Thursday, December 5, 2013

Beware of the Second Arrow.

"We are not punished for our anger, we are punished by our anger. In other words, anger is its own karma." ~ Eknath Easwaran

A prominent Buddhist in our community was once given the task of lecturing a small group of students on the topic of pain. It was part of a larger lecture series on mindfulness. Sadly, as his talk was positioned to the end of the evening schedule - he was left with only just 10 minutes to speak.

It seems the other Buddhist lecturers were not so very mindful of time management.

But, I digress...

All eyes followed as he took his place at the podium. What could possibly be shared in the timespan of ten short minutes that would lend itself so fully to this topic of mindfulness?

And as he stood there shuffling his note cards, and stroking his beard in careful contemplation - with a knowing smile, he leaned forward to say,

"Beware of the second arrow."

He was referring to a concept in Buddhism called 'dukkha' - a Pali word that has been used to describe the spiritual side to trauma...the anxiety, the stress...the inescapable fear and loathing that captures our mind in an endless dialogue of dread.

These are the emotions which are built upon the stories we tell...and in most cases, form the basis of our own internal suffering.

In the United States, we tend to use pain and suffering interchangeably. But, the Buddha taught that there is a critical distinction between the initial pain brought about by an intensely damaging physical or mental event, and the pain we develop in reaction to that event.

The Buddha also taught that although pain is inevitable, there is a path that leads to the end of our suffering.

And, that path isn't wrapped up inside the perceived 'security' of our stories.

Neither is it nestled within the, 'what if' or 'what might have been'  scenarios.

Rather, the end of our suffering resides within our recognition of that which just simply is.

The flowers will bloom magnificently, and we will be honored by the grace of her fragrance. But, eventually the flower will wilt towards the earth.

Thus begins the cycle, once again.

"It's part of being human to feel discomfort. We don't even have to call it suffering anymore; we don't even have to call it discomfort. It's simply coming to know the fireyness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval of earth, as well as the warmth of fire, the coolness and smoothness of water, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. The four elements take on different qualities; they're like magicians. Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another.... The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon." ~Pema Chodron; "Awakening Loving-Kindness"

There is a most brilliant analogy to demonstrate this conflict of clinging. Clench a coin tightly in your first, and with palms upward - open your hand. Now do the same thing with your palm facing towards the ground.

In both cases, the coin is in your possession but how you hold it is up to you.

If you want to feel the true nature of happiness and bliss, you must find a way to leave behind the negativity of look deeper to where true contentment resides.

My dears, nothing in this world is ever permanent - and it's always our choice how we respond to that 'second arrow.'

Namaste and much love, my most beautiful friends. And remember, that which we allow is that which continues.