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I love this so much. It’s a teaching that I first heard from Thich Nhat Hahn about pain and suffering. Pain is part of human experience. We cannot avoid pain if we are in a human body, but suffering is something different. Suffering comes with the shooting of the 2nd arrow.
The first arrow is the pain we experience. The first arrow hits us and creates a pain. Physical pain, emotional pain. Then there is the 2nd arrow that shoots right into the first arrow. We usually shoot the 2nd arrow before we know it. Shooting the 2nd arrow is the stories we tell ourselves about the pain. It’s the identification that we ARE the pain. It’s the judgements about the pain. This 2nd arrow causes much more suffering. The first arrow, in a way, is innocent. Pain comes and goes as part of being human. We experience loss, heartache, physical pains. Adding more suffering on top of pain comes from the stories we spin based on the initial pain of the 1st arrow.
Recently I have had the privilege of watching my beloved practice NOT shooting the 2nd arrow and it has helped me not shoot the 2nd arrow as well. A few months ago my husband experienced great physical pain (1st arrow), and it looked from the outside like he was also suffering a great deal. This caused me emotional pain to see him like that and then I shot my own 2nd arrow and suffered greatly. One day he said to me, you are suffering more that me. I am in pain, yes, but I am not suffering with stories and fears and what ifs. I accept this pain and it comes and goes. But I am not suffering.
That stopped me in my tracks. It was when I had to face my core fear of him dying. And then I stopped shooting the 2nd arrow, mostly successfully. Not always. Its helping me see when I am about to go into fear-based stories, fears of what’s going to happen, stories of this is awful, this is sad, this is , this is. And I stop for a moment to recognise the stories I’m spinning and not intensify the suffering by shooting that 2nd arrow.
So I also began to suffer less by recognising when I’m about to shoot a 2nd arrow and instead I PAUSE …
I don’t have to shoot the 2nd arrow
I can breathe and I find the space in and all around me to be with what is. Even with pain. Feel it fully. Even the fears. Face them courageously. There is no denial of what is happening and there is no need to spin a story and shoot a second arrow to increase suffering.
And then I remember once more
No thing is permanent.
And Every thing is love