Dawn and mid-morning overlooking the tidal lagoon at Samish Island Campground
where the Annual Spring Retreat was held last weekend.
Mid-month News from Mindfulness Northwest
On our minds
The Buddha’s Two Darts Teaching
I’ve been thinking about the Buddha’s Two Dart teaching over the last several days while I was pretty sick. He taught that we all experience physical, emotional, and mental pain. It’s just the human condition. That’s the first dart. We grow ill, we experience loss, old age, the death of friends and family, and fears about our own death. But the second dart is often more painful, the one we inflict on ourselves, our own strong reactions to the many first darts life throws at us. First darts are unavoidable; through mindfulness practice, we can actually reduce how many second darts we throw at ourselves.
As I lay for hours in bed with at times a high fever, exhaustion and muscle aches, I found I could rest into my moment-by-moment condition by practicing breath awareness: “I feel awful,” I’d hear myself thinking, and then: “Breathe.” Over and over, coming back to a presence of the breath.
The “I feel awful” was a second dart thought, a concept about the illness, not the various physical sensations I was experiencing: heat, coldness, shivering, sweating, muscles constricting and releasing. A whole cascade of what we call “bare experience,” without the concepts we add onto the sensations.
The second dart thoughts ramp up the pain of the first dart. These thoughts, like “I feel awful,” seem to be objective descriptions of experience. But they can actually make us feel worse. Being aware of the experiences as they come up helps us let go of the second dart and come back to what is really going on with our bodies.
Especially in the nights when I had trouble falling back asleep, I relied on the body scan to return to the first dart. Moving from toe to head or head to toe, I would bring my mind and heart into a nurturing awareness of the body, part by part. And then sometimes of the body as a whole. As I lay there, I began to experience more vividly sensations in the body, as in the breath awareness, without adding on concepts - second darts - and my sensations just didn’t bother me. They just were.
To be sure, in the midst of these mindfulness practices, my mind would wander, I would go back to critical thoughts, to the second darts: Why am I not well yet, what’s the matter with me, etc.? But practice reduced how often they came up and how intensely they intruded upon my body scan.
Overall, I was flowing with the ups and downs of the actual sensations of the illness. Until I got closer to the evening I was scheduled to teach my first new MBSR class of the Spring. Here’s where I began to throw a barrage of second dart thoughts at myself: “I haven’t ever missed teaching a class before, a responsible teacher teaches his classes. I will not let this illness get in the way of doing the right thing. I HAVE to be able to teach, I’m letting my co-teachers at Mindfulness Northwest down if I don't even show up for class.”
The facts were, there were other teachers available to cover the class. But inside me I was fighting the facts. Back to practice. Breath awareness and the body scan. After a while, I was able to rest into how my life really was. I was getting better, slower than I wanted, but the discomfort was lessening. I let go of the self-critical second darts. I stayed at home and rested. I wrote a letter to an old friend. I read a book on compassion and read up on one of the new herbal remedies I was taking. I truly enjoyed being home and accepting my need to recover.
The biggest challenge was a pre-conceived notion that my self-worth depended on teaching that one class. The blessing for me was resting into practice and the awareness that my co-teachers were there for me. We are not alone.
- Richard Johnson
Bellingham: Tending Relationships with a Mindful Heart workshop. Saturday April 15th
Class has been cancelled due to instructor illness.
New in Bellingham - Drop-in Meditation Class
Bellingham: Drop-in Meditation Class Thursday evenings, 7 - 8:30 pm. Led by mindfulness instructor Deb Wibe. No need to register, $10 cash or check at the door.
Coming up soon with spaces still left!
Spring and Summer Classes and Workshops
Experience the Benefits of Retreat
Retreat in the comfort of your home
New! An online 3-hour retreat with Mindfulness Northwest director Tim Burnett. Tim will lead us in a sequence of meditation and mindfulness practices including: sitting meditation, the body scan, walking meditation, gentle mindful yoga, and contemplative practices like the loving-kindness meditation. The retreat is designed especially for those who have taken Mindfulness Northwest classes and are seeking a convenient way to continue and renew their practice... from home!
First retreat is Sunday, April 23rd, 2-5pm. Wait list.
Next retreats are May 14th and June 11th, 2-5pm, sliding fee scale
"Cruise Your Inner Passage"
mindful kayaking in Alaska for health care professionals
Friend of Mindfulness Northwest Kurt Koelting is co-hosting (with Dr. Herdley Paolini) a mindfulness-based, resilience-building trip in Alaska's Inner Passage for Physicians, Physician Leaders, Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice RNs.
July 23-30, 2017. Flyer here.
Ever wanted to renew your practice by re-taking one of our courses, but finances get in the way? We can help - there's now an Alumni Discount registration option for most of our classes which can help with the financial challenge of returning as often as you want to these valuable trainings.