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There is only one presence and one power
in the universe and in my life,
God the Good Omnipotence.
Don’t Throw Darts Some physical and mental pain is inevitable. To survive physically, we need a body that tells us it hurts or is ill or injured. To flourish psychologically we need a mind that sends different signals of distress such as loneliness, anger, or fear so that we can determine if we are rejected, mistreated, or threatened.
To use a metaphor from the Buddha, the unavoidable pains of life are its "first darts." But then we add insult to injury with our reactions to these darts. For example, we could react to a headache with anxiety thinking that it might mean a brain tumor. The headache could simply be a result of being physically dehydrated.
Further, it's common to have upsetting reactions when nothing bad has actually happened. For instance, we might be flying in an airplane and everything's fine, but we worry about it crashing. Or we go out on a date and it's fun, but then he/she doesn't call for a day and we feel let down, sad or angry.
Most absurdly, sometimes we react negatively to positive events. Perhaps someone compliments us, and we then focus on feelings of unworthiness. Or we have been offered an opportunity at work, and we obsess about whether we can handle it; or someone makes a gesture for a deeper friendship, and we worry about being disappointing.
All these reactions are "second darts", the darts we throw at ourselves. They include overreacting to little things, holding grudges, justifying ourselves, drowning in guilt after we’ve learned the lesson, and dwelling on things long past, losing perspective, worrying about stuff we can't control, and mentally rehashing conversations.
Second darts vastly outnumber first darts. There we are, on the dartboard of life, bleeding mainly from self-inflicted wounds. There are enough darts in life without adding our own!
Here are some ways to avoid tossing darts at yourself:
1. Accept the inevitability of first darts. They hurt, but pain is the price of living. Do not get offended or embarrassed by pain, it is not a personal failing. When pain does come, hold it in a large space of awareness. In a traditional metaphor, imagine pouring a big spoon of salt into a cup of water and then drinking it: yuck. Next, imagine stirring that spoonful into a big bowl of clean water and drinking a cup: not so bad now. It's the same amount of salt, the same amount of physical or emotional pain, but now held and diluted in a larger context. See if you can let the pain be without reacting to it; this is a key aspect of an unconditional inner peace.
2. Observe second darts. Observe when others toss darts at themselves. It is often easier to see when others toss darts at themselves. Pay attention to when you throw them at yourself. When you notice you are throwing darts at yourself, catch them before you stab yourself with them.
3. Relax your body. A second dart will often trigger a cascade of mental reactions, like one boulder rolling down a mountainside setting off others in a chain reaction. To stop the landslide, start by relaxing your body as best you can. This will activate the calming, soothing parasympathetic wing of your nervous system and put the brakes on the fight-or-flight sympathetic response.
4. Focus on what is good. Think about the things in your life that are going well. Because of the negativity bias, the brain narrows down and fixates on what's wrong, so you have to nudge it to widen its view to what's right. The bird's-eye, big picture view also deactivates the midline neural networks that do second-dart ruminating, and stimulates circuits on the side of your brain that can let things be as they are without reacting to them.
5. Don't put more logs on the fire. Don't look for more reasons to worry, criticize yourself, or feel mistreated. Don't get mad at yourself for getting mad at yourself! When you throw second darts, you are the person you hurt most. The suffering resulting from second darts is truly unnecessary. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Affirmation: I do not throw darts at myself. I love myself and I am at peace.
*This lesson is based upon Rick Hanson’s book Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time
Sunday, April 20, 2014 10 a.m.
McCoy Theater at Maui Arts and Cultural Center
Inspirational message! Glorious music! Sacred hula! Fun children's activities!