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“To a great extent, our ability to influence our circumstances depends on how we see things…How we see things affects how much energy we have for doing things, and our choices about where to channel what energy we do have.”

- Jon Kabat – Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living)

There is an ancient Buddhist metaphor where any unpleasant experience, or instantaneous suffering, is likened to getting shot with a single arrow (or dart, as demonstrated by the charming gentleman below).

Rick Hanson (psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha's Brain, and Resilient) describes two "zones" we can behave from when struck by these proverbial arrows.

The green zone is responsive and skillful, born of awareness.

The red zone is reactively unhelpful as a product of ignorance.

We can think of the red zone as reacting to a situation with our breath being held, while the green zone is like responding to that situation, but only after a full and deep breath.

There is nothing we can do about getting struck by single "arrows." They are a part of life. However, much of our suffering comes from shooting ourselves with more arrows out of frustration, anger, and reactivity, further compounding our pain and suffering.

Red zone reactions also make use of those less evolved, primitive mental capacities that we've all inherited from our shared relatives (below).

But the green zone bypasses these less serving, primitive cognitions for use of our more evolved, critical thinking adaptations. And we don't compound our suffering by subsequent self-inflicted arrows.

Being mindful in this way has cascading effects, benefiting the areas of life that matter most. And even better yet, by lessening our own suffering, we're able to realize what those areas are.

In closing, we all know what we're referring to when we say "road rage" when someone frustrates us on the many "highways" of life. Think about how people behave in those instances. Likely there are combinations of reactive thoughts and behaviors, which the body interprets as stress—and not the good kinds where, as the saying goes, "diamonds are made."

But is it possible to, instead of getting angry, respond as if the distressing drivers were just innocently sweet, little old grandmothers?

The green zone has an answer for that (see below).


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