Last updated October, 2018.
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Recently we posted a story on Facebook, and we wanted to elaborate here.
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Here's the story:
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. The second arrow is optional.”
The Buddha was describing different types of suffering.
The first arrow affects all of us by virtue of the fact that we are born. If you are reading this, it's safe to say you were born, and you will experience the "pain" of life that is growing old and dying.
This type of suffering is unavoidable. It happens to all of us. We can have a good attitude about it, and we can make peace with it. But, we cannot avoid it.
We all have a body that - if we are fortunate - will take us to old age. However, with growing old comes illness and a general "wearing out." And, ultimately (of course) death.
The second arrow the Buddha discusses is describing another type of suffering. This suffering results from our thoughts and emotions, and an inner narrative that constantly comments on - and judges - everything and everyone (including ourselves!).
We get lost in the stories running through our heads. We build a "sense of self," and constantly have to protect it from perceived attacks. We have expectations that usually aren't met, causing us to become upset, depressed, angry, or offended. We find ourselves on an endless search for happiness, forever trying to arrange our lives so we're surrounded by everything we like and want (and, protected from everything we don't like and don't want).
This second arrow is fueled by our compulsive minds, and the pain that results is constant and pervasive. We can do something about this arrow, however.
By strengthening awareness, we can learn to see thoughts, emotions, and stories for what they are: not permanent.
We can notice this "mental noise" as it comes and goes: if we don't interfere with it, it passes like clouds in the sky. By watching it come into being, exist, and cease, we directly experience its ephemeral nature. And, through this direct experience, we can learn to stop getting caught up in all of it (to stop getting attached to all of it).
How do we strengthen awareness? Through a consistent meditation practice. And, as we bring this awareness to our daily activities, we find it allows us to react less and less to the drama of our minds. We find we can better deal with stress and anxiety. And, even in the midst of anger and irritation, we find our decisions and actions are more skillful.
So, while the first arrow is simply the nature of reality, the second arrow is our own creation.
The good news is, we can be liberated from the second arrow!
We don't have to follow our minds wherever they lead, or be a victim to the suffering they create.
Stop dealing with the symptoms.
Stress, anxiety, self-confidence issues, the inability to stop bad habits, problems with sleep and focus, and on and on and on.
These and the other things we struggle with every day are only symptoms.
The good news is, they all share the same root cause. The bad news is, if you don't address that root cause, the symptoms will keep coming back no matter what you do.
That's why we wrote "An owner's guide to the mind." For almost 20 years, people have been using it to address the root cause of their daily struggles.
Click here to view the contents and learn more.