My yoga instructor is one of the wisest women I know. She recently told me a story about The Second Arrow which helped me understand something I had recently experienced.
I had been in a nasty mood. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s almost like a bunch of small annoyances build up into a volcanic eruption of emotions. None of them good.
A friend of mine did something that I perceived to be dishonest. So I called her on it. Not in my usual diplomatic, easy going way. I accused her of lacking integrity and not leading by example—in writing—by private Facebook message. UGH!
That was the FIRST ARROW.
The First Arrow typically comes towards us in the form of circumstances or things that happen either intentionally or unintentionally.
My friend’s response was as you would imagine. She was “confused and taken aback.” And offended. She offered me an explanation as to why she had done what she’d done even though 1) it was none of my business, and 2) she didn’t have to.
Then came the SECOND ARROW.
After a while I began to realize what I’d done. I was miserable. For days. I kept trying to figure out—and even justify—why I’d verbally attacked my friend. There was no explanation. I’d made a mistake and now I had to live with it. For 48 hours I rode a roller coster of emotions. Guilt, sadness, disbelief, numbness, and a very, heavy heart were my constant companions.
Sometimes I would feel normal and then it would hit me all over again. My inclination was to keep myself busy so I didn’t have to feel it. But I knew this would only prolong the process. So when it hit me, I would sit down and feel it. Really FEEL it. I let it wash over me until I felt like I was drowning in it. And it was horrible.
This is where the Second Arrow comes in. It’s all about choice. I could wallow in the pit of negativity for the rest of my days, pretend it never happened or change my perspective. I decided on door #3. And the first thing I had to do to climb out of the hole I had dug myself into was to call my friend. Not an easy thing to do, but I did it. No one likes excuses so I didn’t make any. I simply apologized.
The Second Arrow represents the pain and suffering we bring upon ourselves when we choose suffering over freedom.
The Second Arrow can stay or go. It’s our choice.
Which choice will you make?
PS: My friend’s response was, “apology accepted.” And the arrow that had pierced my downtrodden heart disappeared. Just like that.