Can you stay open to the pain of others?
Humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people. (And about those of cats and dogs and other animals, but I’ll focus on human beings here.)
Long ago, the Buddha spoke of the “first dart” of unavoidable physical pain. Given our hardwired nature as social beings, when those we care about are threatened or suffer, there is another kind of first dart: unavoidable emotional pain.
For example, if you heard about people who go to bed hungry – as a billion of us do each night – of course … Read more »
In the mid-1970s I worked as a tenants’ rights activist with poor families in Worcester, Massachusetts. Through organizing tenants’ unions we would try to pressure landlords into assuring fair rents and decent living conditions.
One of these unions was comprised of families renting from one of the most notoriously callous slumlords in the city. The union’s leader, Denise, was a forceful and articulate woman who worked hard to galvanize the group into action to fight a steep rent increase that no one could afford.
Over the many months it took to build the union, I had become friends with Denise and her family. I joined them for dinner, played with the children and was privy … Read more »
The Buddha was asked, what is the difference between how an ordinary person and a wise person responds to pain? He replied with the analogy of the two darts. All of us experience pain – whether that is physical pain like catching your finger in the door or mental pain such as when someone rejects you. This is the first dart, which we could call primary suffering.
An ordinary person then gets caught up in trying to push away or avoid the pain; in blaming themselves or others, or feeling self-pity. This has the effect of making matters worse: the second dart, which we can call secondary suffering. A wise person just has the first … Read more »
Ed Halliwell, The Guardian: About four days into my first meditation retreat, I started crying. Not little droplets of tears, but great, big, uncontrolled sobs – it felt like I was throwing up wave after wave of stale sadness. I’d expected the long days of sitting to be boring, annoying, physically demanding and (with a bit of luck) illuminating, so to find myself repeatedly breaking down into a noisy heap of grief came as a shock. These spontaneous outbursts of wailing continued throughout the month-long programme – it says much for the teachers’ equanimity that they didn’t chuck me out.
So when would-be …
Ferris Jabr, Psychology Today: While resisting pain only makes suffering worse, mindfulness meditation can help chronic pain sufferers.
Pain is necessary. It alerts us to threats, teaches us to avoid future risks, and makes sure we don’t forget to help ourselves heal. Our bodies have evolved instinctive reactions to pain and injury—accidentally brush your hand against a boiling kettle and your arm will retract reflexively before you even realize why. Our minds, too, respond to pain in a characteristic manner: ever notice how even a minor wound can dominate your thoughts?
But what if you could manipulate your natural response to pain in …
Step one – Accepting that this human life will bring suffering – is pointing us in the direction of truth. Ask yourself what are you avoiding? What are you hiding from? Most human beings are avoiding suffering. Most human beings are hiding from suffering underneath a veneer of coping mechanisms.
This step acknowledges the different types of suffering we can experience. Most commonly the suffering of ageing, sickness and death. We can not avoid any of these truths, we can not hide from these truths either. So we may as well face them gracefully.
How we may ask? We do this with kindly acceptance. Acceptance is in the present moment. When suffering arises; if we … Read more »
Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph: Financial firms in the City of London are recommending mindfulness to stressed employees while schools are increasingly adopting the practice to help children focus.
‘Mindfulness’ therapy is increasingly being adopted by stressed Britons as NHS figures show record numbers of people embracing ancient Buddhist meditation.
The technique is designed to focus the mind on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to reduce “brain chatter” and promote clarity of thought.
It is so popular that many of the large financial firms in the City of London are recommending it to stressed financiers while schools are increasingly adopting the practice …
At a weekend workshop I led, one of the participants, Marian, shared her story about the shame and guilt that had tortured her. Marian’s daughter Christy, in recovery for alcoholism, had asked her mother to join her in therapy. As their sessions unfolded, Christy revealed that she’d been sexually abused throughout her teen years by her stepfather, Marian’s second husband.
The words and revelations Marian heard that day pierced her heart. “You just slept through my whole adolescence!” her daughter had shouted. “I was being violated and had nowhere to turn! No one was there to take care of me!” Christy’s face was red; her hands clenched tight. “I was afraid to tell you then, … Read more »
Emma Innes, Daily Mail: Meditation and breathing exercises could be key to relieving allergy flare-ups.
Hay fever and other allergies could be made worse by stress, new research suggests. As a result, meditation and breathing exercises could be the key to relieving allergy flare-ups by reducing tension, scientists claim. And even though sneezing and coughing cause stress, it is now thought that flare-ups could be triggering a self-perpetuating cycle of stress and sneezing.
Dr Amber Patterson, from the Ohio State University Medical Centre, said: ‘Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy flares also have a…
Brian Steiner, The Atlantic: In some cases, the holistic practice could replace narcotics. Integrating meditation into regular treatment could significantly cut healthcare costs.
Sarah Kehoe tried Aleve for her back pain. She tried stretching. She tried yoga. She tried forgetting about it. She tried pain patches. She tried acupuncture. A shot of painkillers into her back. Prescription anti-inflammatory pain patches. Opiates. Surgery. Physical therapy. Heat and compresses. Ignoring it again. Steroids. More opiates. Acupuncture again. She couldn’t sit, stand up straight, lie down on her back. She was weak, had lost muscle tone. She fainted on the subway. Sarah Kehoe, an otherwise healthy …