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Posted By Opening the Heart

Yes Peter, you are! You may not be wise enough, but you're certainly old enough to know that no one, no possession, no relationship with another person is going to guarantee your unabated happiness until the day you die.

Your life has given you, and will continue to give you, many happy times - for which you are grateful. But life has also doled out, and will inevitably continue to dole out, difficult, tough and painful challenges. Learning how to deal with these unavoidable challenges is the "responsibility piece." Taking responsibility for appropriately responding to life's difficulties will immeasurably increase your overall happiness.

The Buddha spoke about this in a metaphor. In the hussle and tussle of the "battle" of life we cannot avoid being struck by "arrows."  The arrows take many forms, some of which go deep: sickness, loss, being ill-treated, being used or abused. Others just "graze our skin" - being unjustly reprimanded at work, being cut off in the fast lane. The wounds inflicted by these strikes can be anywhere from excruciatingly painful to mildly irritating. But it is in how we choose to show up to the strikes that we need to take on the responsibility of developing and practicing awareness. (Uh-oh - is this the part that sucks??)

The Buddha continued his analogy by speaking of another, deeper wound, inflicted by a second arrow - one that we shoot into ourselves as we react to the first. The second arrow is fired by our untrained or unskillful heart/mind.

Three Examples:

First Arrow: the 'love of your life' leaves you for another. Second Arrow: to avoid fully feeling the pain of your loss, you indulge blame, anger, even hatred for your former partner and his/her new lover - you suffer!

First Arrow: your small child is diagnosed with a serious condition. Second Arrow: to avoid fully feeling the fear that goes along with the frightening news, you indulge blame of yourself or the pediatrician for not catching the symptoms earlier - you suffer!

First Arrow: you are afflicted by unspeakable psychological trauma while serving in Afghanistan. Second Arrow: instead of getting appropriate help you seek forgetfullness in alcohol and indulge aggresive behavior in you family - you suffer!

In all these examples the first arrow represents unavoidable pain. The second, self inflicted arrow represents suffering. Suffering can be mitigated or avoided altogether by becoming aware that it is actually a choice. Learning how to catch the moment when the choice is made is completely your own responsibility.

The older we get, the more resistant to change we seem to get. Any push towards change - especially a change of habit - can result in a "this sucks" reaction. But if ineffective, inappropriate and unskilful habitual responses to life's challenges produce more suffering, doesn't it seem worthwhile to learn a new skill that will ultimately improve the chance of greater happiness?

At the Opening the Heart Workshop™ we teach the skills of showing up to the raw emotions that arise in the face of difficult circumstance. We show how to recognize the critical difference between dealing with pain and being submerged in suffering. And in  the many years that this workshop has been run we have yet to have a participant leave at the end saying "That sucked".

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