“Have you had lunch yet?” I asked Fred, hoping he hadn’t eaten the leftover spaghetti.
“Yes. I ate the spaghetti,” he said. “It was good.”
Argh! Now I’d need to figure out something else to make for dinner. One more thing to do on top of all the extra work I’ve had to do because Fred’s been sick with a stomach bug.
Notice. I reminded myself, remembering the podcasts I’d listened to recently. Notice what you feel. Notice what you’re saying to yourself.
I noticed how Fred’s action upset me and made my life more difficult. This awareness helped me move from being trapped inside my feelings and reactivity to observing them. I continued to observe and noticed how much I focused on myself. I noticed the “me” and “my” in my internal dialogue.
Another observation came into my periphery. Fred felt well enough to eat the spaghetti. That led me to consider what the last few days were like for him. Sure, I had to do some of the housework he was supposed to do before our next house exchange but that was more pleasant than being sick. I felt compassion for Fred and was grateful that he was eating again.
I noticed something else coming into my awareness. Judgment. I can be so selfish, so focused on my needs, so concerned with fairness, so petty, and so fixed in my ways… Ah yes. The second arrow.
The first arrow came when something I didn’t like happened to me. That arrow, Tara Brach says, is unavoidable. But we don’t have to accept the second arrow, the arrow of self-judgment. It isn’t helpful and doesn’t lead to transformation.
So I turned away from the critical narrative and offered myself compassion and curiosity. Of course, you felt disappointed. This is more than you hoped you would have to do. What were you hoping for?
I was hoping Fred would have fixed himself something else for lunch so I wouldn’t have to make dinner again. I already had food for myself. He just needed something he could eat. Then I realized I could just ask him if he could do that.
Of course, he could and did since he was feeling better.
But that isn’t the end of the story. I noticed more. I noticed that my view widened and compassion came as I stayed present with my initial reaction and offered myself compassion and curiosity. For so long, I’ve judged myself for reacting selfishly. But isn’t that the way we’re wired to survive? And isn’t it wonderful to discover that we don’t have to stay there?
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others,
you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
–Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)
∗ ∗ ∗
My blog post today was inspired by this podcast by Tara Brach The Wise Heart of Radical Acceptance. She talks about the arrows at 12:18. What I heard from Tara was echoed in a Hints of Gladness podcast called You’re Okay: Stop Trying to Fix Yourself. In this podcast, my friend Rod Janz interviews Don Joseph Goewey who just published a book he edited called Stop Fixing Yourself by Anthony de Mello.
What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.