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Parable of the 2 arrows – Distinguishing between pain and suffering.


While painting this woman with 2 arrows, I was thinking about the parable of the 2 arrows.

Watch the video above or read the parable below:

Parable of the 2 Arrows

Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?”

The student replied , “It is.”

Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?”

The student replied, “It is.”

Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow…

…however, the second arrow is our reaction to the first.

With the second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”

Pain vs Suffering

I love this story because it’s a reminder that painful things happen in life – this is the 1st arrow.

That’s the pain part of being human that’s unavoidable.

Pain from the 1st arrow:
💔 grief of death
💔 loss of a breakup or divorce
💔 regret of a lost opportunity
💔 powerlessness of a lost job
💔 vulnerability of physical illness

2nd arrow suffering happens with our reaction to the painful events of life and what we make them mean (especially about ourselves). 😟

2nd arrow suffering:
😢 This shouldn’t have happened
😢 I’m unlovable
😢 I’m defective
😢 I’m not good enough
😢 I’m a failure

Being human means that 1st arrow pain is going to happen throughout life.

It also means that 2nd arrow suffering is optional.

We can choose to give up the unhelpful stories and meaning-making we give to the circumstances of the 1st arrow.

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  1. Rita on June 7, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Maritza, I absolutely love this story. It is so aligned with your concept of taking control of our life and emotions when we have the opportunity to do so instead of ” letting life happen to us”. I feel inspired to look for the moments and circumstances when I can remember this lesson and direct my feelings to a better place and outcome. Thank you so much.

    • Maritza Parra on June 7, 2019 at 10:15 am

      Rita, thank you for your comment! This story is so helpful to me too!

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