(Issue #638) The Sword or the Flower

What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower…
It depends on our relationship with ourselves.” ~Pema Chodron


All of us have experienced those moments when something or someone has shattered us, left us gasping for air, triggered shame, or made us feel violated and angry. We feel wounded as if someone had thrown an arrow or sword in our direction.

Pema Chodron asks us to reflect on our reactions when unbearable or unacceptable situations present themselves. Does the situation make us stop, think, and gain wisdom? Or do we lash out towards others or ourselves in an unhelpful manner?

We feel the sword. But can we turn it into a flower for possibilities? Building on Buddhist teachings, Chodron believes we can. Consider:

~Following a mass shooting in our country, a victim’s family member said she was looking to turn the unspeakable tragedy into an opportunity for good.

*The SWORD: A mass shooting leaves death and destruction.
*The FLOWER of possibilities: Create a movement for good, awareness, and change.

Photos by Steve Piscitelli

~When our canine companion Roxie made her transition to the Rainbow Bridge, I was devastated. When that day came, and Laurie and I sat on the floor in the veterinarian’s examining room with Roxie, my emotions exploded.

*SWORD: I kept holding on to what I had lost. Nothing would bring her back. Ever. I continued in the memory loop that brought more tears and a feeling of hopelessness and aimlessness. I was not much company for myself or anyone else.
*FLOWER: Roxie was now at peace and we had time to take a breath. We could focus fully on our health and well-being. I also reached out to one of the pet therapy programs Roxie and I served. I will be helping facilitate that program. Sure, Roxie is still dead. The situation is the same, but my perception changed. Light entered the dark room of my mind. Instead of a sword, I held a flower.

~At the end of 2021 I “finished” my first novel manuscript. All of my previous books had been non-fiction, so this project stretched me. Still, 90,000 words later I had “finished” writing and started querying agents. I made sixty-five queries and received sixty-five rejections.

*SWORD. I blamed, shamed, castigated, and berated the process as well as myself. I hung out with “what-did-you-expect-you’re-not-a-novelist” and mentally pummeled myself. I threw the manuscript into the metaphorical drawer and slammed it shut.
*FLOWER. I read a “how-to” book by one of my favorite novelists. I followed that with an online course (with another accomplished novelist) on writing fiction, which led me to pull my manuscript from the drawer. I saw that my “finished” manuscript had been anything but. I labored through a major rewrite. The new version is now being reviewed. I will then continue the editing process. The odds remain minimal that I will find an agent, but my approach is healthier and the product is more polished.

I could have continued throwing myself on the metaphorical sword—and the manuscript would never have seen the light of day. Now, at least, I have a chance of landing an agent.

Think about your situation. Perhaps someone has lied about what you stand for. That hurts. A lot. You can escalate the stakes and engage in a sword fight. Or find the lesson (the flower) that will allow you to further exemplify who you are positively, forthrightly, and ethically. Tough? Yes. Wiser? Probably so.

The sword or the flower. The choice may be difficult or seem impossible. Yet, that choice belongs to us.

The sword or the flower.


You will find more about me at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

My newest book, Sharing Wisdom Across the Ages: From Elementary School to Retirement, (eBook and paperback versions) was released on January 1, 2023. Click here for more information.

And you can still order:

  • Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit (2020), in eBook and paperback format. Click here.
  • Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) is at the above link.
  • Stories about Teaching: No Need to be an Island (2017, print and e-book)Available on Amazon. One college’s new faculty onboarding program used the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos (see the link above) could serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

You can find my podcasts (all fifty episodes) here.

©2023. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®
Atlantic Beach, Florida

About stevepiscitelli

Community Advocate-Author-Pet Therapy Team Member
This entry was posted in Life lessons. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to (Issue #638) The Sword or the Flower

  1. You know who says:

    Well written Steve. I could feel your pain and heartache when Roxie crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I’m glad you’re seeing the flower now.
    I will look for the flowers each day.


  2. marianbeaman says:

    Steve, I like the idea of paradox as a path to insight. For example: “A problem is a dragon with a gift in its mouth,” rather like your axiom from Pema Chodron. Thanks!


  3. Oh, I like your dragon-gift lesson. Thanks for sharing, Marian.


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