Sunday, January 31, 2010

5 Ways to Get in Trouble

Very much enjoyed Gil's talk yesterday, during all day retreat at IMC. Topic was the 5 Hindrances. I have highlighted the part that really spoke to me.

My notes from Gil's talk:
It is important to come to terms with 5 hindrances ('that which cover over'), so that mind is no longer fragmented. Hindrances are extra baggage that needs to fall away in order for mind to be able to make sound choices. The hindrances are:
  1. sensual desire
  2. ill will
  3. anxiety and restlesness
  4. sloth and torpor
  5. doubt
Each of us needs to become expert at how hindrances operate within us. Look at hindrances as an opportunity to be practiced directly with. 
One way to hold one's ground, and have upper hand over hindrances is to hold attention on an object, such as breath, going back to breath over and over.
Another approach is to turn to hindrance itself. Note this is very different than focusing on the object of the hindrance, which is what we usually do. Rather turn attention 180 degrees and look at hindrance itself. For example if feeling desire or aversion, rather than indulging fantasies about object of desire, take a look at what if feels like to be desiring. This leads us to realize that desiring itself is unpleasant. Same with ill will. Look directly at what it feels like to be ill willing, and you will see what cost ill will exerts on you. This is very significant movement, away from what we are thinking, desiring, having doubt, anxious, or having confusion about. Turning instead towards what it is like to be a thinker, or someone who desires, doubts, is anxious, or confused. When feeling anxious about something for instance - ping pong meditation - the more clearly we are able to feel the anxiety, the less fuel it has to go on. 
Desire and ill will are primary forces, deeply rooted in human psyche, particularly the desire for sensual pleasures. This is why it is such a hard lesson to learn that happiness does not come from pleasure. Pleasure is only skin deep, and dependent on how our nerves get stimulated. The happiness we are looking for runs deep and does not depend on pleasure. Meditation practice is a way of separating ourselves from temptations.
Breaking into sweat meditations are when we are feeling so much energy, and resistance coursing through, and yet sit in posture that embodies peace, just like the Buddha. 
Hindrances are opportunities to develop muscles of concentration, patience, letting go, compassion, insight. 
Sloth and torpor are different from tiredness. Refer instead to discouragement, shutting down, lethargy, boredom. Often a response to feeling of being challenged, a way of avoiding. Boredom is strictly an activity of the mind. Object is only boring in evaluation mind makes of it. If mind stop its activity, the same situation ceases to be boring. 
We take on hindrances as part of the path, the very stuff practice is about. Engaging hindrances with mindfulness is a very adult thing to do.
Doubt is most dangerous, very deeply rooted in psyche, most likely to get you to leave practice. It has most powerful camouflage, that says "This is the truth".
As you get to practice with hindrances more and more, they stop being hindrances. It's not the forces, it's the way we get hindered by them that get us.  
"Never make a decision when you are in the grip of hindrances."
Love having such clear directions for meditation.


  1. sloth and torpor are my nemesis. they get me every time, this time in a big, bad way! gonna go discuss at the virtual sangha. see you there! xo kitty

  2. sounds like a great opportunity to investigate, in real time . . . :)

  3. Salut Marguerite:

    C'est chouette de lire tes postings sur tes progres en tant que meditateur (ca existe ce mot en Francais??) et il me semble que c'est une evolution tres logique pour toi.
    Ca fait une douzaine d'annees que je pratique la meditation. Best thing I ever did for myself.
    Bonne continuation

    A bientot

    Jacques Sapriel

  4. Oh! Jacques, so nice to see you here . . . there are quite a few of you, including Nadine, and Cass, and Lynn, who have visited here from our green days over at La Marguerite blog. I did not know you practiced meditation. Do you have a teacher, over in France, and a community you belong to?

  5. very useful, thank you. particularly the encouragement to look at the hindrance itself, not its object. this is what I try to do in my daily practice, and with effort it works.