To read in more detail about Ethan’s 7-Point Plan:

Yesterday was a long day of LOTS of sitting on a meditation cushion at our local mindfulness center, with very little active movement, which my physical body is not a huge fan of. And it was also lovely, too, as not only was I able to partake in an OI Day of Mindfulness (OI: Order of Interbeing), but it meant I was able to see our out of town sangha friends, of whom I only gather with 3-4 times a year.

Our Day of Mindfulness included: sitting meditation, indoor walking meditation, reciting the 14 Mindfulness Trainings, listening to short talks from three of our Montana and Wyoming area OI members, silent lunch, a dharma/personal check-in round, and closing remarks from our local Dharma teacher Rowan. It went from 9:30am-5:00pm. My husband and I left at 5:00pm, in order to return home to our son, while others stayed to have dinner together at the center. My nerve condition, and associating chronic pain, had been so aggravated by the hours spent mostly sitting that I darted out to our car quite rapidly after the final sound of the bell – whoosh, I was gone! What I’ve been appreciating reflecting on, since getting home last night, is how strong my practice of self-care is – which took me years of honing in, I might add, and is a continual practice. Now, when my pain levels rise and my mental energy plummets in unison, I know what I need to do and I do it.

A big part of my self-care routine is in understanding how physical pain, just like everything else, is of the nature to change. When my pain level rises, I practice to remember that by prioritizing rest, using a few simple aids (such as using a heating blanket and soaking my legs in a hot bath), and being attentive to my body mechanics, my pain will subside to a large degree, after a certain length of time. I no longer fight against the pain or my body, wishing they were other then they are. I’ve learned a different way of engaging with myself when pain arises, and it makes such an immense difference in my experience.

As Thay says: “The Buddha said that you shouldn’t amplify your pain by exaggerating the situation. He used the image of someone who has just been hit by an arrow. A few minutes later, a second arrow strikes him in exactly the same spot. When the second arrow hits, the pain is not just doubled; it is many times more painful and intense.

So when you experience pain, whether is physical or mental, you have to recognize  it just as it is and not exaggerate it. You can say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know this is only a minor physical pain. I can very well make friends and peace with it. I can still smile to it.”

If you recognize the pain as it is and don’t exaggerate it, then you can make peace with it, and you won’t suffer as much. But if you get angry and revolt against it, if you worry too much and imagine that you’re going to die very quickly, then the pain will be multiplied one hundred times. That is the second arrow, the extra suffering that comes from exaggeration. You should not allow it to arise. This is very important. It was recommended by the Buddha: Don’t exaggerate and amplify the pain.”

– From Shambhala Sun magazine (now known as Lion’s Roar), January 2012

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A pic I found online

I’ve recently taken to watching old episodes of Northern Exposure on Youtube.  If you’re not familiar with the show it  lasted for 6 seasons and aired in the early 90’s.  It’s set in a rural Alaskan town that has less then 900 people in it and features a variety of eccentric characters.  It has native american themes coursing through many of the episodes and I appreciate the lessons and insights that are often interwoven into the show.  A few days ago I watched an episode where one of the main actors, a half-white half-native american named Ed who’s in his early 20’s, was grappling with whether he wanted to follow the calling he had received to become a shaman (also known as a healer).  He was being followed by a small leprechaun type of creature with red glimmering eyes who tried to convince Ed that he wasn’t good enough to go out with this certain girl he had met.  It was later explained to Ed, by his shaman mentor, that every healer in training had their shadows or demons to deal with and the leprechaun was his.

He further explained that his demon was the worst of the differing kinds because it was the demon of self-doubt and it would be the hardest to cast away.  He said that Ed might deal with that demon all his life but that he could keep it at bay by working on his self-confidence and learning how to love and accept himself.  Ed’s mentor basically stated that all suffering that exists in the world is due to low self-esteem.  He asked Ed the rhetorical question, “Do you think Hitler felt good about himself?”  In his explanation I heard a very similar parallel teaching within my own mindfulness tradition that states how people with that much anger have a great deal of suffering and will cause others to suffer too.

As I am interested in becoming a dharma teacher in my Buddhist lineage I am on the path of learning how to piece teachings together, observe how others teach, look for ways to unfold habit energies, and discover the roots of suffering for myself in order to offer support to others.  I started thinking about the shaman mentor’s notion of how all suffering is born from low self-esteem and self-doubt.  It made sense to me.

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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as Thay (pronounced Tie) by his students.  Thay means teacher in Vietnamese.  Searching for a magazine earlier in the week to bring with me to read on my lunch break at work I came across an old edition of Shambhala Sun from January of 2012 featuring Thay on the cover.  It in there’s an interview with Thay and a personal account from the magazine’s deputy editor on having attended one of Thay’s large retreats.  As I re-read the interview I was reminded once again of how much I appreciate Thay and his teachings and how grateful I am to be one of his students.

A word for word transcription from the magazine interview with Thay by Andrea Miller of Shambhala Sun follows here:

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