Let us reflect on what is known as the Five Hindrances in the Teachings. These hindrances are common experiences that arise in meditation: desire (attachment), aversion (anger, fear), sleepiness (sloth and torpor), restlessness (agitation) and doubt. Meditation mirrors our actual lives—as they arise in meditation, they also arise in daily life. Their arising is not a problem. It is only a problem when we are overwhelmed, consumed, or define ourselves by them, when we tangle with them rather than working skillfully.
The Buddha is quoted as saying: “Mind is naturally radiant, pure, shining. It’s because of visiting forces that we suffer.” Seeing these hindrances as visiting forces (whether in meditation or in life) rather than as “my state” is revolutionary. These qualities of greed/grasping, anger/fear, need not define us. They arise out of conditions, and disappear when those conditions are no longer. They are not inherent, but adventitious. When these forces appear we can skillfully greet them with mindfulness: “This is impermanent, a visitor.”
Our greed, fear, sleepiness, agitation, doubt, are not bad or wrong, nor do they define us. When we are caught in them, we suffer. So can we not condemn and berate ourselves but greet these arisings with mindfulness and compassion? Our meditative work is to shift the relationship to all that arises, to greet all visitors with as much awareness and compassion as possible.
In the coming weeks, we will discuss each hindrance. This week, notice when any hindrance arrives, what conditions promoted its appearance and their arc of arising, abiding and disappearance, without condemnation and struggle.