Kolkata Diary. Faith and The Second Arrow


My Passport, with Fate’s chew marks in the corner.

When Jon told me I was acting like a guy I knew it was time to ask for help.

It was Friday evening and I was on hold  with someone from the travel insurance I’d taken out for my trip to India.  I was trying to find out if the insurance covered me  cancelling  my flight.

I wasn’t trying to cancel my trip to India, there were some complications with the itinerary that I had just become aware of.

I’m traveling with a group called The Village Experience and their original itinerary included a trip to the Taj Mahal on February 25th. I was under the impression that the travel plans I paid for included transport back to the airport in Kolkata at the end of the trip.   As early as October I got round trip tickets landing and leaving from Kolkata Airport.  It seemed an easy flight with only one layover in Dubai and the tickets cost  about $1000.  I thought I was all set.

On Friday I learned, that because of a lack of interest in visiting the Taj Mahal ,the trip there had been cancelled.  That left me in India a day longer than everyone else.  That wasn’t a problem, the group could easily arrange for me to stay one more day and reimburse me for the money I laid out for the trip to the Taj Mahal.

The problem was I now found out I needed to either change my flight home or arrange for a flight from Udiapur to Kolkata.

Writing this now, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but Friday evening, after looking into my options, I began to freak out.

I couldn’t change just my flight home. I’d have to cancel my whole flight, which would cost $450 then get a new flight.  When I looked into new flights, they either cost thousands of dollars or had at least three long layovers.  And they still cost more than my original  flight.

So I went online looking for flights from Udiapur to Kolkata.  But this was more complicated than I thought.  I had no idea which airlines were reputable and the flights, once again had long layovers. Some of them taking two days of travel.

For the third time Jon told me to call Dahn.  She had made this trip so many times, she could help.

The real question is why did I resist?  Why did I have such a hard time asking for help.

I sat on the couch, my computer in my lap, my phone at my side, looking at all my options, getting more and more upset.  I knew I could figure it all out, I wanted to fix it myself.  I didn’t want to admit how upset I really was.  I kept thinking how I had it all figured out, how good I felt about getting the plane tickets early and inexpensively.  I thought that part was all behind me and now it was all wrong.

Looking back I can see what happened.

It’s what Thich Nhat Hanh in his book No Mud, No Lotus calls “the second arrow”.  This is the Buddhist teaching that says when something  goes wrong in our lives, that’s the first arrow.  “…you will feel pain in the part of  your body that the arrow hit…”  ” The second arrow, fired by ourselves, is our reaction, our storyline, our anxiety.”

My second arrow took the form of judgement and anxiety.  I couldn’t get off the idea that I hadn’t understood  the itinerary and that the trip didn’t include a flight back to Kolkata.  And it was my feeling of failure that kept me from wanting to ask for help.  I had failed to understand the itinerary, it was my fault, I was wrong. And I was frightened. If I had messed it up, could I fix it?

I didn’t want to admit that I was upset about it either.  Not even to myself.

All of this added to my inability to think clearly and deal with the real problem which wasn’t that I was stupid and incompetent, but that I needed to know which airlines were best to get from Udaipur to Kolkata.

So when Jon told me I was acting like a guy, (one of the greatest insults a person can hurl at me)  by not wanting to ask for help, it finally sunk in.  Still caught up in my anxiety, I waited a few minutes then called Dahn.

Dahn yelled “Oh my God!” when I told her about the cancelled trip to the Taj Mahal.  Then she commiserated with me when I told her about my mistake. She said she had done the same thing once.

It wasn’t just that Dahn was understanding, and told me the airline to fly on.

Dahn’s reaction was so genuine, and went from acknowledging feeling, right to wanting to help make it right. I saw it was the opposite of what I was doing, which was hiding the feeling rather than just making things right.

I was trying to hide what was I was feeling, which was shame and fear. I was false.

Dahn, who is a minister and yoga instructor, is  boisterous and loud and excitable. She laughs a lot.  She didn’t seem to think I was stupid or incompetent. Talking to her pulled me out of myself.

I think the simple act of reaching out helped me dislodge that second arrow.

When I got off the phone with Dahn, I made reservations on Jet Airways to take me from Udiapur to Kolkata.  It was easy, it took a couple of minutes.

I looked down at Fate lying in the floor next to me.  She was holding my passport between her paws chewing on it.    Luckily she had just begun. Life almost happened again.   I took the passport out of her mouth and thought about that joke about  making God laugh by making plans.

Dahn has a lot of faith.

I don’t have that kind of faith, I have to figure things out differently. I feel I have to go to myself and trust my decisions, and if I’m wrong, deal with them the best I can.  God doesn’t come into it for me.

Dahn believes whatever happens we’ll figure it out and if not, it wasn’t meant to be.

All of this is making me think about my own ideas about faith.  How to deal with what’s handed to me and not firing the second arrow?

Rather than beat up on myself for getting it wrong or feeling frightened,  next time I hope to just deal with the problem, try to fix it and accept it if I can’t.

Being human is nothing to be ashamed of.


10 thoughts on “Kolkata Diary. Faith and The Second Arrow

  1. Great post Maria! You should be proud of yourself. Thanks for sharing your hardship, and the best…figuring out! It’s hard for some of us to ask for help. I sooo get that! I love that you looked at the “big picture” and sorted it!!! It’s been really cool to follow your blog and see your confidence blossom. If you havent yet read Ann Lamott, check her out. I think you would like her writing a lot.

    Keep on keepin’ on!!!

  2. i was able to find the book you mentioned in kindle books.
    as for fate marking your pasport..now you have her with you on your trip. prehaps when your feeling’ not yourself’ you can look at your passport and bring to mind when the two of you are together in your creative space.

  3. Maria!

    I “found” your blog about a month ago and am totally smitten. Thank you.

    I have Very Much admiration of you for heading off to India. It’s been rather joyful following your plans. But I have to tell you … this morning, whilst reading your angst about the trip glitch, I, um, snorted tea when you saw Fate with your passport. Blessings on you, Maria, blessings on you.

  4. Love this post and the 2nd arrow story. In all my years of Buddhist reading I never heard that one before (or if I did I forgot it! ) and it’s perfect for all of us. Thank you for writing. I’m so excited about your trip and just know it will be a great adventure. Can’t wait to read all about it.

    1. I can’t wait to write about it Brenda. Isn’t it interesting how these stories come along when we most need them. The second arrow is one that will stay with me.

  5. So glad you were able to sort out your flight from Udaipur. It is many years since I was in India but I suspect some things may not have changed. Indian airlines are famous for overbooking their flights and somewhere in the small print they tell you that you are required to reconfirm your flight at least 24 hours prior. In my case 24 hours prior I was actually flying from London to Delhi and had tried every way possible to reconfirm my continuing flight but nothing had worked. On arrival Delhi a runner was sent from my hotel to Indian Airlines and when he returned he gave me the alarming news that I was number 81 (or something that ridiculous) on the waiting list! Next day I went early to check in and was told I would have to wait and to stand aside. My companion took over and refusing to move began to create a scene! We worked for airlines ourselves so we had an idea how to handle the situation although we had failed totally with the reconfirmation thing. I went over to Royal Nepal Airways to enquire whether they had seats and was told NO. In the end we got seats on the Nepali flight, “Royal Yeti Service” which I loved because my cat’s name was Yeti. Anyway, long story short…make sure once you arrive in India that your onward booking get confirmed. A young chap will probably be dispatched to do it for you and that is the way to go. I am sure it is still true in India that people love being asked for their help and they are very obliging. I am envious that you will be in Udaipur. I never got there. I am thinking a lot about your upcoming journey and I shall be with you in thought.

    1. Thanks for your story and experience Carolyn. It’s sounds like a wild time. I’m getting to the point where I’ll expect almost anything and not have any expectations at all!

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