Pain and the Second Arrow


Since the topic of suffering is a constant in Buddhist teachings, I thought I'd mention how my dog is doing.  His relationship to pain is so much different than mine.

Three years ago in a fit of irrational exuberance, he took off chasing some deer in the Maryland woods and launched himself off a dry river bank, landing really hard and tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

Explaining to him that he was now using his college fund, he had TPLO surgery on his left knee, a pretty aggressive surgery  to stabilize the joint.  It involved cutting and reshaping the tibia bone.  On Monday I took him in because at least one of the screws in the plate holding his leg together had apparently worked loose and was infected.

We'd tried a few months of antibiotics, but the infection was deeply lodged in the bone.

On looking at the x-ray, the vet was concerned about bone density and warned me that there might be a possibility of bone cancer.

I spent the day at a cafe working and trying not to obsess.  In the early afternoon I got word that the surgery went fine, the bone was surprisingly healthy and he saw no reason to even do a biopsy.  That was a relief.

One the way home he was retching from the anesthesia wearing off and much of the night he was uncomfortable. As I've been nursing Hakuna since then, I've watched his relationship to pain.

Buddhism speaks of the pain and ' the second arrow.'  The first arrow is pain itself.  That is inevitable.  The second arrow is how we react to it.  When we add aversion, craving, resistance, worry and obsessive thinking, we add immeasurably to our experience.

One thing I've noticed is that Hakuna doesn't appear to add anything to the pain he's in.  It's just pain.

I keep reminding myself that the second arrow is optional.