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 dart. They don’t get stuck in avoidance or obsessing about the pain. Instead they mindfully accept it for what it is, without making it worse with secondary suffering.’ Extract from Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction.
The Eight Steps
- Step one: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering
- Step two: Seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives
- Step three: Embracing impermanence to show us that our suffering can end
- Step four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom
- Step five: Transforming our speech, actions and livelihood and Mindful awareness of what addiction is
- Step six: Placing positive values at the centre of our lives and Step six: Another look
- Step seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery
- Step eight: Helping others to share the benefits we have gained
The question is how do we become like the wise person?
The ordinary person takes refuge in distractions to help move away from the pain or suffering. The ordinary person seeks refuge in self pity, blame, and or distraction through addictions. Every time the ordinary person reacts to suffering or pain by distraction, self pity and or blame, they are re-creating a habit. Recreating a pattern of behavior that can in the end result in a matter of life and death.
Every time we turn away from the pain and or suffering, we are just delaying the inevitable. Know that turning away in the moment will create momentary release from the suffering, perhaps even pleasure, but know that misery is swiftly upon our heels.
We can become a wise person by recognizing our patterns of behavior. By seeing how we habitually turn away from our suffering and pain. However we do not become wise, until we take action and do something different.
The good news is; that it is possible to be free of psychological, existential pain and suffering. Yes we will always experience some form of physical pain, but know too that if we react, turn away from it, it will multiply it.
It’s said that the Buddha experienced chronic back and stomach pain due to the extreme austerities that he practiced during the six years before he became enlightened. In fact some say that the dyspepsia that culminated into his last serious illness of dysentery, was caused by his unhealthy eating habits during his ascetic life. He was a human being and like all of us was subject to sickness, ageing and dying. Although there is reference to this physical pain, we never hear of the Buddha complaining.
Sometimes when we clean up from addictions, and step onto the path of recovery, we become resentful of the ailments we are left with, creating more suffering in our lives. If we are to become wise, we have to learn that we have the potential to change our lives in the present moment. The present moment is what we have, and in it we can create a life of misery or a life of peace.
Becoming wise can be as simple as realizing we are not our thoughts. As simple as realizing that our thinking is not true. As simple as learning to pause. And yes I hear you. It’s not easy. But was your addiction easy? Was taking refuge in your addiction to deal with what life presented to you easy? I say that acting on these simple realizations is easier than living with any addiction, compulsive or obsessive behaviour.
Step two – pages 43 – 78
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