“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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.