Weekl Ten Hindrasnces
The second and sixth factors of The Eightfold Path, Right Intention and Right Effort, greatly support your overall Dhamma practice. Maintaining the strong resolve of Right Intention and engaging in Right Effort will provide the framework needed to develop and maintain a Dhamma practice. Right Intention is holding in mind the intention to put aside clinging, aversion and delusional thinking and awaken to the true nature of reality.
Being mindful of Right Intention and Right Effort, you make a commitment to meditation practice and developing your understanding of the Eightfold Path. Put aside set times, preferably twice a day, for meditation practice. It is most effective to meditate as soon as possible after waking before becoming distracted or sidetracked by your daily routine. Doing this consistently begins to diminish your conditioned mind’s need for distraction.
Right Effort (the sixth factor of The Eightfold Path) is keeping yourself in fit physical, mental and spiritual condition as well. Getting enough rest, eating healthy, and physical exercise are all a part of Right Effort. Any exercise is a support for Dhamma practice and walking “meditation” is a very skillful way to combine exercise and mindful movement. Tai Chi and QiGong are particularly supportive of Dhamma practice. Keep in mind that there is no effective substitute for sitting meditation. Bringing the body to stillness greatly supports a calm and tranquil mind.
FIVE COMMON HINDRANCES TO PRACTICE
- Sensory or sensual desire
- Ill will
- Sloth, torpor, or drowsiness
- Restlessness and worry
- Doubt, uncertainty or skepticism
The first hindrance to establishing a meditation practice is distraction from sensual desire. Distracted by things that appeal to the senses prevents the meditator from being mindful of practice. Often your mind will want to remain distracted by the many activities of your day. You tell yourself that you are too busy to meditate.
Your mind, at first, may want to avoid meditation. When you meditate despite this common tendency, you begin to gain control of your mind and your life.
In meditation you may be distracted by an infinite number of craving thoughts. Whatever craving thoughts arise, recognize desire as a distraction. Remain mindful of the thought or thoughts, recognizing that they are a hindrance to practice. These thoughts are as impermanent as any other thought.
Dispassionately let thoughts go and return your awareness to your breathing. This is the basic practice and continued practice will diminish sensory desire and return the mind to its natural calm and well-concentrated state.
Ill will, or holding harsh judgments, anger and resentments toward others, or yourself, can make it almost impossible to practice. Recognize that the cause of the ill will is your own desire that the people and events of your life be different than they are, or that you perceive them to be.
If persistent thoughts of ill will arise, dispassionately stay with the thoughts for a moment or two, and return your awareness to the sensation of breathing.
As your awareness of the origins of ill will increases, maintain a mind of equanimity. As best as you can, remain free of judgment of the people and events of your life. This takes Right Effort and consistent practice, and with time you can free yourself of the hindrance of ill will.
Practicing Metta Meditation, is a skillful aid in releasing harsh judgments. Practice metta whenever harsh judgments of yourself or others is making it difficult to quiet your mind. Once your mind has quieted using metta, resume Jhana meditation. 
Sloth, torpor, drowsiness or laziness affect everyone at one time or another. It is most skillful to recognize this as aversion to practice. It is your ego’s way of avoiding the freedom that will arise from consistent practice.
If drowsiness or sleepiness is an occasional problem, it is appropriate to rest for a while and then resume meditation. Check your posture. Lying down or not sitting up straight can contribute to drowsiness.
Drowsiness is another hindrance to practice that is to be dealt with through equanimity and persistence. Recognize that it is affecting you and your practice and stay with your practice. Drowsiness will fall away.
Restlessness and worry can be difficult hindrances to overcome. Persistence will show results. If restlessness and worry have risen to the level of anxiety, it may be best to meditate for shorter periods of time and more often.
Remind yourself that just for the meditation period you will be putting aside restlessness and anxiety and maintain your awareness on your breath. Meditation has proven to be a very effective way of putting anxiety causing thoughts aside and staying mindful of the present moment. There is no restlessness, worry or anxiety in the present moment.
Doubt, uncertainty and skepticism can be hindrances at any stage of Dhamma practice. Great doubt can deepen one’s practice if the doubt is allowed to be a part of practice, letting doubt be doubt and mindfully continuing with practice.
Other people’s skepticism can be a hindrance as well, especially people that do not understand the Dhamma or the purpose of meditation practice. The most effective way to work through uncertainty, doubt and skepticism is to engage in practice wholeheartedly without any unrealistic expectations.
Examine your motivations for practice. Is your intention for engaging in meditation practice to put aside craving and desire born of ignorance of your true nature, or is it to “fix” an ego-self? Uncertainty and skepticism will arise if your view or intention is to fix a broken or flawed self. You meditate to mindfully develop concentration and develop awareness of all clinging, craving, aversion and desire.
Hindrances or distractions will arise. They will have no permanent effect on your practice if you persevere. Hindrances are recognized mind states to be aware of. Be with them as dispassionately as possible. As long as you continue with your practice, hindrances will arise and subside until they no longer are a part of your conditioned thinking.
By putting aside resistance to meditation practice you will strengthen your resolve and begin to diminish your mind’s natural tendency to resist the quiet and spacious mind developed by a true and effective meditation practice.
Always avoid judging yourself or your practice harshly. Do the best you can and be gentle with yourself. Maintain a consistent Jhana meditation practice within the framework of The Eightfold Path and you will develop lasting peace and happiness.
One last thing: Joining a like-minded community of Dhamma practitioners greatly supports an individual practice. Joining a community of Dhamma practitioners will provide a weekly structure to your practice. A qualified teacher will notice if you are losing direction or focus, and the community as a whole will support you with their own insights and you will be able to support your sangha.
This Week’s Dhamma Study
- Listen to the week ten talk on Hindrances to Practice: https://crossrivermeditation.com/truth-of-happiness-online-course-talks/
- Continue with your meditation practice in the morning and early evening. If you feel comfortable with adding a few minutes to your practice do so. Ten to Twenty minute meditation sessions should be comfortable for you.
- In meditation, remain mindful of your breathing as you dispassionately notice feelings and thoughts arise and dissipate. When you notice that you are caught up in your own thoughts and have lost awareness of your breath, put aside the focus on your thoughts and place your awareness on your breathing. Become aware of your mind from a dispassionate observational view, a mind-state of choiceless awareness always mindful of your breath.
- Continue to develop wisdom by noticing your attachments to the people and events of your life, including yourself. Continue to generate the Right Intention to let go of all attachments and all impermanent views.
- In your day-to-day life notice when you are engaged in Right Speech, Action and Livelihood and when you are not. Develop the strong intention to abandon all wrong speech, action and livelihood. As concentration deepens, non-virtuous thoughts, words and deeds become apparent.
- Continue to develop Right Effort. Put aside time for a regular meditation practice and maintain a priority to your practice. There will always be life events distracting away from practice. Very rarely will these events be more immediate or important than putting aside some time twice a day for a period of meditation. Bring mindfulness into all areas of your life by staying focused in the present moment.
- Be mindful of any persistent thoughts and your awareness of the impermanence of all thoughts. Avoid being analytical. This is a dispassionate observance of thoughts and feelings as they arise and pass away. Be mindful of developing a more mindful presence in your life. Notice when you are fully present with another. Notice when you are not as distracted or reactive.
- Write a short paragraph regarding your meditation practice and write down any questions or insights into impermanence and how impermanence contributes to stress and unhappiness. Note your deepening understanding of how impermanence and clinging give rise to the stress and unhappiness of the ego-personality.
- Write an additional paragraph or two regarding any hindrances to your practice that you notice and how you react or respond to them.
- To submit your writing, please use this form: https://crossrivermeditation.com/home-study-submissions/
- Send me an email to schedule a phone or online video chat instruction session. Please request a few half-hour time periods on Thursdays between 10 am and 8:30 pm, Fridays between 10 am and 8:30 pm, Saturdays between 11 am and 2:30 pm or Sundays between 10 am and 1 pm. These are Eastern Times. John@CrossRiverMeditation.com
- I will respond to you within 24 to 48 hours.
- Please read my closing words in the next chapter.
You have now completed ten weeks of well-focused Dhamma instruction. You may already be noticing a more present and peaceful mindfulness in your day-to-day life. This is not to be taken lightly. Recognizing the practical benefits of these profound teachings is an important part of developing heightened mindfulness of the entire Dhamma.
The Buddha often told those he was teaching “Ehipassiko” meaning “come and see for yourself.” These teachings do not take us to other-worldly realms that have no practical benefit. The distraction of unhappiness and stress occur in this phenomenal world.
With present-moment-mindfulness of the Dhamma you will deepen your awareness of the distraction of dukkha. Awareness is not change itself but it is what brings the power to change. Be very gentle with yourself and avoid harsh judgements of yourself or your practice. Be mindful of the entire Eightfold Path and how each factor supports and informs your deepening wisdom, virtue and concentration.
Engage in your Dhamma practice whole-heartedly and with patient forbearance. If you have a local sangha that is well-focused on The Four Noble Truths become a part of the sangha. If there is not a well-focused sangha in your area consider starting one. If you want to use this course as part of a ten-week course for your sangha, please let me know and we will set it up.
Dhamma practice does take time and Right Effort to develop. The true lineage of the Dhamma began over 2,500 years ago. At the Buddha’s first teaching he set the wheel of truth in motion. As The Four Noble Truths have entered each mind ready to receive these profound truths the lineage of the three jewels has been maintained. This is a true Dhamma lineage and a true Dhamma transmission.
Beginning with the awakened mind of one human being, Shakyamuni Gautama, The Buddha, the lineage of the Dhamma is now a part of your mind. Treat it like the precious jewel that it is and lasting peace and happiness will arise in your mind as well.
The following chapter on The Precepts and The Paramitas will be a support to your developing Dhamma practice.
For All Who Reside In The Dhamma - Agantuka Sutta
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
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