We all experience some physical and mental discomfort in our lifetime – it’s simply part of life. In the book “Buddha’s Brain”, meditation teacher Rick Hanson explains that in Buddha’s teachings this unavoidable discomfort is called the “first dart.”
Of course first darts are unpleasant, but then we add our reactions to them. These are called “second darts” and they are the ones that actually cause most our suffering.
For example, you walk through your dark living room and step on something jagged. The first dart is the pain you feel on your foot. Right after the first dart, we often follow it up with a second dart of anger: “Who left that darn toy on the floor?”
The second dart reactions can even occur when there is no apparent first dart. Let’s say I come home to dirty dishes in the sink. Now the dirty dishes themselves do not really throw first dart. But my negative reaction to the dishes can quickly launch a second dart.
Furthermore, sometimes we even send off a second dart in reaction to something positive. For example, someone might compliment us on something. When we start to think: “Oh, I don’t really deserve that compliment. I feel like a fraud,” we are throwing a needless second dart at ourselves.
How do we avoid throwing second darts at ourselves and stop suffering needlessly? Through training our brain!
Once we become aware of what’s happening, we can practice not reacting further. At first, we might just begin to notice our upset reaction to something. Then we can move to still feeling upset, but not acting out. We can remind ourselves of all the positives about the other person or our situation. After practicing for long enough, our upset reaction doesn’t even come up or is becomes so small, that we can easily let it go.
Mindfulness training really helps with this, as well as focusing on the positive instead on dwelling on the negative in all areas of our life.
What second darts will you stop throwing at yourself?
Manuela loves helping smart and creative women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives through Professional Life Coaching!