You can’t make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes will flow naturally. You don’t have to force anything, struggle, or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. It is automatic; you just change. But arriving at that initial insight is quite a task. You have to see who you are and how you are without illusion, judgment, or resistance of any kind.
“the keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming strong social ties—that is, having a broad circle of friends and good family relations.”
a hunter, a European hunter, was lost in a forest in Africa. Suddenly he came upon a few huts. He had never heard that a village existed in that thick forest; it was not on any map. So he approached the chief of the village, and said, ‘It is a pity that you are lost to civilization.’ The chief said, ‘No, it is not a pity. We are always afraid of being discovered – once civilization comes in we are lost.’
Releasing the Arrow
by Thich Nhat Hanh from No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
There is a Buddhist teaching found in the Sallatha Sutta, known as The Arrow. It says if an arrow hits you, you will feel pain in that part of your body where the arrow hit; and then if a second arrow comes and strikes exactly at the same spot, the pain will not be only double, it will become at least ten times more intense.
The unwelcome things that sometimes happen in life—being rejected, losing a valuable object, failing a test, getting injured in an accident—are analogous to the first arrow. They cause some pain. The second arrow, fired by our own selves, is our reaction, our storyline, and our anxiety. All these things magnify the suffering. Many times, the ultimate disaster we’re ruminating upon hasn’t even happened. We may worry, for example, that we have cancer and that we’re going to die soon. We don’t know, and our fear of the unknown makes the pain grow even bigger.
The second arrow may take the form of judgment (“how could I have been so stupid?”), fear (“what if the pain doesn’t go away?”), or anger (“I hate that I’m in pain. I don’t deserve this!”). We can quickly conjure up a hell realm of negativity in our minds that multiplies the stress of the actual event, by ten times or even more. Part of the art of suffering well is learning not to magnify our pain by getting carried away in fear, anger, and despair. We build and maintain our energy reserves to handle the big sufferings; the little sufferings we can let go.
There are two different ways man can intend to grow spiritually. One is through conscious intention, and one is through getting bounced around enough that one has to go there out of necessity. That is “hitting a bottom,” if you wish, or having an experience of being confronted with something that the conscious mind, and the tools that the conscious mind has had to fix it, suddenly fail. So people learn that way all the time and we do not judge it.
“When we grow in spiritual consciousness, we identify with all that is in the world. And there is no exploitation. It is ourselves we are helping. It is ourselves we are healing.”