Turning Hostility into Love; Turning 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

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About the Author: Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month. Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five kids and two grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong.