arrow- “I’m basically not ok”- we become harsh and unforgiving toward ourselves. We’re attempting to vanquish our weaknesses and change ourselves for the better, yet the effect is to reconfirm our conviction that we are intrinsically flawed. That core sense of badness then primes he next round of aggression, defensiveness, or paralysis that sustains our suffering. Attacking ourselves is a painful false refuge
We can learn to recognize when we are at war with ourselves, and decide to pause and deepen our attention. We can allow ourselves to enter the gateway of love.
this amazing capacity for cruelty we have toward ourselves…..
inquiry for today~ it’s not a matter of fixing, but rather, a matter of listening….
It doesn’t matter how long we may have been
stuck in a sense of our limitations.
If we go into a darkened room and turn on
the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has
been dark for a day, a week, or 10,000
years- we turn on the light and it is illuminated.
Once we control our capacity for love and
happiness, the light has been turned on.