mindfulness

The third arrow

on practice
5 Comments

Darts on targetThe first arrow: Think of a time someone said something hurtful to you, and let’s try to break down what happened. A comment was made, and you probably experienced actual physical pain, most likely in the solar plexus or heart. (When the hurt is particularly strong, we sometimes say it feels like we’ve been punched in the gut, don’t we?)

What went on was that some fast-acting part of your brain believed you were being criticized or marginalized, and so identified the comment as a threat to your wellbeing. That part of your brain then attempted to alert the rest of the mind to this threat by sending signals to pain receptors in the body. This all happens in a fraction of a second, and automatically. You don’t “decide” to feel hurt.

This kind of hurt is an example of what, in a well-known teaching, the Buddha called “the first arrow.” We can try not to get shot by arrows, but emotional pain like we’ve been discussing, along with purely physical pain — as when we’re sick or injured — is unavoidable. Even the Buddha experienced physical and emotional discomfort.

The second arrow: The existence of a first arrow of course implies a second! The Buddha explained the “second arrow” as the way that the mind reacts to physical or emotional discomfort in ways that create even more pain. We do this by things like indulging in self-pity, thinking about how unfair it is that we got hurt, blaming ourselves, being critical of the other person, or rehashing the hurtful event over and over again, thinking about how we could have handled things differently. The mind compulsively returns to the painful event we’ve experienced, and every time we do so we cause ourselves yet more pain, because in remembering the hurt, we re-experience it. So as the Buddha said, this is like someone being hit by an arrow, and then reacting in a way that causes a second arrow to be unleashed. You probably did something like this after hearing the hurtful comment.

So there are these two arrows — two forms of pain.

The third arrow: But wait, there’s more! In the teaching of the two arrows, the Buddha talked about a third kind of pain: pain that’s deferred because of clinging to pleasure. This is less often talked about, perhaps because he didn’t offer a colorful image to illustrate it. I call this third form of pain the “third arrow,” and I’m going to supply the missing simile.

The Buddha gave a detailed explanation of how the third arrow works. He pointed out that when someone experiences the first arrow of unavoidable pain, he or she can feel resistance to the pain, and then “seek delight in sensual pleasure.” This is because, not having learned to work with the mind, the person “does not know of any escape from painful feeling other than sensual pleasure.” When we act this way we create a pattern of avoidance and denial that leads to yet further pain in the future.

This third arrow is an important teaching regarding addictive behaviors. Who among us is not afflicted with compulsiveness? Drinking alcohol, eating “comfort food,” watching TV, endlessly reading posts on social media sites, browsing the web, checking our phones for new messages — these are all ways of getting hits of dopamine, a neurotransmitter central to the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. And each of these activities is an escape from a painful feeling that in all likelihood we barely acknowledged.

The “third arrow” of deferred suffering is like when a person has been hit by an arrow and sees yet another one coming, but chooses to ignore it. Pretending nothing’s wrong, he or she indulges in activities like eating, drinking, shopping, watching TV, and checking Facebook. It’s not that any of these things is necessarily very pleasurable in itself, by the way. The “pleasure” we feel is often more like the comfortable numbness of compulsive activity.

Of course we can ignore our pain for a while, but we can’t distract ourselves indefinitely. Eventually that airborne dart — the “third arrow” that we’ve been ignoring — finds its target.

Avoiding the third arrow

If we understand, as the Buddha put it, the “origin and passing away” of a painful feeling (the first arrow), then we can relate to it differently. We know it’s not permanent. We know that it will pass. We can simply experience it without aversion. And in the open space of mindfulness that we’ve created, a painful feeling arises and then passes away.

A recent study showed that painful feelings like shame, fear, and humiliation pass in mere minutes. The less we react with the second arrow of mental self-torment, the quicker painful feelings dissipate. Even if they last longer (the same study showed that sadness can be remarkably persistent), if we don’t respond with the third arrow of denial and distraction, we won’t simply be deferring the pain to some future time.

Putting this into practice

I can pretty much guarantee that within the next half hour you’re going to encounter some kind of dissatisfaction (boredom, hurt, confusion, frustration, etc.) and them immediately be tempted to pursue the next dopamine hit by indulging in some kind of escape activity.

See if you can be alert instead. See if you can stay with the discomfort. Tell yourself it’s OK to have this painful feeling. Recognize that it’s impermanent and that it’ll dissipate as we observe it mindfully. Stay with it long enough for it to dissolve. And when it does, the “third arrow” of deferred suffering will dissolve too, mid-flight.

Read More

The first noble truth – the noble truth of suffering

on practice
No Comments

Buddha portraitThe Four Noble Truths are the most fundamental teaching of the Buddha. Deceptively simple, they actually provide a profound explanation of human unhappiness, both gross and subtle, and how to attain increasingly positive states of mind, from stress relief in daily life to an unshakeable calm happiness and a selflessly compassionate heart.

With regard to the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha has been likened to a physician who diagnoses a condition, explains what causes it and what will end it, and then lays out in detail its cure.

The Noble Truth of Suffering
The first Noble Truth is that life contains inevitable, unavoidable suffering. (Some translators use the word, “stress,” to convey the broad meaning of the original word used by the Buddha in the Pali language: dukkha.)

This suffering encompasses the gross forms of pain, illness, and trauma we can all imagine, such as a broken leg, stomach flu, grappling with the devastation of a hurricane or the violent death of a loved one — or getting the diagnosis of a terminal disease.

It also includes milder but common forms of discomfort and distress, like long hours of work, feeling let down by partner, a headache, feeling frustrated, disappointed, hurt, inadequate, depressed, upset, etc.

And it includes the subtlest qualities of tension in the mind, restlessness, sense of contraction, preoccupation, unease, boredom, blahness, ennui, sense of being an isolated self, something missing in life, something just not fulfilling, etc.

What People Do with the Fact of Suffering
Because suffering is uncomfortable, we may suppress or minimize it in our own lives. And because it is unpleasant – and sometimes guilt-provoking – to see it in others, we sometimes turn away from it there, too.

We also live in a culture that tends to cast a veil over the everyday suffering of poverty, chronic illness, draining work conditions, aging, and dying while – oddly – pushing intense imagery of violence in everything from the evening news to children’s TV. Simultaneously, our media present an endless parade of promises that you can avoid suffering through looking younger, upgrading your internet connection, drinking Bud Lite, getting Viagra, losing 10 pounds, etc.

It can almost make you feel like a failure for suffering!

Personal Reflections
What are some of the kinds of suffering that exist in your life?

Can you accept the fact of your suffering? What gets in the way of doing that?

What happens inside you when you accept the universal truth of suffering, that everyone suffers? In a way, it becomes less personal then, and easier to handle. It’s just suffering. It doesn’t have to be a big deal that we suffer. It’s just what is. It is indeed true that we and everyone else suffers.

You have opened up to a truth . . . a great truth . . . the First Noble Truth.

Read More

Ebooks are now available on the Wildmind store!

on practice
No Comments

Wildmind_ebook (L)Wildmind: A Step-by-Step Guide to Meditation, by Bodhipaksa (ebook)

Meditation helps us to cut through the agonizing clutter of superficial mental turmoil and allows us to experience more spacious and joyful states of mind. It is this pure and luminous state that I call your Wildmind.

From how to build your own stool to how a raisin can help you meditate, this illustrated guide explains everything you need to know to start or strengthen your meditation practice.

Available in epub (iPad, Nook, etc.) & mobi (Kindle) formats.

Other titles include:

  • Buddhist Meditation by Kamalashila (ebook)
  • Change Your Mind: A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation by Paramananda (ebook)
  • Life With Full Attention: A Practical Course in Mindfulness by Maitreyabandhu (ebook)
  • Living with Awareness by Sangharakshita (ebook)
  • Living with Kindness by Sangharakshita (ebook)
  • Meditating: A Buddhist View by Jinananda (ebook)
  • The Body by Paramananda (ebook)
  • The Breath by Vessantara (ebook)
  • The Heart by Vessantara (ebook)
  • The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation by Sangharakshita (ebook)

They are all available for download on our store now.

Read More

Tandem meditation 101: how meditating with your partner builds intimacy

news
1 Comment

wildmind meditation newsJason Nik, Care2.com: As a Life Coach, I’ve had many clients in relationships that meditate, but somehow it always surprises me when they tell me they only meditate on their own. When these clients are going through relationship troubles and I suggest meditating together, they look at me as if I don’t understand the concept of meditation.

We all know that the benefits of meditation have been well-documented as decreasing anxiety and increasing happiness for an individual among other things; but some of the time we have spent meditating alone to enhance our individual lives could also be spent meditating with another to …

Read the original article »

Read More

Meditation moment: what is meditation?

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsSteve Shields, Record-Bee: For thousands of years, human beings have practiced techniques of mental focusing, designed to change the habitual conditioning of the mind. Central to many spiritual and philosophical traditions and known in English as meditation, these practices are considered a major means for enhanced awareness and self-mastery.

In recent decades, modern science has dramatically confirmed what advanced meditators have long claimed — that meditation, correctly practiced, offers deep and lasting benefits for mental functioning and emotional health, as well as for physical health and well being.

THE MANY PRACTICAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION INCLUDE:

  • Marked and lasting reduction of stress
  • Increased ability …

Read the original article »

Read More

Exploring your past is a prerequisite for true mindfulness

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsJohn and Elaine Leadem, PsychCentral: Mindfulness. It means living in the moment. By now, most of us are well aware of the great emotional and spiritual promises of living mindfully. It is believed to lower high blood pressure, heal trauma, and enhance our problem-solving abilities. Studies show that mindful people may be happier.

Many traditional philosophies however, stress the importance of purposefully going back in time and exploring our past experiences. We revisit where we have been and how we have become the people we are. Those of us who are members of 12 Step recovery groups are asked to complete a comprehensive 4th …

Read the original article »

Read More

Cognitive therapy, mindfulness may help with menopausal depression

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsJanice Neumann, Philly.com: Psychotherapy and mindfulness techniques could help many women who experience depression during menopause, according to a review of existing research.

Too few studies have looked at whether cognitive therapies are good alternatives for women who can’t or don’t want to use pharmaceutical treatments, the authors conclude, but the handful that did mostly showed positive results.

“When I started work in this area, I was struck by the lack of alternative, non-pharmacological, non-hormonal treatment for menopausal symptoms, given the associated risks of hormone therapy and side effects of anti-depressants for some women,” said Sheryl Green, lead author of the study, in …

Read the original article »

Read More

Meditation the new tool to reach peak performance

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsAlex Hutchinton, The Globe and Mail: It’s relatively easy to spot the physical differences between, say, an Olympic rower and a couch potato. But it’s the mind as much as the muscles that make a champion – so is it possible to pick an “elite brain” out of a crowd of ordinary grey matter?

That’s the challenge that a team of psychiatrists and neuroscientists at the University of California San Diego have been grappling with for the past few years. In brain-imaging studies with subjects ranging from Navy SEALs to elite athletes, they’ve found a telltale pattern of activity in certain brain regions …

Read the original article »

Read More

Proof that meditation can grow your brain

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsStephen Adams, Mail Online: Meditating really is a workout for the mind, according to scientists who have found it can make the brain bigger.

Practicing simple meditation techniques such as concentrating on your breathing helps build denser grey matter in parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, controlling emotions and compassion.

Just eight weeks of meditation can produce structural changes large enough to be picked up by MRI scanners, American scientists have discovered.

Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar said: ‘If you use a particular part of your brain, it’s going to grow because you are using it. It really is mental …

Read the original article »

Read More

Why ageing is all in the mindfulness

news
No Comments

wildmind meditation newsMargaret Jennings, Irish Examiner: Meditation and ‘knowing ourselves in a deeper way’ can reduce our anxieties and fears about getting old, and increase our acceptance.

IN 1981, Timothy Sweeney returned from a long meditation retreat and told his mother, with whom he had a “very difficult” relationship, that he would have to discontinue it, if she didn’t change.

His mother was 65 and had, he says, a “lot of unfinished business, emotional baggage”, and had pain from spinal surgery.

Sweeney, then 27, and his mother were living in California. She decided to do a ten-day meditation retreat with Jack Kornfield.

“She was still herself, the Jewish …

Read the original article »

Read More
Menu