Posted in buddhism

The Five Hindrances

This is a list of five things we talk about that tend to get in the way of our well-being. These are the things that often make it more difficult to be mindful and aware in our lives.

 

Attachment; craving and chasing after pleasure all the time.

Aversion; resistance to pain, hatred and resentment about our experience

Restlessness; anxiety, the inability to settle down

Sloth; laziness, procrastination

Doubt; believing we can’t handle any of this

 

 These are the things that get in our way the most. I think restlessness and attachment are the ones I experience the most. These things are part of normal experience and everyone has to deal with all five. I think it helps to remind ourselves that these things are normal, that we aren’t dealing with them because we’re broken. It’s because we’re human. To be human is to struggle with these things. It’s not your fault and you’re not less than anyone else because you struggle with these things. I hope we can stop saying to ourselves, “I’m restless because I’m an anxious person” and instead say to ourselves, “I have an experience of restlessness because I’m a human being”

And none of this is unnatural. Of course we want to avoid pain. We have survived by avoiding pain. We have survived based on wondering what we can handle. It’s all simply part of life. But the question is can we relate to these hindrances in a better way?

I’m not going to suggest that we can come to a point where we’ll stub our toe and just calmly say, “Pain is entering my body” but I am suggesting that we can notice when these hindrances are arising and try to engage with them and overcome them when they get in our way. Recognizing them is the first step.

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I need to have a stronger commitment to

I need to have a stronger commitment to my meditation practice. I think we all do.

Meditation is hard. That seems counter-intuitive. Just sitting and doing nothing, counting our breaths? That should be easy. It should be just about the laziest thing in the world. And people love to be lazy, don’t they?

But it isn’t easy. Why? Well, I think it’s because it seems like the world is conspiring to stop us. We have so many ways to entertain and occupy ourselves. 

It can be hard to just sit when we’re too busy thinking about watching tv or playing a video game or messing with our cell phones or goofing around on facebook. Our culture teaches us that we have some sort of right to be entertained ALL THE TIME. Not only do we have the right to this, we sometimes feel like we have to. I don’t think that’s a natural part of the human condition. I think that’s something we’ve learned. We have learned to not be mindful and we have to figure out how to get past it.

 

Although today when I was meditating, I got distracted because I started thinking about writing this blog. 

The Buddha talked about the five hindrances, a list of five things that tend to get in the way of meditation practice. They are: Desire, Ill will, sloth, restlessness, and doubt.

Desire means being distracted from my practice because I’m thinking about things I want.

Ill Will means being distracted from my meditation practice because I’m thinking negative thoughts about myself or others.

Sloth means being distracted because I’m tired and meditation makes me think about going to sleep.

Restlessness is the one that really gets me and I think it’s the one most people struggle with. It means being distracted because I’m worrying or thinking too much. Thinking about the future, or the past, instead of stilling the mind is a serious problem in meditation.

Doubt means either a lack of belief that meditation is helpful, or a lack of belief that we can do it.

I have anxiety issues. I have always had anxiety issues. I’m constantly dealing with the hindrance of restlessness in my meditation practice. I’ve experience all five and I think most people who practice meditation have, but restlessness is the only one that I ever experience these days. 

So, now that we’ve identified the problem, meditation is hard. How do we deal with it?

I’ve found that routine is the only thing that works. Commit to sit. Practice meditation every day. If you think you can’t do it, you’re wrong. Everyone can. 

It’s good to do 20-30 minutes per day. But start easy. Start meditating five minutes per day and slowly expand it to more and more. If you say you think you don’t have five minutes to spare when you’re getting ready in the morning or before bed at night, you’re kidding yourself. 

You have the time, so use it.
Commit to sit. You’ll be happier.