The Path of 2 Swords

Moment to moment you stand at a crossroads and life challenges you to choose a path. Will you take the life-affirming step that feeds and nourishes your soul and affirms your authenticity and wholeness, or will you slip onto a path of inauthenticity that bleeds the vitality from your life?

In Japanese martial arts, this moment-to-moment challenge is represented in the tradition of the two swords. What do the two swords mean? Which sword are you choosing?

One is “the sword that gives life;” the other is “the sword that takes life.” When you make a life-affirming choice or take a life-affirming action, you draw “that sword that gives life.” When you act out of self-centeredness, mindless habit, fear, or reactivity, you draw “the sword that takes life,” you bleed instead of feed yourself, depleting the vitality of your true spirit.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “Think of life as a process of choices, one after another. At each point there is a progression choice and a regression choice. To make the growth choice instead of the fear choice a dozen times a day is to move a dozen times toward self-actualization.”

Staying mindful of this moment-to-moment choice is an ongoing meditation practice. Some teachers encourage students to collect two bags of small pebbles–one bag of one color, and a bag of another color. At the end of each day reflect upon the moments you were mindful, present, kind, and made wise, life-affirming choices, and for each of these moments you were mindful, present, kind, and made wise, life-affirming choices, and for each of these moments pull out and make a pile of stones from the first bag.

Then, reflect upon all of the mindless, insincere, habit-driven, reactive, unkind moments of the day, the moments that depleted your vitality and aliveness. For each of these moments, pull out a pebble from the second bag and make a pile of these stones. Then sit and quietly reflect on how you lived today, what you learned, and how you aspire to live tomorrow.

Adapted from Luminous Mind, by Joel and Michelle Levey (Conari Press, 2006). Copyright (c) 2006 by Jole and Michelle Levey. Reprinted by permission of Conari Press.
Adapted from Luminous Mind, by Joel and Michelle Levey (Conari Press, 2006).


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Silvija Vlahovec
Silvija Vlahovec5 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

very interesting, thank you

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

this reminds me of tarot, the swords in the deck represent words and thoughts which represents stress and worries. the 2 of swords is actually about being at a cross roads and a decision must be made and to stop stalling on it. i like the pebble idea, ive spent a lot of time lately thinking about my faults, esp with words, and how to make sure i use those words in a more gentle manner

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

Very good advice worth taking to heart. Thanks.

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Susan S.
Susan S7 years ago

I love analogies and metaphors, and this is a helpful tool. I love gratitude journals, and focusing on what is positive and diverting from what is negative helps. Balance is also necessary because there is a danger of living a pollyanna life.

Suzanne C.
S C7 years ago

Simple but powerful.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

Karen is right. I really liked her comment. This was a good article. I would have liked to have something a little longer, but I can always go dig out some of my old psychology books, if I really get an urge for more Maslow. He was always my favorite.