Overcome 5 Hindrances and 5 Faults of Meditation using this method

Buddha in Meditation
Credit – The Buddha (2010)

“Although the lantern is capable of providing illumination

but it cannot be useful in a stiff breeze

However, if one places it in a closed room

Its usefulness can then completely be manifested”

The term Meditation is sometimes vaguely used as a purpose to sit quietly without any thoughts. But have you ever questioned, what are thoughts? How thoughts come to our mind in everything we do in our lives? Thoughts cannot simply be generated on its own, it must have some origination. Our thoughts are widely influenced by our choice of lifestyle. Everything we do in our day to day life shapes our lifestyle. Meditation is simply not sitting in the cushion, it’s a Way of Life. And how you live your lifestyle will greatly impact your practice.

Common Problem when sitting in Meditative Equipoise

In the article How to Meditate, we sat for 5, 10 or 15 minutes trying to focus solely on the breath. If for all these time, you were solely focused on the sensation of the breath then you are exempted from reading any further, in fact you do not need any more reading. But poor souls like us whose attention span is less than few seconds, we need some homework to do.

Barely after few seconds of sitting, you will notice the mind starts wandering; I mean it has literally gone ‘thought shopping’. Bhikshuni Thupten Chodron says it very well, ‘We use meditation as a tool to prepare our grocery list’. You noticed that your mind is gone, you try hard bringing it back again to your breath but within seconds it is gone again. Harder you try, faster your mind flees. Its literally a baby monkey on a loose. All these are very common, it does not only happen to you, it happens to everyone when they are starting. So do not loose hope, do not think meditation is not for you. Like any skills, one needs to put lot of disciplined effort. Like a Musician or Olympic Athletes, who train themselves rigorously with strict discipline and perseverance, you also need to put the same joyous effort every day.

The irony is, our mind is the biggest enemy. It always like to trick us saying, ‘What meditation? You are so good in other things; you don’t need meditation. Go and browse Facebook, it is more interesting than sitting like a duck’. Simply do not listen to this cunning and deceptive mind.

In Buddhism it says there are 84000 mental obstacles. Yes, you read it right, 84000. And every obstacle have their individual antidotes to overcome. But there are some primary ones which we need to focus more closely. So what kind of hindrances arise while meditating and how to overcome it?

The 5 Hindrances of Meditation –

  1. Sensual Desires

We know this all too well, don’t we? Everything that we do in life is in pursuit of sensual desires. The beautiful flower we see, the food that we keep on thinking of, the pleasure of hearing praises, the hypnotizing smell of a perfume and the touch of gentleness. We are solely captivated by our 5 senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. Every single desire that we experience, arise from these 5 factors. And when things go wrong, the same 5 factors become the source of our suffering. Just take a moment and deeply think of it.

These sensory pleasure creates lot of hindrances when practicing meditation. That is why when someone goes for a retreat they are bounded by rules and regulations. When you sit for meditation, all you are thinking of this pleasure and that pleasure and the mind just runs away projecting the story of sensual pleasures.Then you must be thinking, if I don’t live for pleasure what is there to life to enjoy? It is not about removing the happiness of seeing something nice or eating good food. It is about not being attached to the nature of the goodness and badness. Because the innate nature of the object is Impermanent.

Antidote – So when your mind is scattered thinking of the good food, just contemplate on its impermanence. If I leave the food for 3 days outside, do I still want to eat it? How the food will taste like? The food wont be the same, so what am I desiring of. Or if I smell a perfume it feels so good, but if I keep on smelling it for an hour I will start throwing up on the same fragrance.

Think of the impermanence of the object and bring your mind again to breathing. After a while as soon as desire rises the mind will automatically think of the impermanence and get focused on the breath.

  1. Ill Will and Malice

Oh yes, we are also aware of this. Not only we are aware but we think of it with full visualization. We are so caught up thinking of all the things people did in the past and what they ‘might’ do in the future. Why she said this to me, I have not done anything wrong to her. Oh that person really said some nasty things to me, I need to find the right moment to teach a lesson that will straight him up. I did so much for my partner and in return all she did is cause me immense pain.

There is a full on ‘revenge’ movie going on in our head and as an executive director we are simply directing the movie with full cast of main actors and supporting characters (being a photographer sometimes I even think of right kind of lighting to give my thoughts more drama).

Antidote – Generate fortitude and cultivate love for that person. Just think, like me that person do not want to suffer and wants happiness. May the person get the happiness and free from suffering.

  1. Dullness and Drowsiness

Ah, meditation is so relaxing!!! I can sleep in meditation for hours and in fact I will call it a day and skip work. Our mind, it likes to wear mask to hide the demon behind. If there is no exciting thought going on (taking revenge and running for pleasure) then it will pretend to be dull. And this has nothing to do with sleepiness. Even if you get plenty of sleep you can still experience dullness. It becomes boring because nothing exciting is going on in the mind. Mind is habituated with excitement, planning all the time.

Antidote – Check your body posture, refer to the following article – Correct Posture .  Here a little opening of the eye is very helpful.

  1. Regret and Restlessness

Regret is something subtle and it stays at the back of our head. I should not have done something I did or I did something that shouldn’t have done. The memories from the past starts coming up and we regret about it. Also, anxiety drives us to restlessness. Our body becomes fidgety and wants to act on something immediately.

Antidote –My teacher always says this, ‘Be kind to yourself and then wisely kind to yourself. If you are not kind to yourself then how can you be kind to others. Also, living a good ethical life helps to live life without regrets’. So abstain yourself from stealing, killing, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxication which will lead you to do all the previous ones.

  1. Doubt

This doubt is more of a negative doubt rather than genuine doubt. Am I good enough? Am I meditating right? Why my eyes have to open? I meditate better with eyes closed. I should be doing something more useful in life rather than sitting and watching my breath. Various kinds of negative doubt proliferates and causes distraction to the meditation.

Antidote – Focus on the object of meditation and let go of all the doubts.

The 5 Faults of Meditation

1.Laziness

Usually there are 3 types Laziness specially when you are starting out.

  • General Laziness (Delaying) – This is laziness is more of delaying and put the practice off for later time. Turning off the alarm clock thinking that your sleep is more important or keep on procrastinating for some future dates.
  • Busy – Keeping yourselves extremely busy doing virtually nothing and not getting the right time for meditation.
  • Discouragement – ‘Meditation is too hard; I can’t do it. Its not for me’. One needs to confront the negative thoughts and not give any energy to it. The mind creates a lie about our self and the problem is we tend to believe in it.

Antidote – Start your day with proper motivation and remind yourself of why you want to do this meditation. Keep reading the benefits of doing the practice. Think of the positive space that you can create meditating even 20 minutes a day and the mental pliancy you can achieve after a while.

  1. Forgetting the meditational object

This happens when you forget the object of meditation and start day dreaming. If you are focused on your breath, after a while you completely loose track that you are suppose to focus on the sensation of the breath.

Antidote – Bring your awareness using mindfulness. Time to time introspect to check if you are still on the object of meditation and if the mind is scattered then bring it back to the object of meditation.

  1. Excitement and laxity

There are 2 levels of Excitement and Laxity

  • Gross excitement where the mind is running towards a sensual object like someone is day dreaming.

Antidote – Meditate on Impermanence.

  • Subtle Excitement – Mind is on the object, but on the surface is mind is running towards thoughts.

Antidote – Loosen the focus a little bit as if not holding too tight.

  • Gross Laxity – The object is not clear.

Antidote – Tighten the object of meditation.

  • Subtle Laxity – The object is clear but there is no intensity towards the object. Breath in nectar and breath out smoke.

Antidote –  Brighten the object of meditation.

  1. Non application of Antidotes

In meditation, all these faults will arise and it is common for even a long time meditator. However, the danger lies if one does not apply the antidotes. Failing to applying the antidotes is like meditating on the faults and never getting any positive results. So be mindful and know when to apply the antidotes depending on the error.

  1. Over applying the Antidotes

This is the exact opposite of non application of meditation. This happens when someone is over applying and the mind is always scanning for errors. This results in stiffness of the mind and not being able to rest in its relaxed natural state. Try maintaining equanimity.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

Setting up a Positive Motivation before Meditation

Monk show positive motivation towards a dog
"Watch your thoughts, they become words
 Watch your words, they become actions
 Watch your actions, they become habits
 Watch your habits, they become character
 Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny"

Motivation Motivation Motivation

In Buddhism, the value of motivation can not be underestimated. Motivation is considered to be the single most important factor before doing any kind of activity.

From motivation arises the intention and if motivation is not pure, then intention is also tainted. Two people offering money to a poor might look like doing such a noble work. However, for one the offering is to actually help without expecting anything in return and for the other person it can be simply boasting his image of being someone awesome to have a great social status. HH Dalai Lama, always mentions, even he himself checks his motivation all the time before sitting in his throne so that there is no pride on having the title of His Holiness. Another importance of having a strong motivation before each session is to slowly put positive imprints in our mental moments so that it slowly becomes our action.

So let us close our eyes and settle our mind first. Take a minute or so to make the mind as light as a feather and once our mind is settled let us start the session generating a positive motivation and reflecting on why you are meditating.

Why are you Meditating?

Lot of people wants to meditate because it might seem cool and gives a holistic view of that person. One might meditate to calm the external chaos and bring more peace in their life. One might meditate to know the nature of their own mind and one might meditate to develop an omniscient mind of a Buddha. Whatever the reason of your mediation, start from where you are and then extend yourself from there.

Our Existence

How did we get here? We certainly cannot have certainly born out of nowhere. A mother knows very well, the joy of carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months. In these 9 months, she takes the deepest care for the well being of the baby. Every move she makes, every breath she takes is for the unborn baby. When we born, we are nothing but a flesh of meat, totally helpless. Without the parent’s care, we wouldn’t even survive a day. But slowly as we grow older, the memory of our caring parents slowly gets faded and we claim to be self sufficient. We pride ourselves to be ‘self-made’. But without them there is no we. They live among us, within us and in us.

Reflect deeply on this thought. Bring a memory from your childhood where your parents were giving you all the affection. Now think of an incidence where you have behaved rudely towards them. As a baby, we have caused so much trouble to them, gave so many sleepless nights. So isn’t it naive that we claim our spot of ‘self-dependent’? If possible, generate a very strong love and affection towards your parents and show a full gratitude of their compassion.

Our Surroundings

As our parents contributed to our existence, so is every sentient being around us. We think only our friends and families contribute to our happiness. But, the food that we eat, the cloths that we wear, the house that we sleep in, the job that we do; it is all because of the kindness of others whom we consider neutral (the people whom we do not know). One thing for sure, our well being is totally dependent on others. Some might think, the farmer who is cultivating the rice is not thinking of our well being, they are simply doing it for their own livelihood. But think deeply, no matter how much money we have, we cannot even manage a bowl of rice. We are even dependent on the bees and butterflies, beings and non-beings who helps with the pollination and millions of micro organism that helps us through the life cycle.

So from this simple analogy we can see that our food depend on others, our job depend on others, our entertainment depend on others and our happiness depend on others; from the moment we wake up, we are in the mercy of others. So it will be little selfish only to develop a positive attitude for our own well being, instead we can extend this attitude for the benefit of everyone around us.

Visualisation

Now being in the  meditational equipose visualise that you are sitting in the centre with your both parents on each side. Now extend your visualisation, imagine all your friends and families sitting behind you followed by all the neutral people whom you do not know, sitting in front of you. Also imagine, all the other sentient being from animals to insects to be in the surroundings of your meditational sphere and generate a strong motivation for the benefit of all beings.

Include all and leave no one in your motivation !!!

 

 

 

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

7 Points Meditation Posture

In the article ‘how to live a meaningful life‘ we discussed the benefits of meditation in order to bring transformation in life.  There are several types of meditation and it depends on individual which is beneficial for them. My experience comes from Tibetan Buddhism, so most of the discussion will be based on it. However, there is no distinction on which one is right or wrong. If someone have practiced in certain kind and that suits the best, it will be highly advisable to carry on that practice.

2 Types of Meditation

  • Single pointed meditation (Samatha) – As the name suggests, the meditator chooses a single object and keep his/her concentration focussed on the chosen object (mostly breath)
  • Analytical meditation (Vipassana, not to be confused with SN Goenka Vipassana) – Using single pointed the meditator now shifts his/her focus to a particular topic for deep analysis. Throughout the meditation, one is in deep observation without losing focus on the topic

Before starting to meditate it’s important for the mediator to consider the following points –

  • Choose a time where mind is fresh and it is always better to start early in the morning
  • Choose a calm and quiet place with no external sounds
  • A place with very less distraction around so that the energy can flow
  • Wear comfortable cloths so that it doesn’t cause hindrance on sitting for an extended period of time

So let us begin with the basic preliminary of our posture that can be conducive to our practice. Although meditation is all about mind but if body is too rigid and uncomfortable then the mind will become distracted. So the objective for a good posture is that the body can be comfortable and the mind can simply concentrate on meditation. There are 7 points to have a good meditation posture. And we will go through each point from bottom to the top.

7 Points Meditation Posture

 

  1. Legs –

Most of us have seen image of meditators in Vajra position which is also called full lotus position. This is considered the most stable posture for meditation since it locks the leg and make the back totally straight. However, this position is also the hardest to achieve with left foot on the right thigh and right foot on left thigh with sole facing upwards. Although difficult but with little practice one can slowly achieve this position.

If this is too challenging for someone then one can try the half lotus position where one leg is on the ground and the other leg is on top of the thigh.

Note – (If sitting on the floor it is much advisable to use a firm cushion to raise the buttock up higher than the knees. This can greatly help in preventing numbing the legs)

If someone have difficulty in sitting crossed leg, then one can use Japanese bench with legs folded back. Japanese bench is low in height where the legs can be folded backwards under the bench.

And if someone have medical conditions and is unable to sit on the bench or on the floor then they can choose to sit in a chair without leaning back on the chair and with sole of the feet completely touching the ground.

  1. Back –

After experiment which sitting posture that works more conducive to you, the most important thing to keep in mind is to have a complete straight back. Just imagine your vertebrate of your spinal chord stacked straight as a pile of coin without having ay chance of caving. All our energy flows through our back from the feet to the head so if back is not straight we will eventually create a blockage and it will become a hindrance to our practice.

  1. Arms –

Then coming to the arms and hands. Loosely place the right hand on the palm of the left hand with palms upwards and the thumbs lightly touching each other. The hands rest effortlessly on the thighs, 2-3 inches below your navel. In Buddhist tradition the right hand symbolized method and left hand symbolizes wisdom, so the compassion is acting with wisdom. Shoulders should be relaxed and slightly back and arms should have a V shape allowing space between arms and the body.

  1. Eyes –

We often have seen people meditating with eyes closed, however it is highly advisable to meditate with eyes open. At the beginning it can be quite challenging with our eye consciousness still very strong but slowly with habitual pattern it wouldn’t have much distraction. It is also better to have a free space in front of your eyes with no movement of any object. Once you are fully trained, you can meditate with your eyes open even at the busiest junction. So at the beginning let your eyes be slightly open, enough for the light to come in. This will prevent you from falling asleep during meditation. Lightly gaze on the floor at 45 deg angle without engaging on any object in particular.

  1. Jaw

Jaw should be relaxed without any flexing. Bring the jaw to its natural position.

  1. Mouth

Generally with the mouth closed, we let our tongue hanging. But if you do meditation for a longer period of time, saliva will start accumulating. This cause a much needed distraction for your practice since you need to swallow excess saliva every time. To prevent this, gently allow your tongue to touch the upper palette behind the teeth. Also, do not clutch your teeth against each other, rather allow a gap between the upper and lower sets of the teeth.

  1. Head –

Head should be centered neither leaning left nor right and just inclining forward so that the gaze is naturally towards the floor. If the chin is too high, then you can start having mental excitement and if you hold your chin too low then you will start having mental dullness or sleepiness. So there is a balance to be struck.

 

Now since we have covered the 7 points meditation posture, we can finally begin our meditation practice.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer

How to live a meaningful life through Meditation

Dalai Lama Quotation
Sitting quietly in isolation with the unruly chattering mind is not spending time with one’s true self
~Tich Naht Hanh

 

This part is call ‘Being Honest with yourself’

Close your eyes for a moment and take a very deep look into yourself. Look further into your daily activities from the beginning of the morning till you go to bed. Where are you in your life? What have you done so far in your life? Now the biggest question you have to ask yourself, are you happy? Now the second important question you need to ask, are you ‘truly’ happy?

In our daily life, we are consumed by our daily affairs. We like to be busy, we indeed like to be very busy. By the end of the day we are completely depleted with our busyness. But ask yourself, what is that I am so busy in life? Am I busy with myself or with everything else other than myself?

More often than not, we are actually very uncomfortable sitting quietly with our own self. We constantly need distractions either our phone or our friends. And to avoid this uncomfortable confrontation with our mind, we fill our lives with mindless schedules. We think by undertaking more and more activities our sense of dissatisfaction will just fade away. But even after that, we still feel deep sense of shallowness within ourselves.

MATERIALISM VS SPIRITUALISM

What exactly is this materialism? In a lay man’s term, if someone looks for happiness in consumer products is often refer as a materialistic person. This is a very surface level definition in spiritual term. Materialism comes from the word ‘matter’ which by definition in science world is the synthesis of physical properties with an aggregates of solid or fluid. Then by definition, even this human body is also a matter. Spiritualism is someone who who looks beyond all matter, someone who looks beyond physical properties into the inner world.

MATERIALISTIC VIEWS

From a very early age we are taught to label things. We get to label what we like and what we do not like, we want to possess what we think will give us happiness and we discard of what we think is no longer a mean to contribute to our wanting. We save every penny from our first salary to buy the car/house we always dreamt of, thinking that will bring us the sense of pleasure. But within few years, we start seeking pleasure in selling it to refill the pleasure with another one. We are not happy having everything and we are also not happy on having nothing. So, ‘complete’ happiness should not come from external world but rather from inside of us.

So the question rises, how to develop this inner peace?

THE TERM MEDITATION

The term meditation in Tibetan is call GOM which means ‘Familiarisation’. So how familiar are we with our own space and what we want to become familiar of? Recall doing any action that you have done during the day. It can be an act of generosity or it can be an act of anger towards another person. This ‘action’ is so quick that we are not familiar with its arising. But action itself has no power. For an action to happen it must rise from a thought. But we are totally unaware of this thought, whether positive or negative, and quickly jump to action. This is where meditation allows us to become familiar of our thoughts. With meditation we can start getting familiar with our ideas, thoughts, perceptions, emotions.

With continuous practice, we train our mind on our thoughts and instead of acting we begin to watch our thoughts first. When was the last time when you were getting angry and in the middle stopped and told yourself, wait a second, what I am angry of?

Most of the problem that we face in our lives is that we are swept away with our thoughts and emotions as if they are out of control. We do not have a general grasping in channelling our thoughts for our own well being. We are completely oblivious to what is happening around us and within us.

Myth around Meditation

Myth # 1- Meditation helps us to have no thoughts

When we think of meditation we immediately jump to conclusion that it means sitting without any thoughts. But we know all very well from our daily experience that we cannot create a vacuum in our mind. Thoughts will always be there. Within mediation we have to let the thoughts arise and dissolve by themselves in mindfulness.  Meditation is about ‘Knowing’. It will help us knowing our thoughts as soon it arrives. So with meditation, one cultivates the awareness on recognizing the thoughts as soon it arises and learns not to give any energy to it. So it is very important to throw away the notion of this misconception, because if we base our practice on this then we will give it up after few sessions.

Myth # 2 – Meditation is relaxation

There is indeed a relaxation element to it but meditation is not about relaxation, in contrary its being alert. Relaxation can give short term bliss but long term dullness or laziness whereas constant meditational practice will bring long term and lasting happiness.

Is Meditation for me?

There is this scene in the movie Eat, Pray and Love where Julia Roberts closed her eyes for the first time and thought to have meditated on an hour only to realize it has been not even a minute. For the very first time closing the eyes without thoughts can be more daunting than the interview of your dream job. We are known to have this monkey mind who is always busy chattering. So it becomes a paradoxical moment of self doubt. But like anything in life, where one accomplishes through gradual training, meditation also falls in that training. It needs determination, perseverance and joyousness. The greatest obstacle we face is, this is the way it is, this is how it will continue, we cannot make much change to our thoughts. However, we are desperately try to make   changes to our outside world from better jobs to better health but unfortunately a complete ignorance grasps us when it comes to our mind training.

But most importantly, one should apply for skilful means. Like a baby who is learning to take the first steps, instead of running they go for few steps, similarly, instead of aiming to meditate for hours one should instead focus on few minutes.

How Meditation can benefit us?

What is the point on reading so much if mediation does not benefit us, right?

Scientists have recently concluded that neuroplasticity of our brain can be changed. This demonstrates that the human qualities can be certainly cultivated through mind training which is something people could not have thought in the past. So what exactly it means by changing the plasticity of the brain neurons? Few decades ago it was concluded that we born with fixed neurons until death. Only recently scientists re-visited their conclusion stating that brain has the ability to continually change structure and function. And with that it is very possible to cultivate positive seed through continuous practice of familiarization.

As a starter lets say, your attention span will be vastly improved, the concentration on the focussed object will be much stronger than before. 20 minutes a day for 2 months also shows reduction of stress, anxiety, strengthens the immune system and brings positive emotion.

Mediation helps us in tying the monkey mind, disciplining them and slowly liberating them. If we observe carefully, within the space of our thoughts, first emotion rises, which leads to moods and behaviours, and finally habits and character than leads to final action. But our mind is like a fish entangled in a fishing net, more and more it gets agitated to get free more it gets entangled in further thoughts.

Types of Meditation

How to even start. What is that I will meditate upon? Although there are various types of meditation from beginners to advanced, we should start with the vey basic considering we are all very novice to this.

There are hundreds of meditational techniques from beginner’s to advanced level where one can have focus on one object for days if not months without even moving.

My practice comes from Tibetan Buddhist tradition and that is what I will be putting more emphasis on. I will not claim this is the only technique; everyone has different requirements and one has to choose that suits them the best. In Tibetan practice there are 2 types; Single pointed concentration (Samadhi in Sanskrit) and Analytical meditation. Single pointed focuses on concentration to bring intense clarity and with this clarity one investigates on various topics in analytical meditation. And not necessarily one has to do meditation only sitting in a corner of a room but can highly integrate in every moment of our life with mindfulness.

This is a brief introduction of what meditation is and the way I want to work is slowly building a foundation. So that we have the base to build up ourselves instead getting scattered in a clueless ocean.

 

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer