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

Breath In Mindfully and Breath Out Mindfully using 7 steps

Breath In Breath out
Dhankar Monastery

Like a fisherman who catches a fish by the hook of a string

Similarly, catch your mind by the hook of your breath

Inhale and Exhale, Breath IN and Breath OUT

Now you are in meditative equipoise and concentrating on your breath. Breath in and then Breath out all the way to liberation and you are completely blissed out after few minutes. Now you are imagining yourself to be a Himalayan yogi up in the peak, bare chest at extreme cold and doing sky walking. And the next moment you are buying the upcoming model of Tesla and with full visualization rejoicing the moment. What about the Monk who sold his Ferrari, maybe you are telling yourself, I will be the yogi who will sell my Tesla.

You are supposing to be meditating on your breath but within seconds you are meditating on your day dream.

Word of Caution

Consider my writing only as a guideline or a structure and NOT a meditational manual. I cannot put more emphasis on the danger of practicing meditation off Youtube and articles. If done wrongly, you might face some serious long term consequences that can even make your mind completely DULL or non functional. Most of the translation of classical texts are done by experts, and even with that it has been reviewed over and over again by several masters. It is so precise that even “A” and “The” can make a whole lot of difference on the meaning.

So how do someone practice in the best possible way?

Best is if you can find some very good meditational retreat center around your area. And if not, instead of spending a week vacationing in Mexico, try going to some meditational centres. Below are some listings which are quite popular –

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

http://www.rootinstitute.ngo

http://kopanmonastery.com

http://www.panditarama.net

http://www.panditarama-lumbini.info/index.html

Also, check who will be leading the retreat. You definitely want someone who is a qualified teacher. Also check the structure of the retreat. Lots of new age meditation centers are coming along proclaiming to have the key to success. Not too long ago I also saw an ad of Love Making Meditation. Seriously? Be wisely careful of what you sought. Also try staying away from any ‘Tantra’ sort of meditation. Tantric practice is extremely secretive and is done only after attaining certain stage and is done in front of Guru after taking initiation. But West took this exotic word and made it sound like sexual awakening of chakras. Be very careful!!!

If going for a retreat is difficult then I would suggest taking a very good online course from a very experienced teacher who at the same time can be interactive. So that if you have any questions, the teacher can be there to answer you. I found the following course to be extremely useful for someone who is starting out and needs a solid direction.

https://shop.fpmt.org/Meditation-101–Online-_p_2332.html

https://imagineclarity.com/en/

Once you have a very good direction then you can venture out in more deep topics by reading authentic meditational manual.

How to Practice?

Following is the meditational manual that I have received for my practice. Different lineage will have different sets of practice so please do not consider this to be the only method. Try practicing the methods that you are officially trained in and not alter too much. For beginners, it can be good to practice on one lineage and see how that is helping. At the end, meditation has to help, what good will it be if it doesn’t help right?

7 steps of meditation

1. 7-point meditation posture

The detail can be found in the article “7 points posture” . A quick review on the posture –

  • Sit either in Vajra position/Half Lotus/Crossed Legged or on a chair
  • Back should be completely straight like stacks of coin
  • Place the right hand on the left hand with thumbs touching and loosely placed on the lap 2 inch below the navel
  • Eyes should be slightly open, enough to let the lights in
  •  Jaw should be relaxed
  • Tongue should be touching the upper pallet to prevent accumulation of saliva
  • Head should be centred and slightly tucked in, not too high or not too low
2. Set your Motivation

Like we discussed on the importance of proper motivation in the following article “Setting up Motivation“, remember the kindness of all being who are contributing to the wellness of our life. Imagine your both parents sitting on each side beside you, friends and families behind you and all the neutral people in front of you. Also,  all the sentient being who are indispensable part of our lives.  May all be happy and free of suffering.

3. Ground and Centre Yourself

Feel the base of where you are sitting and holding the weight of your body. It can be your buttock or the legs. Feel the stability of the ground. Feel the spine, which is straight like coins stacked on top of each other. Bring your awareness inside your body by feeling the posture. Fully grounded and centered.

4. 9 round breathing meditation

This breathing meditation is based on the subtle energy which is also known as wind energy. It says the Mind rides on the Wind Energy, so in order to make the mind more serviceable one needs to stabilize the wind energy.  This technique is some what synonymous to practices like Chi and Prana Yoga.

So what to visualize and how to visualize?

Imagine a radiant light tube (central channel) from the middle of your eyebrow, moving up to the head and then all the way down below your navel. This radiant tube is 1 inch in diameter and flows parallel to your spine. Now imagine, 2 more radiant tubes, smaller in radius flowing from your nose, up to the head and down below the navel on each side of the central channel. Below the navel, all the tubes join each other.

1st Set – Take the right index finger and block the left nostril. Deeply breath in through the right nostril. Imagine that the air you breathing in, going down through the right channel. Now with the same index finger, block the right nostrils and breath out through the left channel. Imagine the air you breathing out, going up the left channel and out through your left nostril.

2nd Set – This will be exactly the same but on the opposite side. With the left index finger block the right nostrils. In comes the breath through left nostril, down through the left channel and out goes the breath through right channel while blocking the left nostril.

3rd Set – Now breath in through both nostrils. Imagine that your breath is simultaneously going in through the the left and right channels. And while breathing out, the wind is going up through the central channel all the way to your head and out through the middle of the eyebrows.

With every breath you inhale and exhale, relax on your thoughts. Let the thought of past and future go and be present at this very moment. We keep on wondering on the events of the past and ponder what will happen, but never present right here, right now in our own domain.

5. Scanning the Body

We will do a very basic scanning of the body to bring mindfulness within our inner sphere.

Put your mindfulness on the lower part of the body where you are in contact with the ground. It can be your buttocks or legs or soles of your feet. Feel the weight of your body in that area and bring your concentration on this sensation.

Slowly, start scanning your legs, one by one, slow but attentive. Feel the sensation of your thighs, the touch of your feet on the thigh, the knees, lower legs, the ankle, the feet and the toes. Be absolutely mindful. Slowly come up your legs and move your attention upwards through your body. Be a keen observant on any sensations, pleasure or pain, feel or touch, without getting attached to any of it. Keep moving upwards through your body to your shoulder, neck and then face. Notice the movement of your breath. Do not miss any part of the body while scanning. Slowly move upwards and rest on the crown of your head and be in this moment for a while. Now with the same mindfulness, start coming down from the back of your head, spine and all the way to your cushion.

Stay in this experience of knowing your body for a while.

6. Counting the Breaths

Before starting let us quickly go through the function of concentration, mindfulness and introspection. Mindfulness is when you are holding the object of concentration and introspection is the little part of the mind that scans if your mind is still on the object. So basically, you are focused on the object and at the same time scanning to make sure that you are still mindful.

Sometimes we simply sit on meditation putting the focus on Inhale and Exhale. Nothing wrong, but if we do not have a proper set of focus, slowly the concentration will become weak. So it is important to spend few minutes on determining what to meditate on.

Lots of people meditate on different objects. You can concentrate on rise and fall of your abdomen while breathing, but since it is a bigger object, the concentration is gross. Although, concentrating on the abdomen will help you to relax a lot. When you breath, there is a subtle sensation in the opening of the nostril. You can put your mindfulness in this part which is much subtle. Or you can have your mind focused on the area between nostrils and upper lips. Or you can imagine a little white dot made of light in between the nostrils and upper lips. Experiment with it and see which suits you better.

Now focus on the opening on the nostrils. Once your concentration gets stronger, you will start noticing different sensation of your breath. For the first time, you are fully present within you and every discovery will bring certain curiosity (however, one has to maintain equanimity without being attached or frustrated). You will start noticing the nature of the breath according to the mental state. In a relaxed state, the breath is deeper and with agitation breath is shallow.

Keep your focus on the sensation and after breathing out, you count 1. Then you breath in and breath out, count 2. Likewise, do a round of 21. Take 5 seconds of break at the beginning when you are starting out, and then do another cycle of 21. It is always better to do short session than long, what matters is the quality and not the quantity. So maybe, keep the session for 3 cycles of 21 with a break of 5 seconds in between. If the mind goes astray, using the introspection bring your mindfulness on your breath once again.

7. Dedication

Even if you have meditated for 5 minutes, but still the merit gathered is immense. Dedication of the merit accumulated through the practice is equally important as the motivation before starting the meditation. You can simply remain in the meditative posture and send out the altruistic love to everyone around you. Send out the powerful energy back in the world to all the sentient being wishing them to be truly happy.

A Buddhist Practitioner and a Photographer