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It's okay to be doing okay during hard times

“The Arrow”

“The Arrow”

Guilt is often counterproductive. It makes us feel paralyzed. However, when we are in this state, we are not helping anyone.

One Buddhist teaching could be helpful as one wrestles with this problem. It's found in a discourse called the Sallatha Sutta, known as "The Arrow." When someone has a painful experience, like a physical illness or witnessing suffering, it's as if the world has shot an arrow into the person. The pain is normal. When one tries to make up a story around the pain, you shoot a second arrow into yourself.

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It's okay to be doing okay during hard times

It's okay to be doing okay during hard times

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/5/1/21242047/coronavirus-pandemic-guilt-buddhism

vox.com

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Key Ideas

Feeling guilty for being ok

During 2020, some have lost loved ones, some are working on the front lines, while other's don't have enough food or a safe place to live.

If you are not one of these people, you may feel gratitude, and maybe a bit of guilt. You may feel uncomfortable or even shameful to be enjoying comforts while others are in distress.

Suffering with others

It is comforting to know that other people have wrestled with the same questions we're facing, and have left us their best wisdom.

  • The Mahayana branch of Buddhism includes the idea of a bodhisattva - a person who's is willing to postpone their own ultimate well-being in order to help others along the path to their well-being. Ask yourself if you're willing to suffer a bit more.
  • The Buddhist teaching of the Middle Way warns against both extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence.

“The Arrow”

Guilt is often counterproductive. It makes us feel paralyzed. However, when we are in this state, we are not helping anyone.

One Buddhist teaching could be helpful as one wrestles with this problem. It's found in a discourse called the Sallatha Sutta, known as "The Arrow." When someone has a painful experience, like a physical illness or witnessing suffering, it's as if the world has shot an arrow into the person. The pain is normal. When one tries to make up a story around the pain, you shoot a second arrow into yourself.

The second arrow

The second arrow can manifest as shame ("I'm such a weak person...") anger ("How dare they...!"), guilt ("I don't deserve to..."), rumination ("If only...") or catastrophizing (I'm going to die, too!").

The second arrow is self-inflicted; in other words, it's optional and the cause of your suffering. If you are brave enough to look at the initial painful feeling, you can avoid making up a story around that second feeling that will cause you to suffer.

Buddhist teachings for approaching bad news

When you receive bad news:

  • Recognize that a first arrow has hit you. A piece of news caused you pain.
  • Accept what is happening. Let yourself feel the emotions arising from it. Name them, but don't get caught up in them.
  • Then investigate the emotions. Unpack the guilt. Is it arising because you're not living in line with your values? Have you taken on more than your share of responsibility, but still feel guilty? Are you avoiding taking action where you are able to?
  • Nurture yourself. Maybe you can journal or call a friend. Also strive to nurture others by volunteering or making a donation.

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