Have you ever been stuck in heavy traffic on your way home from a long and tedious day at work? As your car rolls ever so slowly behind a large semi-truck that clearly didn’t pass it’s smog check, you begin to say things in your head like “Why does this shit always happen to me?” or “Why can’t I catch a damn break?“
In a situation like this, it’s hard to not get frustrated and let’s be honest; it’s only human—right?
In Buddhist traditions they speak of something called the second arrow. The concept of the second arrow is very simple:
Let’s pretend for a minute that we’ve somehow traveled back in time to a century where bow and arrows are still used to hunt and fight. Now, let’s say that we end up at the wrong place at the wrong time and before we knew it, POW, we’re hit! Right in the leg!
Don’t worry, it’s merely a flesh wound but damn, it stings like a son of a bitch!
Overwhelmed with pain, we curse the bastard who shot us and what’s worse, we curse our luck for having put us in such vicarious position.
In other words, we have the pain from the arrow which is one problem, but we also suffer from more pain (the 2nd arrow) when we tell ourselves stories about our problem!
Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about getting shot in the leg by a bow and arrow any time soon!
The point of the story, however, can be applicable to our lives today—especially in situations such as being stuck in traffic.
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. The simple truth is that being stuck in traffic isn’t that big of a deal…. What makes it a big deal is the story we tell ourselves about the traffic.
This kind of storytelling, if not seen through a filter of mindfulness, can cloud our judgment and make us create problems out of thin air.
The title of this post is “Don’t Make the Problem 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. Furthermore, when you’re aware of your stories, you can simply choose better stories to believe!
There is an old beautiful old maxim that states “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to what happens to you.”
Our perspective in life is more important than we realize and fortunately, mindfulness helps us take back control of the narratives our minds want us to so desperately 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 what stories it’s trying to tell you. See the stories as stories and choose how you want to respond.
When you master your stories you might feel like a proverbial weight has been lifted off your shoulders. What’s even more surprising is that through mindfulness, you might begin to enjoy those experiences that used to cause you so much stress and hardship in the past.
And lastly, if you don’t believe me, take it from Mr. William Shakespeare who once said “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!
Until next time,
Many many blessings