The Second Arrow: The Cause of our Suffering

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I have been meaning to write a blog post for months now. I have opened up my blog multiple times, waiting for inspiration to strike me while sitting in front of the computer staring at a blank screen. This is the first arrow. An event has happened. My mind feels blank upon initial inspection, though if I tune in carefully I can hear a dialogue when I compassionately ask myself: “what is keeping me from writing?”

I notice the thought stream: No one wants to hear what you have to share, its all over the internet anyway, you’re preaching at people, they won’t care to read it (it goes on in a similar drone)

This is the second arrow. My dialogue around what others may think, the story I have for myself around writing, that is what causes the suffering – not the event itself. Not writing doesn’t inherently cause suffering, its my thoughts and story about not writing posts that evokes pain.

Now this is not a way we avoid suffering entirely, to be human is to suffer. We can’t control the events that happen to us and they often won’t be what we choose. However what we can control is whether we add fuel to the fire or not. Notice how when you’re having a tough time and you drink some sort of toxic thought cocktail like: get it together, you’re overreacting, you’re crazy, etc. that it makes it feel so much worse? There’s your second arrow.

Here’s how I took out my second arrow with writing: I took a few breaths, I noticed the narrative running through my mind, acknowledged it, recognized that they weren’t helpful, and encouraged myself to continue by telling myself that I understand why I would feel discouraged, there is a lot out there, and not everyone has what I have to give in the unique way that I do.

This involves a sense of acceptance – allowing yourself to notice that you will have thoughts that aren’t helpful, are mean or discouraging and that is very brain-like of you. It also involves an awareness and willingness to be curious with self without judgement. Add in a large dose of self compassion and recognizing your common humanity – anyone would feel this way in your situation.

Mostly, we recognize that we have choice. We notice the power we do have in the situation, that we aren’t victims of our thoughts or helpless with ourselves. We can choose differently.

From the Book: Tara Brach – True Refuge: Finding Peace in your own Awakened Heart

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