Turn Your Attention to the Arrow in Your Heart

By Guest Blogger   |  43Comments|

If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and relate to the wound.

-Pema Chodron

Human nature is a curious and often paradoxical thing.  We often act with compassion toward others who are suffering but never consider doing the same for ourselves.  We have a compassion double standard.  If we saw someone bleeding, we would jump into action to tend to the person’s wound right away.  We would place all our heartfelt and focused attention on the wounded instead of yelling at the person who caused the wound.  We would stay right there with them and take care of the most important thing — the wound and the hurt.

In my early twenties I was driving home around two in the morning from a job I had as a line cook at a busy restaurant.  As I drove up the Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut, I saw a police car pulled over behind another car and a man on top of the police officer beating him with, what turned out to be, the policeman’s own baton.

I turned my car around right after I passed the scene and got out and ran back toward them (I know, I know … crazy, but that’s another post!).

The police officer’s head was badly bleeding, and someone else who had also pulled over had wrestled the guy (who was drunk), off of the cop and had him pinned down.  I was yelling for someone to call 911 while ripping my shirt over my head and putting it over the cop’s bleeding skull.  I didn’t think about the fact that I was in my bra on the side of the road in the dark with a bleeding cop and a crazy man and the danger of the situation.  I simply was attending to the cop’s wound. I wasn’t thinking about who did this at all.

It would be so wonderful that if the next time we felt hurt by the world, or by someone else, we focused on the arrow that landed in our heart.  Instead of spending time and energy telling that person about our boundaries and what’s acceptable and how they should communicate better, and all the things we think they should do so that we can feel right and better, we could turn our gaze back to our own wounded heart, lingering there with great kindness and gentleness for however long it took to feel better.

For example, you’re following your partner on a bike ride to the store in Brooklyn.  The streets are busy. You don’t know where you’re going.  Suddenly there are a million cars and last you saw her she was weaving in and out of traffic. You’ve lost sight of her.  You feel left behind.  She knows you don’t know where you’re going. You get very angry and pull over to the sidewalk and start texting her.  Where the F are you?!  When you find your way back to each other, the anger has set in, and you let loose verbally on her about being left, her inconsideration, her selfishness. And the rest of the day is ruined.

Or, you could tend to the arrow in your heart. When you lose sight of her and are aware of your upset, you stop and take a breath and realize that you are actually afraid. You feel shaky, vulnerable, embarrassed, and abandoned. You stay with these feelings right there on the sidewalk. You let yourself cry as a way to let the feelings come up and out in a genuine way. When your partner comes back and finds you, you describe how you were left behind as a child and how very painful that was.  You flood your own heart with care as if you are wrapping your arms around a lost child.

One of the things that keeps our attention on others when we are hurt is that we often don’t fully understand the role that the past plays in the present.

The past is rarely in the past.  The examination, healing and compassionate understanding of the past is, in my opinion, perhaps the single most powerful thing a human being can do with their life.

Understanding our past and healing our wounds brings us a freedom in the present that is unparalleled.  People who have done this work are some of the most available, deep and non-reactive people I have met.  They are fully available to be in the present because the past has no grip on them.

By looking at our past and doing our healing work, we not only free ourselves, but we free others from our entrapping projections onto them.  We no longer demand that they change in order for us to feel better.

Yes, we can try to surround ourselves with people who are genuine and can look at themselves and aren’t always passing the buck.  But it’s not always totally possible, and the point is not to sanitize our lives anyway.  The point is to keep tending to what hurts us until it’s healed.

We are naturally caring.  We rush to help others in catastrophic events. Yet when it comes to our own emotional wounds, we often get confused about what to do.

Here are three simple tips that have helped me when I find an arrow in my heart:

  • Pause and take several breaths. Turn inside.
  • Flood your heart with the warmth and care that you feel for a small puppy or of a loving mother for her child.
  • Try to make a connection to your past and where you’ve been hurt before.

By tending to the arrow in our own hearts, we engage pain directly and can minimize further suffering.

Bindu Wiles has been a practicing Buddhist for 20 years.  She has her BFA in photography and her MFA in creative nonfiction. Bindu offers life coaching and online courses, and she is accepting registration for The Photo Essay Project.

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43 responses to Turn Your Attention to the Arrow in Your Heart
  1. What an absolutely beautiful message-thank you so much for this.

  2. Wow — I loved this — makes so much sense.

  3. This made me cry (in a good way). Thank you. I needed this. Very well said.

  4. Thank you.

  5. Bindu.

    I’ve read this over and over. “Understanding our past and healing our wounds brings us a freedom in the present that is unparalleled. People who have done this work are some of the most available, deep and non-reactive people I have met. They are fully available to be in the present because the past has no grip on them.”

    The idea of being that in the present is a gift worth pursuing. Thank you for these beautiful words.

  6. Lovely post. Thank you!

  7. Thanks for such a beautiful and true article. It seems the hardest one to take care is always ourself. In trying to heal from loss a special counselor told me I wasn’t giving time..time. May we all continue to heal and grow and respond to life in the ways you have written about here!

  8. [respectful bow]

  9. thank you everyone for these lovely comments so far. i am so happy to offer what i can from what i have learned and wrestled with myself.
    with love to all the readers and especially these commenters,

  10. This is one of the best reads I’ve ever enjoyed. Thank you for such touching insight. I’m inspired.

  11. Namaste

  12. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm……..
    while i am quite good at caring for and loving myself,
    i will be tending to any arrows in my heart with a new clarity.

  13. Gorgeous, gorgeous post. Thank you for this.

  14. ahhhhhh…. YES! What a JEWEL you have gifted me with, Bindu! On THIS day, in THIS moment, where I find an arrow lodged in my heart. Moments before reading this, I did tend outwardly to the reactive mess which had been made… to quell it with peace. Yet I had not yet turned to my own heart. Yes. to Loving it/me as a little child, a little puppy! So friggin powerful!! THANK YOU! Such a tool of active hearted transformative wisdom LOVE YOU!!

  15. As always, Bindu, this beautiful gift shines like the sun… just as you do. Thank you.

  16. I love the way you have made this so clear and doable. I find I make tending to my wounds from the past a complicated and frightening chore. Just turning the love inward and acknowledging the hurt is easy. I need to practice this.

    Thank You Bindu.

    From my heart,

  17. A wonderful post, Bindu. Thank you. Recently I became aware that I was lacking in self-love which was causing me all sorts of problems. I know I love my children dearly so I made a long list of all the things I do for them that show how much I love them. Then I looked at the list and at how many of those things I did for myself, or rather didn’t do for myself. It was a real eye-opener. I’m working my way down the list now! And yes, I’ve discovered the connections between those things I wasn’t doing and my past, the arrows.

  18. gorgeous insight. i think this is the hardest work, and the most important. thanks always for all your work that you share with the world. taking it in! xo

  19. How incredibly true…and how often forgotten in the shock of the arrow. I have a blog – – for women dealing with infidelity and this lesson is perhaps the hardest to learn. Instead we too often look outward at those who betrayed us and demand restitution. But if we can learn it, our healing is accelerated. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you…

  20. Awesome! I love Bindu and totally jazzed to see her here on another site I love – CSD! Too Cool.
    Great article. Such good description and advice. I get it!

  21. i am so moved by the continued comments here. gyn and elizabeth for your sharing of new powerful insights, to everyone else who is saying thank you and committing to doing this hard and worthwhile work in life of looking at the past and seeing with love how we got to where we are at this moment. peace begins with me and everything, EVERYTHING is workable.
    xo bindu

  22. Oh well great, now I am sitting here in Starbucks crying! HA! Good tears.

    Wow this post was like an arrow to my heart, to borrow your analogy, Bindu. MAN this is so true. I think I spend a lot of time being the defender of others (always have), being the fighter, the strong one in the family but there’s not time spent protecting myself and being gentle with myself. Rather it’s the “get over it, there’s work to do…”. What if that IS the work that I need to get to?

    This is a post I need to have settle in, and come back to again. Wonderful.

    And Bindu, I thank you for your selfless actions with that police officer!! That was amazing.

  23. what a beautiful & thoughtful post!

  24. How true! Loved this article and the depth of the message eagerly inviting our self into our deep Heart, for it’s there we radiate love and tenderness and empower our creative spirit to heal, as apposed to pointing fingers and raising voices to the one who caused injured.

    I can remember when I’d tend to the archer and not the wound. BUT just as you say, once I began to go within, to listen from within, a whole new perspective, clarity and light became known to me and it isn’t hard to listen.

    Now I do not tend to the archer I tend to my heart and often am able to sense poison arrows before they even come into my sphere, thereby expressing my voice or boundaries and avoiding wounding myself all together. The gift listening has taught me is that you do not need to fall in holes when you see detour signs alerting you to construction, you simply move around the gaping hole and can avoid falling in all together. Not always mind you, I mean, heck, I’m a person learning and growing and those states can only be experienced through trail and error. I mean sometimes you just don’t see the sign and so whoosh! you fall and hurt yourself. the good news is you’re more likely not to fall inside the same hole twice. Nevertheless, compared to where I’ve been – big huge leaps and bounds and peace.

    Thank you so much for sharing and spreading this liberating message!

  25. Incredible post – I am so helped by this, thank you! I will share far and wide.

  26. Bindu this is wonderful — the practical example of the choice you have between reacting and projecting outwards, versus turning inwards and caring for your own wound, was so clear and very helpful.

  27. This is Awesome I am a 43 year old married man with 3 daughters and 2 grandchildren. I hope your post is meant for men too Bindu i just noticed only women are commenting on it. Anyways enough already I just want to say how much i can relate to and apply this into my life! Thank you so so much Bindu for the helpful words!!! Also thank you to my sister Robyn for posting it so I could get my hands on it!!

  28. I love your viewpoint, Bindu! And I’m so glad that your words spoke to my brother as well! Thank you for putting so much truth out there!

  29. thank you once again everyone for a wonderful day of reading all your heartfelt comments. it’s so terrific to feel connected to each other through the work of making peace and space within ourselves.
    thank you especially to shane for commenting and yes of course, these teachings know no gender lines. we are all, at the end of the day, just people with hearts that get hurt and need healing.
    may all beings everywhere be free from pain and suffering.
    xo bindu

  30. That’s so wonderful what you did to help the police officer. You’re a wonderful human being.

  31. I really enjoy reading this blog. Thumbs up! Keep up the good work!

  32. Wow. Bindu, thank you SO much. Reading your words is a true pleasure and the message so very necessary. I am so thankful for this, for YOU today!

  33. Thank you. So clear, so true.

  34. Awesome Bindu!!!! Thanks Again!!!!!!!

  35. Inspiring and loving as always

  36. This also made me weep… today there feels like there are arrows and daggers in my heart and this is such a pure and loving message that was just-right today when I couldn’t remember how to do it myself.

    Beautiful and what I sometimes know and too often forget.

    Thank you for this.

  37. love it! thank you for the reminder to look inside.

  38. Beautiful words Bindu. Thank you for the clear and gentle reminder to look within.

  39. Love u and your messages:-) I totally agree, we change the world inside out. Much Love and thanks for all your inspiration.

    Maria, Denmark

  40. Exactly what I needed to read at this exact moment. Thanks.

  41. So brilliant and at the same time so simple. Than you.

  42. What a beautiful, heartfelt (no pun intended) reminder …i literally felt my own heart swell with love..
    and gratitude…glad that The Force was with you that night in CT….compassion in the moment..
    years later one of the gifts of that act..blessing so many…

    Bindu thank-you ..with love,
    Sarmita .

  43. I shouldn’t have read this right before class. Make-up is now a silly mess x) Thank you for these gentle words…it has been quite a while since I’ve heard something like them uttered. Namaste.