The actor Christopher Reeve famously said: pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. Amazingly, it was when Superman hung up his cape that he become a real super hero. His tolerance of condition after a life-changing riding accident was an inspiration.
There is a metaphor in Mindfulness based on the Buddhist teaching of the two darts. The quote links beautifully to this quote.
The first dart refers to the actual physical pains of life, such as banging our head on a low door frame, or burning ourselves on a hot stove. The second dart is the scorn we pour upon ourselves for not seeing the doorframe, or stupidly touching something we knew to be hot. It is these second darts that are tipped with suffering.
What is even more shocking is the throwing of second darts without the stimulus of pain. This is particularly true of our more unreasonable or dysfunctional behaviours towards others. The darts are often thrown from our suffering, which in context is an expression of our ego's displeasure. Thrown in the face of some (generally unintentional) affront such as someone else breaking something of ours, or frustrating our intentions or plans.
So what are these darts?
The teachings tell of three poisons: ignorance, aversion and attachment.
Ignorance refers to the ever present tendency to delude. The unwillingness to recognise the underlying unhelpfulness of our actions and behaviours. The essential idea being that we have a tendency to create suffering. Which poisons us, and poisons our interactions.
This unhelpfulness manifests in the two meta-behaviours of aversion and attachment. Aversion refers to those things that we seek to escape from or do battle with. And attachment, those things that seek to possess or own, those things that for us so often define us and our worlds.
The things that drive such behaviours can be as diverse as environment and context to objects, and even simply thoughts and ideas.
Interestingly these meta-behaviours are reflected in contemporary neuroscience which essentially defines the concept of approach and retreat. We approach that which we see as good or safe and retreat from that which we see as a threat or a risk.
Anatomy of a dance
Life is constant dance. Back and forth, in and out, towards and away from. The trick is understand the motivators behind the movements.
The aim is to move the dance from the unconscious to the conscious mind. Let the next step be a choice. This move is a step out of the Buddhist delusion into enlightenment.
This is not religious doctrine but an awareness of who we are and how we are. There is proving to be a remarkable correlation between some of the ancient ideas and contemporary scientific discovery. Both challenge us to acknowledge how we are and own that, whether positive or negative. But also to recognise those unhelpful behaviours that put us in conflict with both ourselves and others. To face those things from we plant the seeds of suffering.
The irony is that recognising this foundation of suffering is a positive. It gives us hope and the opportunity to change. In accepting the things that unconsciously lead our steps in one direction we can pause and choose whether to continue or create a different pattern. In understanding the dance, we can develop new steps.
Taking back control
No not politically, emotionally.
Change comes from practice. Being different does not come from thought, it is an action.
In the right reflective space can set the right direction.
Each morning set your own agenda. Before you reach for the devices of mass distraction set your intention for the day before you.
Reflect on three things: What do I need to accept? What is my focus and what should I practice? What do I need to release?
This is a meditation, but it is non linear. The key is the middle bit. As we reflect on the objective the second darts that distract us become clearer. And so arises the potential to create the right practice for our day. And with each day, our life.
In such a practice in learn to recognise the second darts. We nurture the powerful and important choice that Christopher Reeve talked about in our opening quote.