How to Stub Your Toe Without Banging Your Head
"Sallatha Sutta: The Dart" translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera
Irreverent adaptation by Bruce Cantwell
Unmindful folks experience pleasant feelings, painful feelings, and neutral feelings.
So do mindful folks.
What's the difference?
When unmindful folks are touched by a painful bodily feeling, they worry and grieve, moan, beat their breast, weep and are distraught. They experience a bodily and a mental feeling. It's like stubbing your toe, leaning down to grab your foot, and banging your head on the counter.
Having stubbed a toe and banged their heads, unmindful folks resist and resent it. Through neuroplasticity, this pattern of resistance and resentment becomes habituated. Under the impact of that stubbed toe and banged head, they resort to alcohol, drugs, credit cards, food, sex, Netflix, or smartphones to feel better.
Why? Unmindful folks don't have other ways to cope.
While engaged in drinking, drugs, credit cards, food, sex, Netflix, or smartphones, a craving for these sense pleasures is habituated.
Unmindful folks aren't aware of the coming and going of feelings, nor the hazards of their distractions. When they experience a pleasant feeling, a painful feeling, or a neutral feeling, they crave their distractions.
But when mindful folks are touched by a painful feeling, they don't panic. They experience a bodily feeling, but not a mental one. It's like stubbing your toe, and saying, "Ow!" but not banging your head on the counter.
Mindful folks, having stubbed their toe, don't resist or resent it. So they don't habituate resistance or resentment. They don't resort to distractions to feel better.
Why not? They know the painful feelings are temporary. They understand the coming and going of feelings, and the dangers of addiction. Through neuroplasticity, they habituate inner peace.
They aren't shackled to self and other, old age, death, sorrow, moaning, pain, grief and despair. They aren't shackled to suffering.
That's the difference between unmindful folks and mindful folks.
A more reverent translation.
"Sallatha Sutta: The Dart" (SN 36.6), translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 13 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.006.nypo.html .