Earlier that day, our meditation teacher had suggested we avoid what she called the “Second Arrow.” In a classic sutra, the Buddha had said that if someone shoots you in the foot, don’t pick up the bow and shoot yourself in the foot again. Don’t make your suffering worse, in other words, by arguing with what’s so. That’s a Second Arrow. Accept pain. Don’t criticize yourself, or others, for feeling pain: that is a Second Arrow. Don’t regret what cannot be changed, or try to predict what cannot be known. By throwing their complex machinery into the path of death, my father’s doctors had shot my parents with a Second Arrow. And by trying too hard to shield my parents from suffering, I might be shooting myself—and them—with a Second Arrow as well.
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