Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Second Arrow


Hi this is Tyler Woods. Things happen in our life. Sometimes things happen that are disappointing or hurtful and sometimes things happen where we can get frustrated or mad at someone but things happen. Our interpretation of what happens to us plays a huge role as to how we process what has happened. Whether it is a break-up, a loss of job, a car accident or a care breakdown, whether it is a family feud or some sort of crisis, things happen in our life. When things happen in my life, I try to use the Buddhist parable called the second arrow and it is about our reaction to a bad event.

There is a Buddhist parable referred to as The Second Arrow. This story is about the Buddha asking one of his students, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied , “It is.” The Buddha asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first, and with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.” Another way to state it: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

As a psychotherapist I see the fall out daily of people who suffer from the second arrow. This second arrow represents our reaction to a negative event. The second arrow can make the event much worse by the way we react. Sometimes when things happen, we can manage to get through it simply by how we react. For instance, let's say you lost your job. That is the first arrow. Ouch, you were not expecting that and it is painful and scary. Now here comes an opportunity to figure out what you do next. Do you want to stay home, drink and smoke weed and feel sorry for yourself?

The Buddha said, “We cling to diversions, rather than observing what is actually present, the arising and passing of feelings.” Basically, we avoid pain in ways that create suffering. So to avoid the fact that you lost your job, let's say you get stoned or drink all the time during this period. You watch TV for a distraction or maybe play games on your phone and game console and the next thing you know, your bills are due. You may find that you lose your car and get kicked out of your place. You begin to drink a little more, and use distractions to avoid work on a solution.

Soon you are suffering and are mad at the world because you lost your job. Then you internalize it and that my friends is the second arrow and it is the reaction to how you are going to deal with the loss of the job, which was the first arrow, drinking, drugging, watching TV, not doing anything to get a new job and hating yourself for it, well that my friend is the second arrow and it is a choice.

I get it, none of us want to suffer or feel the pain but I have to tell you that being able to accept and work through discomfort and pain will help you in the long run and help move you away from the pain and suffering. Dodging the bullet, or as we Buddhist say, avoiding the second arrow. The second arrow, unlike the first, is controllable. It is anguish caused by your thoughts after a hurtful blow takes place.

So, instead of working through the pain and discomfort of the first arrow, you find yourself adding pain and I get that it that it is far easier to go to the land of self medication where we use food, sex, TV, self-imposed punishment, weed, drugs like opioids or psychostimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. Oh and the big one, Video games or role playing games which can be especially seductive, because they offer an alternative fantasy world that someone can immerse themselves in, as a way to isolate themselves from the world. Avoidance causes great suffering.

I tell my clients that we need to try to move forward by embracing the discomfort and using it as a tool to learn how to cope in healthy ways rather than letting the second arrow cause you more pain. Basically, the best response we have to avoid the second arrow is learn how to respond positively not react negatively.

So the best way to dodge the arrow is Self-awareness. Be aware an event happened and it caused pain. Ask yourself a few questions like, are you willing to find space in your heart to go towards that pain with love and acceptance? Are you willing to embrace what’s going on with some kind of compassion for yourself? Can you let go of judgments of yourself and others? This clearly would be the beginning to stopping the second arrow. Looking at the event with love in your heart not anger and resentment.

When you start to feel sorry for yourself and go on and on about how you were wronged, or how awful life is, you sink into a hole and suffer because you lack love for yourself. Facing bad things or the first arrow head-on with love, you will see the positive results much more quickly.

Look at that pain. You have to remember that the second arrow never flies unless you resist the first. By resisting, you don’t help the situation. Your anger, disappointment, hurt, stress and worry only gets worse if you turn the second arrow inward. Rather than suffering and being angry and telling yourself you can't do anything, start to acknowledge the sensations of the first arrow without judgment.

Though it’s uncomfortable to experience, resisting what is happening or pretending it’s not there or there is nothing you can do and people are out to screw you over, doesn’t make it go away. Try leaning into your growth, by taking action. How many times have I heard it rendered me helpless, or I feel paralyzed. Yup that is because you decided to go ahead and let the second arrow hit you.

Look you are going to get struck with the first arrow often in life because things happen. It is part of life. The first arrow is going to strike. Here is the thing, do you have what it takes to stop the second arrow? Can you work towards the solution instead of staying in the problem? Can you stop the negative self-talk and find positive ways to get through it? I want you all to consider this, what would it look like to bring an open heart and a whole lotta love to the situation?

Think about it it, pain is inevitable that is the first arrow, but suffering which is the second arrow, that my friends is a choice. For now…this is Tyler Woods saying walk in peace.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Meaning Of Life


One day I was faced with an opportunity to ask a Rinpoche one question. He was in town staying at a friends house and I was invited to ask him one single question. I spent a week thinking about what one question I wanted to ask this holy man. I searched and searched and when that day came to stand before this man, I froze. Through his interpreter he asked me what my question was. I froze, completely froze, I really felt like a deer in the headlight and stuttered asked what the meaning of life was. I could not believe I said it. Today I am grateful as ever I ask this holy man what the meaning of life was, and a shower thought was came....

 That day was well over 20 years ago and yet his answer is as clear to me today as it was over 20 years ago. He laughed when I asked him what the meaning of life was. Then he had me remove my glasses and put my finger flat on my nose and up the bridge of my nose and he told me to look at him. I looked at him. I looked in his eyes and he smiled and said what do you see. I looked at him and said I see you. He smiled and said that was my problem, He told me I do not see what is right in front of my face. He nodded gave me a blessing and I walked out. What just happened? I felt dazed, blessed and confused. A holy man just told me the meaning of life was right in front of my face and it was a finger. Really?

 I would spend days and weeks trying to figure out what he meant by it. I am unsure what day it was when the answer came to me. I would like to think it was so clear to me that I figured out what the meaning of life was. I figured I would remember that day, the time and what I was doing when I discovered the meaning of life. There was no lightening or thunder, no fireworks or grand lights, it was just a sigh and a smile and nod as I whispered to myself I get it!

 I Tyler Woods figured out what the meaning of life. The meaning of life had been in front of my face all along! The meaning if life is relationship! Period, end of story! I know I know it is right in front of our faces right? The real meaning of life is simply relationship. It is not complicated; in fact it is so simple it is right in front of our face. Life is a process of relationships. If you stop and look in front of you, there is no life without relationship. We must face it, without relationship with, there is no existence, there is no life. We need to realize that everything is a relationship, and it is the meaning of life plain and simple.

 I am not talking about relationship with your friends, or family or people. I am talking about a relationship with everything. With our planet, with our friends as well as our enemy, with our hopes and fears, with our government, with our love,  with our hate, with our pain and sorrow, with our happiness and joy, and with our spirituality and beliefs. Everything we feel, touch, smell, love, hate, it is us having a relationship. When we realize we have a relationship with everything, we realize relationship is the meaning of life.

 I asked myself to look at everything in life as having a relationship with it. One day, something very painful came up for me, and I approached it like a relationship. I gave it love and care, and I nurtured it, I talked with it like an old friend. I asked it what it wanted, and I listened. I asked what it needed and it responded. My pain wanted to be seen, heard and then released. I had a great relationship with that pain and I let it go. Now I know when pain comes, not to run from it, but have the relationship it needs in order to let it go. Some days pain and I get along well and other days I cling onto pain even though I know it hurts.  It is the same with most my emotions, for instance, when anger knocks on my door for a visit, I let it in because I do not want to lock it out. 

I do try to set boundaries with anger, as I set boundaries with everything in my life. Anger was a tough one to have relationship with. Sometimes it made me scream and yell and throw things and even become bitter. Sometimes anger made me run from it and I thought holding onto it would keep me safe. Seems like the more I had relationship with anger, the more I understood anger, the tamer it got and the more I understood my anger just needed to be heard and understood.

 The more I began living my life with the knowledge that relationship was the meaning of life, the better person I became. I began to have a relationship with the planet. I started recycling, composting, doing things that helped the earth. I treated that relationship with my planet as if I needed to save her life and I respected my relationship with the ground I walked on. The more I came to realize that the meaning of life was relationship the lighter I become and the more focused I was. I came to realize that relationships exist at the level of unconscious and I had to become more conscious of my relationships.

 I started to understand life is about relationships and the better my relationship with it was, the better I  was able to  endure whatever happened to me and how I could unfold the possibilities of having relationship with everything.  Somebody sent me a message recently and ask me why I do not hate certain political figures. I smiled and said I don’t have a very good relationship with hate. They were clueless and probably thought I was crazy, but I do not have a relationship with caring what people think or say about me. I refuse to have a relationship with hate, but one day it knocked my door down pulling me towards it. I finally approached hate and asked what it wanted, come to find out, all hate wanted was to be understood. It was very hard to understand hate, and hate likes lots and lots of friends it doesn’t even know, so I keep hate pretty distant from my life because it is so strong it overpowers me. I just refuse to allow hate in my life. So no, I do not have a relationship with hate which made my relationship with patience and tolerance stronger.

 I discovered to have a relationship with life I needed virtues like humility, detachment or letting go, integrity, honor, courage, truth, justice, self-control, and the ability to accept. The more harmonious I came with these virtues, the more I was able to discover the meaning of life. So that holy man who said I did not see things right in front of my face lead to the real meaning of life, and no longer do I say I froze or my question was stupid, it was the greatest question I ever asked because I now know the meaning of life.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dealing With Toxic People Through Compassion

Today I want to talk about when a toxic person or group come into your life and you come across them, how do you cope and deal and learn to let go. I have tried to choose a Buddhist point of view. Yes a more spiritual point of view but Spirituality is not about becoming the person that you are supposed to be, or about doing the "spiritual" thing. To be spiritual is to compassionately welcome your truth -- what you actually feel -- whether you like that truth or not.

Not too long ago I ran into a group of people that have passed rumors about me and tried to get a community to act against me and were toxic to me as their intent has been to create harm to me.  They lied, they conspired and they got people to choose sides by being relentless about their dishonesty. There was a group of them the toxic person and their faithful followers.  What surprised me so much when I happened to bump into them was my reaction towards them. In the past I had hurt and anger, but this time, I only had compassion for them. I did not get angry or upset or think why me, I just figured why not me.

I really began to understand that these negative people provide us with a test. Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. This group of people would end up being my greatest teacher. I understand that it is easy to accept pleasant people and circumstance, but practicing acceptance with regards to people and circumstance that we find difficult or challenging or that is filled with negative intent is a true path to spiritual growth.

I learned I had to accept these people for who they were and I knew they were suffering and it I understood it was about spiritual growth in Buddhism and they were my teachers in compassion.

Dishonest and toxic people who have caused you deliberate harm can make you feel angry and hurt and even bring back the moments in life where they mistreated you, lied and then created a hate bond can be dealt with in a Buddhist manner. No you do not have to be Buddhist to practice Buddhist teaching. Here is the bottom line, even if they deserve your bitterness, hurt and anger, you should not hold onto it. Carrying those feelings and holding onto them can only create harm to you and you allow the toxic people to win. Do you really want to give that to them?

You see toxic people suffer from many problems such as pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, depression and have fallen off the emotional wagon. Some of these people are so unhappy they have to take medications to keep them functional in society. They suffer so much, they tend to gather other people who are suffering like them to walk beside them. With that said, the practical approach to anyone who is suffering is through compassion. Now I get that many get confused what compassion means so let me just simplify it. Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering. Pretty easy right? Not really! It takes an awful lot of meditation, peace of mind and practice. We will get to that later.

So let’s simplify what a toxic person is. A toxic person is someone who lacks empathy and boast about their honesty so they don’t even see the problem with being dishonest with themselves as well as others. The biggest concern with toxic people is they bring down others in order to bring up their own self-worth and self-esteem. They will spread rumors and use words to try to inflict pain and suffering because of their own personal pain and suffering.

In fact these toxic people who we have learned are people who choose to suffer, are creating negative Karma for themselves and the conditions for their future of unhappiness and suffering. They become more judgmental and unhappy. They should learn from a great spiritual leader who said, “Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”

I have to say I am not perfect. I fail at compassion and acceptance every day, in many ways, I do find that my daily spiritual practice and meditation makes it easier for me to live and act from a centered, peaceful place. Loving Kindness. Recently I had a person I knew who was addicted to her trauma. I felt myself having so little compassion for that person because that was all they focused on. It got to a point where they are no longer in my life as I would not allow it, and they became so attached to their suffering, they found others who wanted to suffer with them. I lost a couple quote friends that day because I refused to become the injury they were attached to. At first when I spoke of these people, I used words of anger, but today when I awoke, I got how much pain and affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, depression attention seeking behaviors and desperation they had and I had utter compassion for them. It was like a house was lifted off my chest. I knew the universe was taking care of me by having me see their utter suffering and dependence on their suffering.
Carrying around your hurt and pain for another person leads to tension and unhappiness within you, so it is best to set aside grudges, if only for your own sake. Also, appreciate the opportunities that your enemies provide for you to practice your patience and loving kindness!

People you dislike will indeed give you the chance to deepen your practice. In any case, by wishing that your enemies be “well, happy, and peaceful,” by wishing that they encounter no “difficulties” or “problems,” you wish to remove the conditions that made them your enemies in the first place. In other words, by practicing loving kindness even toward people you don’t like or have with intent caused you harm, you help create a better, happier, more peaceful world for everyone.

If this practice is something you struggle to do, I suggest incorporating it into your daily meditation practice. Here is the thing though, you do not have to hold onto their suffering.  Really why make their suffering create suffering for your own self. So when I was faced with a group of people whose only intent is to cause me harm, I surprised myself that a feeling of compassion came over me rather than fear, anger and hurt. I had discovered I had let their pain go! I believe the deeper I became in my present moment, the now, the deeper my inner peace got and the easier it was for me to not react when confronted with their energetic hostility. I really understood that the feelings get lighter when you realize toxic people are simply suffering.
So if you work with a toxic colleague, clients or in an environment where people are, just be mindful that they are wounded and suffering. If you can see that they are the ones trying to pass their suffering onto you, then it becomes easier to let go of anger and resentment and just have compassion for them. I have days where I do really well and someday where my own suffering gets in the way. That is good though because it shows me I have more work to do through my spiritual practices.

The Buddhist mantra for mean and very toxic people goes as such. I use it daily, I would love to gift it to you from my compassionate heart to yours.
May my enemies be well, happy, and peaceful
May no harm come to them
May no difficulties come to them
May no problems come to them
May they always meet with success
May they also have patience, courage, understanding, have determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Buddhist Approach to Lies

I dislike being lied to by people I think I trust. We all go through a good friend or family member who lied to us and we feel a loss, but wait! Maybe I have gained more compassion and perhaps a pathway to more patience and tolerance. Still, when we discover we were lied to,  we can feel sad and hurt, or even angry and that is okay for a few moments. I guess the question is why do people lie? So I decided to take a Buddhist approach. First, one must know lies hurt. When people lie, even if they think others will never find out, it create a barrier in your relationship with that person.  Lying destroys people because it takes them into a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult to get free from.

Once someone tells a lie, they usually have to lie again to cover up the first lie, and they feel even worse, if they have the ability to feel guilt. In my case, this particular person really does not feel any sort of guilt. Still, lies grow, they never stand alone, and they need more lies to support the first lie. Thus the cycle of habitual lying starts. In Buddhism this is not the path to love truthfulness and compassion, and is clearly not a karmic path I would want to follow.

Trying to understand the physical aspect of lying is important. When people lie, it stimulates three main sections of the brain. Lying activates the frontal lobe for its role in the truth-suppressing process, the limbic system due to the anxiety that comes with deception, and the temporal lobe because it's responsible for retrieving memories and creating mental imagery. Here is something else, the more you lie, the more the internal conflict of lying diminishes. People stop feeling so bad about lying. They no longer worry or feel guilty about lying. That's not so great really because if the liar no longer feels like lying is a big deal this affects their karma and their spiritual growth.

We need to have compassion because we have to understand that people lie for reasons. So why do people lie? It is hard to give just one reason. One has to look at a variety of reasons. Some people lie because telling the truth feels like giving up control. Some lie because the truth can be inconvenient. Fear seems to be the number one reason why people lie. They are afraid to upset someone, lose their job, and because they are fearful of losing the respect of those around them. They want you to like them so much they lie to get the likes. People lie to have acceptance, to get approval and attention. Sometimes they lie to be appreciated.

Unlike Christianity, there is no rule/commandment in Buddhism about lying however, the Buddha believed in order to find enlightenment, to walk in peace, we need to abstain from falsehood. In Buddhism, being truthful goes beyond simply not telling lies. It means speaking truthfully and honestly, and it also means using speech to benefit others, and not to use it to benefit only ourselves.

For me as someone who practices the philosophies of Buddhism or at least work daily on practicing, I ask myself what to do about someone who lies constantly. I get and understand we need to have compassion. Nobody likes being lied to, and the natural reaction is to call the liar out, but that’s not always the smartest thing to do. I tend to be surrounded with people who lie. I think it is a past life thing really. However, in this lifetime I get that lies can be harmful, and I try to have compassion for those who lie.

So I pretty much get that the person lying is not willing to have enlightenment, and that they are living a hurtful life to themselves and others, so when I see it in that way, and meditate and make sure I see it like that, I can have compassion and move on no matter how big the lie. I get to understand it is part of their brain structure and personality and for that compassion needs to be a must. Please remember compassion when loved ones are dishonest.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Stay In the Now

A client comes to me very upset and having severe anxiety about something. I calm her down by having her take a deep breath. I say to her;
"Where are you right now?
"In your office"
"Are you safe?"
"Think about the anxiety you had yesterday. Do you feel anxiety?"
"Think about what you just said about next week, does it make you anxious?"
"Come back to right now. You are sitting with me, in my office breathing and you feel comfortable correct?"
"Look at me, do you feel peace when you see me?"
"So why do you make a choice to go to the future?"
"I don't know I just do it."
"What if you just didn't do it?"
"That would be hard."
"Is it because you said so."
"Yeah I guess so."
"Is it because you automatically go there?"
"I did not think of that but yeah."
"Good, you just won half the battle."
"What's the other half?"
"Stay in the now!"
Did you know that 95% subconscious mind is on autopilot? We do almost everything by habit and unconscious habit at that. How do we break that? Recognizing it is part of the battle, the other part, simple, be present. By staying in the now, being mindful,  we are creating a healthy habit. When we bounce over to the future or roll back onto the past we start a habit. Practicing how to stay present in the now is just creating a new habit. Of course it is easier said than done. The quickest way to get you to pay attention to the now is to simply breathe and pay attention to your breath. The wonderful thing about breathing is it will always lead you home to the now.