5 Hindrances to Meditation

Namgyal Rinpoche shared 5 hindrances to meditation in his book “Introduction to Meditation”

Meditation, for all of its simplicity and benefits, also requires a lot of effort. But maybe not the kind of effort that you expect. Meditation master Namgyal Rinpoche taught that meditation is about interest, rather than performance.

In general, you are much too holy in your attitude to meditation. ‘You’ are not a failure because ‘you’ do not exist

We are encouraged to take “the middle way ” in meditation, where we are neither too dull or too alert. We want to have a relaxed attentiveness.

All you have to do is be interested in what’s happening, involved in the exercise, and not wander mentally. Mental wandering – the inner dialogue and fantasy – is the number one hindrance. You’ll experience it as soon as you start to settle into the work, in fact the first sign of progress in meditation is that it gets worse, it’s like having cancer, it becomes a terrible affliction that spreads its tentacles everywhere and grows faster each time you try to cut it out. Then it changes to TB, which is curable, and then to the common cold, which you can just ignore.

Your level of determination will determine the degree of success with cutting through the hindrances and progressing in meditation. But also be aware that the hindrances are only hindrances if you let them be such:

There is no such thing as a hindrance in meditation as long as you practice clear awareness.

The Hindrances

1. Eagerness for thrills/ sensations “When is this going to happen?” followed  by a negative state

2. Ill-will or rejection “Why isn’t it happening?”

3. Sloth. A lethargy feeling of dejection with no energy present

4. “What’s wrong?” or “What must I do?” type thinking

5. Skeptical doubt “It can’t happen to me”

downloadPractice 1: Mindfulness

 

If you have meditated before, you are probably quite aware of all of these hindrances showing up in one way or another.

The next time that you have a meditation sit, be on the alert like a hunting tiger, and watch for the five hindrances. Try to identify which hindrances an unpleasant thought might be.

downloadPractice 2: Find Support

 

Meditation is so much easier if you can find structures that support you to follow through despite any hindrances that show up.

  1. Find a meditation teacher.
  2. Find a meditation community or group to sit with on a daily or weekly basis.
  3. Live with someone who meditates, and meditate together. Maybe this means seeing if your partner or roommate is willing to meditate with you. Maybe it means the next time you’re moving that you prioritize finding a roommate who is interested in sitting together.
  4. Think about meditation the night before by setting out your cushion, or setting your alarm in time to wake up to meditate.
  5. Have a picture of a meditation master on your shrine when you meditate. This might be the Buddha, the Dali Lama, or your personal meditation teacher. This picture represents a real person – just like you – who has mastered their minds. Having their picture is partially a reminder that if they can do it, so can you.

downloadPractice 3: Stick to a schedule

The deeper you go into meditation, the more rigorous a form you should put around you. An example of this is the time you spend in meditation. Go for consistency. Teachers warn of new students who start 100%. Start with a practice that you will stick to every single day, be it just 5 min or 15 minutes. But if you have committed to 5 min, you do exactly 5 minutes, not less evenif the sensation is getting unpleasant or boring. Neither does your practice continue beyond your committed time if things are going well! – Namgyal Rinpoche.

Also see Before/ After Meditation.

downloadPractice 4: Go on a meditation retreat.

Sometimes all you need is a chunk of quality meditation time to shake out some of the hindrances.

Find some suggested Dharma Centers here.

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