What if I told you that YOU are part of the problem? What if I told you that most of the problems that hold us back in life are self-made? Would you believe me?
Have you ever been stuck in heavy traffic on your way home from a long and tedious day at work and with each passing minute you can feel your blood begin to boil? As your car rolls ever so slowly behind a large truck that clearly didn’t pass it’s smog check, you begin to say things in your head like “Why does it seem like these things always happen to me?” or “Why can’t I catch a damn break? “
Well, if you are like me and you commute to work you have probably lived this experience several times over. It’s hard to not get frustrated and le
t’s be honest; it’s only human—right? Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news (or good news depending how you take it) but this kind of frustration towards external circumstances is not necessary and in almost all cases, is completely our own fault.
In Buddhist traditions they speak of something called the second arrow. The concept of the second arrow is actually very simple. Let’s pretend for a minute that we are somehow transported back to a time where bow and arrows were still used to hunt and to even wage wars. Now let’s say that you ended up the wrong place at the wrong time and before you knew it, POW, you get hit! Right in the leg! Don’t worry, its not life threatening but boy does it sting! Overwhelmed with pain, you curse the person who shot the arrow and even more so, you curse your luck for having put you in such vicarious position.
Luckily for us we don’t have to worry about getting shot in the leg with a bow and arrow, but the point of the story can be applicable to our lives today—especially when stuck in traffic. Let’s examine the traffic scenario a little closer. Is being stuck in traffic a problem? Yes, one might experience traffic that way, but the bigger problem is actually the second problem that we create in our head; the “Why me?” problem. Because truth be told, being stuck in traffic isn’t really that big of a deal. What makes it a big deal is the story we tell ourselves about being stuck in traffic.
As humans we can only see the world through one set of eyes and because of this, we experience everything from one perspective. This perspective, if not seen through a mindful lens, can cloud our judgment and make us create problems out of thin air. It’s one thing to be stuck in traffic-- that’s what we would call the 1st arrow, but it’s an entirely different thing to believe that somehow this traffic was created to ruin our day. This is the second arrow that can be so dangerous to our wellbeing.
The title of this post is “Don’t make the problem into a problem.” This means to watch out for that second arrow. If you’re stuck in traffic, that’s one problem but the beauty of mindfulness is we get to choose how we interpret our situation and that interpretation is where we can find meaning, peace and happiness.
There is a beautiful old maxim that goes like this: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to what happens to you.” Knowing this is powerful because we can then master our stories. We can stop them before we feel our blood pressure rise and look at them through a different point of view. Your perspective in life is more important than most people realize and mindfulness helps you take back control of the narratives your mind so desperately wants you to believe.
So, next time you’re waiting in line at the movies, or you’re stuck in traffic, or you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, STOP!!! Watch you mind and notice the stories it’s trying to tell you. See the stories as just stories and choose how you want to respond. Long lines give you an opportunity to spend extra time chatting with your loved ones. Being stuck in traffic allows you to listen to some good music on your way home. And having a full plate at work might mean that your boss has faith in you and that’s why they are asking you to do so much.
When you master your stories you might feel like the proverbial weight has been lifted off your shoulders and even more so, you might begin to enjoy those experience that used to cause you so much anguish.
If you don’t believe me take it from Mr. William Shakespeare who once said several generations ago “Nothing in life is good or bad, except thinking makes it so.”
Thank you for reading this and as always we would love to hear from you! Let us know if you have transformed a particularly frustrating experience in your life into one that brings you peace and joy!
And until next time, many many blessings :)