Meet the obstacles (and a little practice)

Last week I talked about the 2 wings (mindfulness and compassion). Today I would like to explore the 5 hindrances: desire, ill will (or resentment), worry, doubt and sloth. This is how Buddha called the impediments, distractions or confusions.
We encounter them in life, daily and when we sit in meditation, whether you have a practice that concentrates on the breath, mantra or any other object at some point we’ll meet them there too and they are the exact things that interfere with our capacity to concentrate both during our practice and in our everyday life.
The reason I’m talking about these more “technical” concepts is not to confuse you or bore you, it’s to in fact expand the misconception that you can’t meditate or you don’t meditate properly (since there’s no such thing as this) and also to start a conversation on how are we experiencing these impediments or distractions when they show up. How can we become more aware of them? It’s easy to just feel so bad about ourselves or go to a reactive auto mode when we hit one of these hindrances, which are inherently part of our human nature, but how can we  begin to stay out of the loop? When we invite the mindfulness practice or are simply more aware to notice, we can learn a few things about these hindrances: when they are present, when they are absent, how they arise, what to do to make them go away and how to keep them from coming back.

I made a practice which consists on creating a list of the hindrances and  your typical related behaviors that helps you to first identify it and then to become aware of how they arise and manifest, for example:

  • Sloth / I might become distracted and notice how I’ll engage in other things just to avoid doing my work or whatever I have to do at the present moment.

  • Resentment/ I might become irritated and notice how this is my go-to mode when I'm  resisting what it is right now, when I just wish things were different. Deep down, I want to be rescued.

  • Worry / I might lean into obsessive thinking and notice how this is the place my mind goes when it's avoiding being in the present moment, when wants to fix something.

  • Doubt/ I might want to rush or escape and notice how I create the illusion that by escaping to other scenarios, situations, places gives me the false idea that the “problem” will be resolved and I will be rescued.

  • Desire / I might hold on to things/people and notice how I do this to find security, pleasure, reassurance, to be seen.

  • Sloth / I might feel a lack of energy and notice that this happens when my mind is fragmented, I'm  not paying attention on my presence. I'm acting and thinking in a sleepy, reactive mode.

For your practice, on a piece of paper write down the 5 hindrances and think about ways they manifest in your life and how your behavior is connected with it, so the next time you face one or more of these impediments you can notice and be more aware of them and how they manifest (in your practice or outside of it) and start to work your way through it from a place of more attention, kindness and inclusion. If you have questions, let me know!



Mari Chin