Often we believe in our experiences as if they are convincing and compelling realities. In this way we remain stuck in them, bound by their sense of realness and the compulsion they drive within us. So here is a practice to help release that effect they have in our lives.
It is very helpful to memorise the five hindrances so that they are easily recallable. I’ll explain why soon. The Five Hindrances are negative mental states of mind and experiences that impede meditation, and thus wisdom and enlightenment. These hindrances are:
- Sensual desire (kāmacchanda): Craving for pleasure to the senses.
- Anger or ill-will (byāpāda, vyāpāda): Feelings of malice directed toward others.
- Sloth-torpor or boredom (thīna-middha): Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
- Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): The inability to calm the mind.
- Doubt (vicikicchā): Lack of conviction or trust.
The reason it is a beneficial to memorise these five hindrances is that it can be a good practice to examine your experiences and to notice when the current state of mind is one of these hindrances.
How To Apply This
Each time you return to mindfulness of your experience, take a moment to reflect upon the quality of experience. Are you feeling restless? Are you feeling doubtful? Are you feeling aversion to something? Are you desiring after something? Are you feeling lethargic? Once a state of mind is seen in this way, label it “Ah, this is the hindrance of restlessness” or “This is the hindrance of boredom” and then just continue to watch the experience. Don’t buy into the experience and try to respond, fix, or resolve the hindrance, just continue to watch it and know it as a hindrance that is not to be cultivated any further.
This is very helpful because it allows us to objectify and look upon our negative experience rather than dwelling in them or continuing to act out upon the unhealthy state of mind. By labelling the hindrance we remind ourselves “not this” or “this is not fruitful” and so we learn to just leave it be and let it go. This releases us from the compelling nature of the reality as if it is “mine”, we begin to see through the reality that we were previously stuck in.
Another way to think about this that is like holding onto a snake. Without realising the danger, we are constantly bitten, yet do not understand why we are suffering or why our meditation is not going well. By labelling the hindrances it is like recognising we are holding a snake, we stop holding onto it and we stop picking it up. We learn to just put it down and leave it be.
Over time, through this practice, the five hindrances begin to have less of a binding effect upon us and our meditations improve.