We often get very quickly involved in our work, particularly if we are working on a computer or laptop. I often have several screens open at once, hopping from one job to another, copying and pasting here and there to complete a task. Then there are the online pop ups, distracting and tempting us to look elsewhere. Suddenly I am googling something when a Facebook notification comes in and as hard as I try to ignore it, I just have to take a sneak look at that friends post and engage emotionally in what happening in their life!
This is all OK until we realise that the work we planned to complete, within the hour, is suddenly only half done and not as good as we wanted it to be and then we’ve lost the train of thought we had and that good idea seems a distant memory. So we soon start to become frustrated and then the dreaded self-judgement kicks in. ‘Why am I so bad at this?’ ‘Why can’t I get anything done?’ etc etc
Does this sound familiar to you?
These are known as the ‘two darts’ and we need to learn to stop throwing them!
These reactive darts are what Buddha called the ‘two darts’. The first dart is the unavoidable pains and frustrations of general life. the waves of stress that will happen regardless of how much we try to hold them off or avoid them. The second is our reaction to these events. For example, you may develop a headache (first dart) and then we start to worry that it is something serious, without any real evidence, (second dart).
Perhaps your boss may ask you do change something with your work (first dart) and them you start to wonder if you are not doing you work correctly and start to beat yourself up with self-critical thoughts that your work is not good enough, (second dart).
The problem is we often throw these second darts without even realising it and create pain for ourselves where there was none to start with. Sometimes this even happens when something as gone well. You may have completed a piece of work successfully, but then you start to wonder if you should have done it more quickly or immediately bring to mind all the other things on your to-do list and don’t allow yourself to enjoy your success, (in the moment style!)
These ‘second darts’ are responsible for our day to day suffering and anxiety. Thoughts of guilt, catastrophe, worries, grudges all build up into things we cannot control. They create their own made up stories to keep themselves amused and we feed then by allowing them the time and space to exist. It becomes an unreal viscous circle of stress and worry.
First darts are a part of life and manifest as physical and emotional responses to our daily events, in the same way as pleasure forms part of our life. Pain is nature’s way of protecting ourselves when we feel under threat. If we hurt ourselves we feel physical pain and this pain reminds us not support that part of our body and rest it etc If we are hurt emotionally, we may seek out caring people or talk to some one who can help us nourish and support our fragile emotional state. This is all part of life but allowing the second darts in, is not. Blaming ourselves for not being more careful or beating ourselves up with self criticism is avoidable.
So how do with deal with these darts?
The first bit of good news is that we experience more first darts than second darts. We just need to get better at noticing them and catch them before they hit us!
We can’t avoid those first ones. Life is full of pain, sadness and hurt as much as it is full of joy, happiness and excitement but we can learn how to control those second darts and lower our stress reactors.
- Start by accepting that these first darts will happen and its OK. Don’t try to resist it as this creates it’s own second dart
- Notice how your react to the dart. It may be a physical reaction or an emotional one. You may feel it in your body as your heart beats faster or you become hot and bothered or you may notice racing thoughts.
- Develop awareness to the above and start to give it a little space. Let it be without reacting to it or even trying to get rid of it. With practice you learn to become a witness or observer to these reactions. In this way we can allow it to arise, pass and disappear.
or try this…
A work break meditation
I began this piece by mentioning how we get engrossed in work and often don’t give ourselves timely breaks to avoid both darts! Setting a timer my help you to build in regular breaks.
Start with body awareness…
If you’re at your desk then start by pushing your chair back a little; place your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a comfortable position on your lap. Close your eyes or lower your gaze and start to notice how your body is feeling. Do a brief scan of your head, neck, back and other parts of your body. Just notice how your feeling and accept it. Notice how you can connect your body and your mind through how you feel and what you feel. Sense where your feet connect to the floor, where your body connects and makes contact with the chair, notice your posture and whether your chest is open or closed. Are your shoulders tense and how does your face feel. Is it tired or tense? You could even try a smile. Allow your self to make some small adjustments to enable your body to be upright, but not tense, open and comfortable.
Now notice your breathing…
Focus on where you cans sense your own breathing. In the chest or stomach, with its gentle rise and fall, or in the nose and mouth as cold and warm air flows in and out. Notice your breath but don’t try to control or change it. If focus is difficult then just take some slightly deeper breaths than normal but then allow yourself to settle into a more natural breathing rhythm. Notice how that feels and allow your self this time to reset the body.
If you mind wanders off on a train of thought or those second darts kick in (and they will so don’t worry or judge!) … just try and bring it back to focusing on your body or breath. When ready open your eyes and stretch, noticing again how this feels and then return to what you were doing.
This whole process may only take two or three minutes but with regular practice you will soon realise that you will be able to work with more focus and ward off those second darts more effectively!