The Five Hindrances Of Mindfulness

The Five Hindrances of Mindfulness

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Mindfulness can be very helpful in such a variety of circumstances that it is very important to include mindfulness in your day-to-day activities. Being mindful can help you make important decisions, assess circumstances, and calm yourself in stressful circumstances.

Mindfulness is a way of feeling connected to yourself and your surroundings regardless of what is going on. When we are mindful we are in the here and now fully present. Mindfulness as you will see in this article is not the same thing as meditation. Mindfulness is a practice of being aware of the present moment, which anyone can do at any time.

Resistance is a factor that comes up for everyone who attempts to undertake meditative practice. But the word practice is the key, no one has genuinely understood or benefitted just by reading a book about it once or twice.

Mindfulness as a practice-

Mindfulness is a practice, not only that but it is meant to be a regular practice and this point is beautifully illustrated in an interview given by John Kabat Zin, who first developed the mindfulness-based stress reduction programs in the late 1970s.

In an interview, he was asked if mindfulness can be a band-aid just to cover the painful marks and something that we use occasionally in moments of need.

He then replied, mindfulness is not a band-aid, and mediation is like weaving a parachute, you don’t want to weave the parachute when you are about to jump out of the plane. You want to prepare ahead and start weaving the parachute morning, noon, and night, day in and day out, and then on the day when you need it, it might hold you.

So the way we practice is to do it every day, to carve out some time each day that is just your time for being. Some people who practice mindfulness face a lot of roadblocks in their journeys and the roadblocks can come in many forms, such as there are external obstacles like the deadline of work, illness, holidays, or even the dog that continuously licks your face every time you lie down on the floor to practice. And then there are the internal factors such as boredom, restlessness, doubt, exhaustion.

In mediation practice, various elements are required such as heat, discomfort, etc. Some mindfulness students find a way to negotiate their roadblocks others do not.

Those who do not will limp through the rest of their learning journey, feeling a bit guilty, judging themselves harshly, choking mindfulness on the same list of something like the failed diet regimes that would have changed their lives, if only they could stick to them.

The Five Hindrances of Mindfulness-

Obstacles in practice are nothing new, and teaching on this subject are created a million years ago, for Buddhist monks. These obstacles were called hindrances and it was believed that as long as these obstacles were not abandoned the monks would be indebted, ailing, imprisoned, enslaved, and traveling in the wilderness. Not a desirable state, the five hindrances they were warned about are-   

  1.  Sensual Desire
  2.  Ill will
  3.  Sloth and toper 
  4.  Remorse and restlessness
  5.  And doubt

Remedies were prescribed for each of these hindrances, for example, one way for a monk to overcome the sensual desire for a lovely young woman was to image her body once it’s dead and decaying. One of the best ways to get rid of toper is by avoiding overeating and ill will the teachings say can be transformed through loving-kindness meditation. It’s a deeply thoughtful list of hindrances with practical suggestions for overcoming each one and yet when I began to study mindfulness in 2017, I would try in my mind to relate my problems to these ancient teachings, there often seems to be a gap.

This is partly because both the hindrances and their remedies were aimed at the people living in the monastic community. People on modern mindfulness and meditation courses are not monks and therefore their orientation is different. But it is also because modern dilemmas include expectations and distractions such as our smartphones that no one had even dreamt of two and a half thousand years ago.

How to do proper meditation, and what is mindfulness?
How to do proper meditation, and what is mindfulness?

The Modern day Mindfulness practice-

Therefore, to support the mindfulness students of the 21st century it seemed that a new consideration of mindfulness hindrances might be helpful. Over the year’s mindfulness students have repeatedly told professionals that hindrances, obstacles, roadblocks, call them what you will, are the big issue.

All mindfulness Practitioners need to know how to learn new ways to solve and deal with modern hindrances if they want to keep their practice alive and effective.

Without practice, mindfulness does not exist.

While the traditional texts on hindrances are interesting the humble intention of this article is to provide an update. It is not a matter of reinventing the wheel, rather the aim is to initiate a new way of thinking.

Taking a mindful view, the secret to working with resistances we encounter is to examine them. We need to understand their size, their purpose, their texture, their roots. Only through this approach of being intimate with them, in fact allowing this examination of the roadblocks to become our mindfulness practice.

Can we hope to stop struggling with them or find ourselves to be completely overwhelmed by the obstacles they present? To quote a children’s song:

“We can’t go under it, we can’t go around it, we have to go through it.”

When resistance arises, we need to learn how to move through it. Moving through can only truly occur when we meet and befriend our worries and obstacles with deep awareness.

The upcoming articles shed some light on what that means and on how to skillfully take a chance to be present for each courageous step that we take along the way.  

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