The Two Arrows

By Shastri Brett Ferrigan.  

A parable called “The Two Arrows” explores the Buddhist teachings on reactivity and how we often relate to our feelings.

When we encounter something that leads to pain–which can include disappointment or dissatisfaction—we often begin a series of cognitive processes, i.e., “thinking” which can lead to more suffering — often adding more pain than there was originally.  We experience aversion to the initial dissatisfaction, and then indulge in blaming, and criticism, and posturing and narration.   So it’s as if our response to being shot by an arrow is to shoot ourselves with another, second arrow.

A wiser course of action is to avoid that second arrow by simply experiencing discomfort without reacting to it.  We do this by being mindful — cultivating a patient, non-reactive, curious, and welcoming attitude towards anything in our experience that seems unpleasant.

The practice of sitting meditation, or calm abiding, can give us the opportunity to see first hand our own reactivity—whether we are experiencing strong emotions or even periods of simple boredom.  Our tendency to narrate and build story lines about any discomfort—however large or small—can often take us away from the possibility of having a simple and direct experience of the present moment.  In meditation practice we learn to come back to the present moment in a non-judgmental  way by simply coming back to the breath over and over again. 

In this way we can learn to avoid that second arrow by simply experiencing discomfort without reacting to it.  We do this by being mindful — cultivating a patient, non-reactive, curious, and welcoming attitude towards anything in our experience that seems unpleasant. 

Our one day workshop, The Two Arrows, will be offered Saturday, May 27th.  The program includes sitting meditation, talks, discussion and exercises to begin a gentle exploration of the very human tendency towards emotional reactivity.

Click here for registration information:  The Two Arrows

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