‘Meditation’

a well heard word and practiced in different areas around the world. But now a day, it has become a very helpful mind exercise technique for many people. It has a rich history of hundreds of years. Many organizations are now arranging meditation classes to clarify its concept and to teach its techniques. But in practice of meditation there is some obstructions created by mind of participants termed as “Hindrances.”

 

Five hindrances (Sanskrit: pañca nivāraṇa; Pali: pañca nīvaraṇāni)

are identified as mental factors that hinder progress in meditation and in our daily lives.  These are the forces in the mind that impair our ability to see clearly or become concentrated. They are universal, we all experience them.

The five hindrances are:

  1. Sensory desire (kāmacchanda) or greed: The particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling.
  2. Ill-will (vyāpāda) or aversion: All kinds of thought related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness.
  3. Sloth-torpor (thīna-middha): Heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
  4. Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): The inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt (vicikicchā): Lack of conviction or trust.

 

How to overcome hindrances?

Hindrances are created by our mind. When we practice meditation we may have to fight with our insight. These are hindrances. But this fight doesn’t give an ultimate result. We can overcome hindrances by investigating and understanding them. 

 

Investigating the Hindrances:

We use The RAIN Formula to investigate a hindrance. It is-

R: Recognize it.

A: Accept it.

I: Investigate it, be curious. What is it like?

      -Physically- (How does it feel? Is it pleasant or Unpleasant? Does it changes with time?)

      -Emotionally

      -Energetically- (such as feelings of sinking or lifting or rushing)

      -Cognitively- (What beliefs or thinking we should tell ourselves?)

      -Motivationally- (is there an urge to act or cling?)

N: Non-identification. This is just a passing process that comes and goes, not who we are.

When Hindrances arise, you must stop for them. You should investigate and identify them. Often just recognizing a hindrance is enough for it to fall away. You don’t indulge them; you should become interested and study them.

 

Now we will discuss individual hindrances with how to overcome them.

 Sensory desire (kāmacchanda) or greed

 

Sensory desire means that seeking for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling. In its extreme form, sensory desire becomes an obsession to find pleasure in such things as good food, fine music, even sexual desire. But it also replaces unwanted or painful five-sense experiences with pleasant or suitable ones, i.e. the desire for comfort or feelings of comfort.

Remedies:

No matter what is the desire is, complete attention is always required. You can work with it using the RAIN formula above (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-identification).

 

  • If you are feeling excessive concentration about the good thing or pleasant desires, you can focus on the body’s non-attractive parts, such as- sweat, body hair, urine, saliva, phlegm, teeth, or internal organs such as- bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, intestines, undigested food, blood etc.

 

  • If you desire something harmful, you should focus on the consequences of getting what you want. Like, if you desire about Diabetes, then you can concentrate on consequences and effects of it.

 

  • If you desire something that might be appropriate, but you are clinging to that desire and if you feel you must need to have it; you can focus on the persistence of what you want. How long will the satisfaction last if the desire is fulfilled? This desire will fade. It is not permanent.

 

 Ill-will (vyāpāda) or aversion

 

Aversion is all kinds of thoughts related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment and bitterness. It means wanting a thing in an inappropriate way or pushing it away. Ill will is rise of thought getting a desired thing in a harmful way.

 

It does not matter how weak or strong an aversion or ill will is. Complete and strong mindful attention is necessary. You can work again with RAIN formula.

 

Remedies:

 

Counterbalancing aversion may be useful to overcome Ill will or aversion:-

 

  • At first, you have to increase your concentration, Narrow your focus (such as count your breaths)
  • Then, broaden your focus, experience the body with surroundings, listen to all sounds.
  • Then Change your focus. Aversion is often due to one specific attention. If you feel irritated about anything you should think about positive things of it.
  • If you face any difficulty you should ask yourself how to overcome it.
  • If you feel angry on you or any other people, try to love and try to think kindly.
  • It’s helpful to identify the difference between pain and our aversion and notice emotional reaction to it.
  • Reflect on things you have done that have helped yourself or other people.
  • If your aversion is fear and if it is not manageable, sometimes it’s appropriate to counterbalance with changes in focus. etc.

 

 Sloth-torpor (thīna-middha)

Sloth-torpor means heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling and depression.

Ajahn Brahmavamso said “Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch, as it were. Setting a goal, a reasonable goal, is a wise and effective way to generate energy, as is deliberately developing interest in the task at hand. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new.” ( ref- http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed051.htm )

 

We want to develop a mind which is both restful and active. Excessive restfulness, without any activity, like we are in a dream. On other hand, with too much alertness or activeness and no restfulness or peacefulness we will be very anxious.

Identifying and understanding both Sloth/Torpor & Restlessness and Anxiety are essential to developing a mind that is both peaceful or restful and alert or active.

 

Remedies:

Ajahn Brahmavamso said “Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch, as it were. Setting a goal, a reasonable goal, is a wise and effective way to generate energy, as is deliberately developing interest in the task at hand. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new.” ( ref- http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed051.htm )

 

So you can overcome Sloth-torpor by-

- Choosing a goal or direction to achieve energy

- Stimulate yourself by broadening your mind and focusing on your surroundings.

- Notice Complacency.

- Notice resistances and plan for how to overcome them.

- Make positive thoughts. Thoughts can increase or decrease your energy, etc.

 

 Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca)

 

Restlessness is feeling of over-excitement. It agitates the mind, so it doesn’t have the time to see completely. Restlessness is unpleasant and sometimes irritating, so there is a tendency of the mind to push it away.

 

Remedies:

  1. Try to be more concentrated or focused. Example- try to count your breathing until mind comes back to balance.
  2. You can try Loving kindness Practice and try to make your mind happy. Because a happy mind never become restless.
  3. Try smiling during practice to feel happy.
  4. You can try to broad your focus and listen to your surroundings.
  5. If restlessness is increasing, sometimes “bargaining” can be useful.  Such as-“I’ll just pay strict attention on breath counting for next 10 breaths.”
  6. Restlessness can be unpleasant and irritating, but try to stay with it and experience it. Don’t get caught by the contents of its story and don’t push it away. Don’t resist it. Don’t be in a rush to get rid of it.

 

 Doubt (vicikicchā)

Doubt means lack of conviction or trust. It is a dangerous hindrance. It can cause a person to give up the practice. Doubt interrupts with the collecting or arranging of data with unwanted premature questions. It interferes with the process of observation.

 

Remedies:

Any kind of doubt can be overcome by strong mindful attention. You can again work with the RAIN formula to identify and overcome it.

The most important thing about working with Doubt is, you have to learn to recognize it. You have to know, when it arises and what are the subjects. With a persistent doubt you can work with it getting clear instructions and talking. If anyone really absorbs the value of one moment of mindfulness, maybe he or she will not be trapped by Doubt.

 

So, these are the hindrances of meditation and few ways to overcome them. Hindrances are faced by every meditation practitioners. Everyone who is facing hindrances have to identify it properly by investigating it. Then he or she has to take it easily and try to overcome it. These are hindrances but not real obstructions for meditations.

Please read-

Preparation of Meditation

________________________________________

Dr. Hasan Ebna Amin

 


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