Thursday, February 7, 2013

Arrows into Flowers


My attack thoughts are attacking my invulnerability. ~A Course in Miracles

The story is told of Mara, the evil demon, who attacked Buddha as he was sitting under the tree where he became enlightened. Mara instructed his army to shoot all their arrows at Buddha, but as the arrows drew near, they turned into flowers and fell to the ground.

I have been thinking about this image a lot lately. I mentioned before that I have been struggling with a particular situation in my life that continues to challenge me, to keep me on the razor’s edge, to give me repeated opportunities to practice compassion, fearlessness, and forgiveness.

One of most disturbing aspects for me is the intense hostility that is directed at me and at one of my children. How do I keep my heart open towards this person and at the same time defend myself and my family from the negative energy that is hurled towards us with such rage? It’s like reaching out with one hand while raising the other hand in defense. It’s exhausting!

But then I remembered this story about Buddha and Mara. And the above quote from A Course in Miracles. Ah, the problem is in the concept of defense. Defense presumes attack. If I see myself as attacked, then it is natural to defend myself, even to attack in return. In fact, I’m not sure there is really a difference between defending and attacking. Both involve my seeing the other person as separate from myself. Both involve my judging that other person as a threat, as someone to be feared.

Buddha didn’t defend himself against the arrows of Mara’s army. There was no need. The arrows were no threat to him. What was intended for harm was harmless.

So when I feel disturbed by this situation, I’ve been trying a new approach. I picture the anger coming in our direction as arrows, arrows that turn into flowers and fall gently to the ground. They carpet the earth all around us with soft petals like the cherry blossoms in the spring that we call “pink snow.” No energy is expended; my heart stays open naturally; my spirit remains at peace.

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn, 
Tigers no place to use their claws.
And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so?
Because he has no place for death to enter.
~Tao Te Ching

related posts: The Circle with No Exit; The Dance of Fear; Forgiveness, the Final Frontier

[I will be away from my computer from later today until Saturday. Because I have comment moderation, there may be a delay in seeing your comments appear. Your comments are valuable and valued, so please leave your comment and be assured that I will publish it immediately upon my return.]

39 comments:

  1. I do like this poem, flowers for arrows is a lovely thought, and I will bring this to mind again I'm sure. The last line, because he has no place for death to enter, what a strong vision, and can be applied in so many situations in life. That in itself is the key, We know, all things have everything to do with our reactions, to things. I want to share a quote I read again yesterday, it's so important, but also one could replace his word success with (our own option) healing, forgiveness-understanding, etc.
    "If there is any one secret to "success" it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that persons angle as well as from your own." - Henry Ford

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, Thanks so much for sharing that quote. Indeed, when I look at things from the other person's perspective, I can see that hurt and fear caused by someone else that are being misdirected towards us. Thanks for your comment.

      Delete
  2. Galen, what a beautiful approach to take towards what seems to be an attack.

    I know what you mean when you write, "It’s like reaching out with one hand while raising the other hand in defense." It's so difficult to know how to handle situations where we feel under attack but don't want to be judgmental.

    You've given me a new way to consider some situations in my own life. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tina, It's a fine balance. That's why I like the image I got from a book about practicing on the razor's edge. I'm glad the post is helpful. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  3. You give a whole new meaning to what it means to turn the other cheek, Galen. The next time I find myself with arrows pointed my way, I'll remember to wish them into flowers . . .
    Praying for you, my friend.
    Thanks for the inspiration today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martha, Prayers are appreciated, along with you comment!

      Delete
  4. I laughed when the arrows turned to flowers :) When I know I will have a challenging day, I ask mother Mary to "out mirrors around my heart." This is an old spiritual practice that allows us to set our intention and project back to the sender all energies. If they send great energies, we are free to absorb them AND the sender gets good vibes reflected back to themselves. However if they happen not to have good intentions and energy pointed our way, our own energy remains intact and they have what they sent reflected back to them. I have done this on job interviews and with opponents, and it is frankly amazingly obvious that they see exactly what they want to see. It's like wearing an invisibility cloak.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie, I like that! Reminds me of the Chinese practice shown in the movie "Dragon" of putting mirrors in strategic places to repel demons. Another part of the Buddha/Mara story is that when Mara's army continued to attack, the light radiating from Buddha was so bright they couldn't see him--like an invisibility cloak!

      Interesting thought that it works for good energy, too. I'm going to use this. Thanks for your comment.

      Delete
  5. I try to think of irrational rage or anger that is directed at me, a family member, or friend, as speaking volumes about the person who feels that way...and saying nothing about me or my loved ones.

    An uncontrollable emotion will not respond to logic or response. I don't even try.

    I like the flower image better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob, You are right. Discussion does not help. And true that this is very much about the other person and not about me or my family. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with it. Flowers, flowers! Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  6. "You are not a victim of the world you see." "All attack is a call for love." Respond with love. It is easier when you take a step back. And forgive yourself for whatever they are complaining to you about. Also, forgive yourself for attacking yourself. You are one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jodi, All good thoughts from the Course. The series of lessons that I'm reviewing now are very timely. I had not thought about the forgiving myself part. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  7. Arrows into flowers...beautiful way of putting it. Food for thought definately. Thank you for sharing, Pam :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am just reading Wayne Dyer's book "Change your thoughts, Change your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao" and I totally get what you are saying.

    So i wrote a song about it...
    Arrows to Flowers

    Snow blizzard whiteout, and its cold out there,
    but I’m safe and warm inside.
    Yesterday we fought about our ego thoughts of fair,
    no matter how hard we tried
    we couldn’t recall the happy times of sunshine in the air,
    Reverted back to winter and we froze out all our care,
    Now we just want the warm spring showers
    Changing ice arrows into flowers.

    I sense the ancient ones were right,
    I sense we need to let in light
    Jesus said one candle flame
    Will light a room if we allow it,
    And fear cannot control us now
    Lao Tze taught us how;
    The story is that Buddha changed
    The devil’s arrows into flowers.

    All of nature knows that spring
    Has the intent to lead us in
    to parables of celebrating
    Perfumed Flowers from deep within.
    ||Fear’s arrows become love’s flowers ||

    PCC 2013 Feb 8th


    Keep up the good writing!
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil, I have that book, too. Thank you so much for sharing your song. How beautiful and completely apropos! Thanks for your comment.

      Delete
    2. Phil, Your name links back to your Google+ profile, but not to your blog. I can't get to your blog from your name. Can yo change that so that I and other readers can find your blog? Of course, I'm making an assumption that you have one!

      Delete
    3. Haha, thanks Galen, yep I do have a blog, it is www.diamondmine.me/blog - is that sufficient or do I need to link to Google+ somehow?
      Blessings
      Phil

      Delete
  9. 8 years ago a family member did a very terrible thing to me - on top of nearly a lifetime of "hateful" behavior towards me. I have even taken a whole workshop with a counselor to try and turn this into flowers and certainly to forgive. But it does keep returning, it is definitely a workout for the emotions and the hopes.
    I enjoyed your writing and story telling because it so reminded me about not being alone in these building block experiences. That is reassuring.
    After 38 years in the Ministry, I have a lot of practice in seeing flowers instead of darts...

    I always wish that more folks would study and understand Nonviolent Communication or Compassionate Communication - every one including the arrow shooters feels so much better.
    I am back to the RUMI quote you put on facebook - hoping to be out there in that field

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, I have a friend who is doing the training now in Compassionate Communication. She says it's great. You are right that this is a workout for the emotions--that's what it feels like! Thanks so much for commenting.

      Delete
  10. Galen, it's been years since I heard that Buddha story. I'm grateful to see it in your post now because, like you, it helps put challenging life situations into a different perspective. I alone have the power to change the lens of my view. To quote my favorite poem, Invictus, "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

    Thank you for the wisdom you impart through your life stories. They lift me up to a higher place so the view of my own stories becomes clearer.

    Peace and love to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beth, Thanks for your kind words and for sharing the quote. I laughed at the captain part because my grandson's other grandmother, his great-grandmother actually, always says that he is the captain of his ship. His soul, too, I guess! I'm going to write this one down to get me through the next week. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  11. I'm wondering if you're continuing to write for me each time I read your blog, Galen.

    Knowing a little about my circumstances and background (and current travels), I'm sure you know what I mean:)

    I continue to appreciate and value your advice/thoughts on how to turn the arrows into life-changing lessons. Lessons in compassion, forgiveness, fearlessness. I'm actively trying to take on what you're saying and apply that to some of my most challenging personal circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, Vishnu, I write just for you. I thought you knew! I'm glad that my thoughts are timely for your life, too. We'll both get through this! Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  12. While I agree it's good to be able to handle stuff coming at you, being passive and not dealing with it can be just as negative. There is definately times you have to fight, and ignoring that reality won't stop the other person doing what they are doing.

    -Ben

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ben, I see your point, and the challenge, I think, is to respond appropriately without perceiving being attacked or attacking in return. I don't think that is necessarily the same thing as being passive.

      One of the best examples I can think of is the response of the Amish community when a man went into one of their schools and shot ten little girls, before killing himself. The community responded to this horrible tragedy with compassion for him and his family. Had he lived, according to a book I read about them afterwards, they would have fully supported whatever consequences the law provided...and then they would have visited him in prison.

      In my situation, I've taken steps that I believe are appropriate to resolve the legal aspects of the problem. My challenge is to take those steps without becoming fearful and angry in response to the other person's hostility.

      It's a bit like the image of the mirrors turning outward that Julie described in an earlier comment. It also reminds me of the way we learn to use energy in martial arts. Rather than thinking in terms of attacking, we try to think in terms of turning our opponent's energy back towards him. When our own "power" is great, it is invulnerable. The opponent is fighting with himself. I probably didn't explain that very well, but perhaps you get the idea. Again the mirror image.

      So I agree with you that passivity is not always the appropriate path. But neither is engaging in an angry or vengeful response. Maybe the right motto is "defend with love." Hmm.

      Delete
  13. Very interesting post. It makes me think hard about how I am sometimes too quick in defense and I forget to forgive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonnie, Fear and defensiveness are such a natural response. We really have to train ourselves to pause and respond in a loving way, which, as Ben pointed out above, is not necessarily a passive way.

      Delete
  14. I agree with Bob Lowry -- most hostility that is directed at us is really anger that the person feels toward him/herself. The bad feelings have less to do with us, and more to do with them. So your story, your perspective, is absolutely a wonderful way to look at it all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom I agree with Bob, too (as I usually do!). I can clearly see the pain that is in the heart of this other person. Nevertheless, it is challenging to hold on to that awareness when I or my loved ones are the target of such anger. I just keep coming back to your and Bob's perspective. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  15. What an impactful and useful image. It reminds me of the life-changing light bulb that went off in therapy for me years ago with the concept that the only thing we can change about our situation is our perception of it and reaction to it.
    I suddenly realized then that an attack/comment/attitude/judgement/etc is so much more about the person weilding it, and that perspective has so often given me relief since that day.
    I also love hearing that message in new ways, with added dimension, so thank you for this post!
    -Chris at FlashMemoirs.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Chris! I was lucky to have a good therapist, too, some years back. Like yours, she helped me look underneath my feelings for the thoughts and beliefs that were causing me so much distress and taught me that I could choose differently, creating a different perception. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  16. You are such a treasure. I love your subjects and your learning moments. You are a great teacher and I always feel enlightened when I read your post. This was one to ponder.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LeAnn, You always say the nicest things. Your comments make my day. Thank you.

      Delete
  17. Galen, I went from your guest post on Vishnu's Virtues to reading this post! What a powerful image. Open hostility is so jarring and tough to deal with but picturing arrows that turn to flowers has got to be some of the best use of mental imagery I've come across. Thank you very much! I am glad I stumbled across your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bjorn, Welcome! And thank you for your insightful comment on my guest post at Vishnu's blog. This arrows to flowers imagery has been so helpful to me lately. I use it a lot! I'm glad you stumbled across my blog, too. Thanks for commenting and I hope to see you again.

      Delete
  18. I have written about Mara on my blog too. I had a similar situation. I find that a person who is directing anger towards anyone is suffering immensely. The first person that an angry person hurts is him or herself. This allows me to have compassion for my attacker, even though I know it is not easy. I like your image or arrow turning to flowers. Yester day my husband, the monk I married, gave me a book called The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell. I plan to write about it on my blog. I was going through a few emotional hurdles and it brought me right back to my center where things are as they are. I felt peace. Thanks for your words here and I hope you find peace in this situation ^_^!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katherine, I think that is certainly the case here. This other person is in a lot of inner pain. Keeping that in mind does help, as you say. I'll check out the book you mentioned. Speaking of books, I finished yours. What a great story, and great lessons to go with it! Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  19. guess it was not a coincidence you wrote this post just as I needed it!! i am dealing with the same sort of struggles...trying to remain faithful is a challenge..but i know the best way...

    ReplyDelete

Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.