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Making a Move against the Hindrances

Chess image by jeshoots | unsplash.com

By LYNN J. KELLEY | from ‘The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople’

Here we are, considering the fourth framework for cultivating mindfulness: principles/phenomena/dharmas. Specifically, we’ll take up how we can practice mindfulness with the hindrances. As a reminder, the hindrances are:

  1. sensual desire,
  2. anger,
  3. sloth-and-torpor
  4. restlessness-and-worry, and
  5. doubt.

To be clear, we are mainly thinking of our own hindrances, not other peoples’. We can learn from observing other folks’ mistakes, but the errors we make ourselves are the ones most likely to make a lasting impression on us.

Before we get into specifics on each of the hindrances, we should remember that the fourth framework asks us to observe the conditions that lead to the arising of the hindrances and the conditions that lead to the fading or overcoming of the hindrances. Unfortunately, there is not a simple list of things to avoid and things to draw near to us. Because our life experience is unique, we need to figure some specific things out for ourselves.

Ven. Anālayo offers an excellent metaphor in his book “Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation: A Practice Guide” (p. 154). We can imagine ourselves as a chess player…

Our friend has just made a threatening move, attacking our queen (gardez!). We will not get angry because of that. After all it is a game and the other player is our good friend. Yet at the same time we do want to win.

With this type of attitude, wanting to win without getting angry, we examine the situation: “Let me see, how did I get into this? How come I am now in the situation of being about to lose my queen?” On examining how this happened, we keep a lookout for the type of move that will save our queen. In other words, we try to identify the condition that will lead us out of this situation.

Ven. Anālayo goes on to point out that by seeing an arisen hindrance as a chess move, we are less likely to take it personally. That is, we don’t need to see our sensual desire or anger as something to feel guilty about or get annoyed with. It is simply what is happening now. It is also likely that whatever our favored hindrance is will arise in the future. Can we prepare ourselves by changing our attitude to our own obstructions, or by adjusting how we handle them?

The degree to which this particular mental condition can actually function as a “hindrance”, in the sense of obstructing our inner clarity, is inexorably interwoven with the degree of our identification with the images and associations it conjures up in the mind.

That is to say, the more closely we identify with our desire or anger or agitation or sloth or doubt, the harder it is to work with. By creating a little distance between “me” and the present obstructive mind state, we make a space we can work in.

The hindrances obstruct our mental clarity and actually block our pathway towards non-clinging, towards liberation. Only we have the power to mindfully, methodically, remove those obstacles.

NOTE | Follow future posts by Lynn E. Kelly by subscribing to her free blog at https://buddhasadvice.wordpress.com/

“Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing”

Swirled circle planet photo by David Imbrogno | cowgarage.com
NOTE: Thanisssara will offer an online teaching on “Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing,” on SUNDAY Sept. 29, 2019. Register here at WorldwideInsight.org., the site of an online Dharma practice group. The teachings are given in the Buddhist tradition of dana: “The Buddhist tradition views teachings of liberation as priceless, and this online class is offered in the spirit of generosity, called Dana. The teacher is directly supporting your practice. Please support her / him directly, through your generosity.



Our practice is preparation for when real challenges hit.” – Ajahn Chah

It’s important to recognize that we are living in extremely challenging times, and because of this, we are going to experience some very painful and disturbing bodily feelings, emotions, and mind states.

When the norms and forms of life we are used to radically change, we can become very triggered and overwhelmed. Our nervous system deregulates and old traumas can activate destabilizing our sense of cohesion and focus. Feelings of profound fear, anxiety, panic, outrage, shock, despair, disorientation can arise, and when they do, we need to take extra special care. To pause and recognize that there’s nothing wrong with us, that actually what is felt is an appropriate response to a fast dismembering world.

So, as profound uncertainty deepens and intensifies within and all around, our Dharma practice becomes ever more vital. The ground and heart of this practice is alignment with Refuge. This offers a direct connection to sustaining and nourishing qualities of peace, equanimity, joy, clarity, impassioned fearless compassion, discernment, and the confidence to listen ever more deeply into the “here and now” living Dharma.

We are in a time that is inviting us to be more real, more authentic and to let go of what is no longer essential, to forgive it all, and to trust the capacity of the heart’s ability to regenerate and hone to integrity and love.

It’s a time when each breath becomes ever more precious and when Rilke’s encouragement is superbly meaningful:

Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Thanissara trained in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah as a Buddhist nun for 12 years. She is a Dharma teacher and co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat Centre in South Africa and Sacred Mountain Sangha in the US with Kittisaro. She is an author and poet and is currently involved in mobilizing a Buddhist initiative to Declare Climate Emergency Now in the San Francisco Bay area.  

relaxing from THE intensity of fear & ignorance

Simon Migaj photograph | unsplash.com

“In meditation we can begin to tune in on this universal level through letting go of the conditions, of this blind holding to conditioned phenomena. It isn’t annihilation or a rejection of anything; it is just releasing, relaxing from this intensity of fear and ignorance. We try to control and hold on to conditions without realising how painful and miserable it makes us.

“The Buddha advised us to see ‘letting go’ as opening, receiving, and nothing to fear. Space and consciousness, the sound of silence — you don’t create these; they are here and now. But we may never notice or observe them. As we recognise them, we begin to have perspective on conditions.

“In terms of living in society, we do good and refrain from doing bad. We can work for people’s welfare, if we wish, help the educational system, the health system, try to promote harmony between nations and harmony between religions — we can still do all these things. It isn’t that we’re too ethereal for dealing with anything practical. But we recognise conditions for what they are, and we are no longer coming from idealism.”

~Ajahn Sumedho
“The Sound of Silence” | free download at this link

READINGS | The Way It is with desire

The cause of suffering, the Second Noble Truth, is desire (tanha)—attachment to desire out of ignorance. Here we’re not trying to rid ourselves of desire, or become somebody who doesn’t have any desires. We’re recognizing desire: desire is like this, it’s an object. So you begin to notice the desire to have something, desire for sense pleasures. Desire is a kind of energy, it takes us over. If we’re not aware of it, if we don’t recognize or understand it, we become slaves to it.

Continue reading READINGS | The Way It is with desire

Seeing the Story of “Me”

Image by Charis Gegelman | unsplash.com

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.

The Pali word most often translated into English as mindfulness is sati, and here’s something important Anālayo Bhikkhu has to say about it:

Another aspect of the early Buddhist conception of sati is that mindfulness is a mental quality that we have to bring into being. Mindfulness has to be established; it is not just a quality that is present anyway in any type of experience. This marks the difference between mindfulness and consciousness. Consciousness … is a continuously present process of knowing [which allows us to register experience]. … Whether we are mindful of a meditation object or caught up in a dream or fantasy, the flow of consciousness is always there. The same does not apply to mindfulness.

This is a point that is often overlooked or ignored. Mindfulness includes a clarity about the context of our experience, and there’s a vividness to engaged attention that keeps us planted in the here and now.

When we are not attending fully, we often experience events through a filter we’ve developed over time. We may be looking for ways in which we are being ignored, or treated unfairly, or noticed when we don’t want to be, or even that we’re being appreciated and admired. There tends to be a story about “me” that we reinforce with our observations. So of course, what stands out in our memories are the instances that confirm our ready-made attitudes. Mindfulness with clear comprehension can cut through this way of experiencing our lives.

Ven. Anālayo suggests that we can view sati as our good, supportive, pleasant-to-be-with friend, available whenever we turn towards her (female, as the word sati in Pali is feminine). We may not notice her company for periods, but she is always there for us to share our experience with. 

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.


NOTE: For an interview with Anālayo Bhikkhu and a link to his books, some of which are avaialble for free download, see this link.

Let the Meditation Teach You

Photo by Simon Migaj | unsplash.com

“DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don’t be anxious for any result whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to your expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspension of all our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them.”

~Bhante Gunaratana
from “Mindfulness in Plain English”

So, Be Aware

Swirled planet photo by DAVID IMBROGNO | cowgarage.com

AJAHN SUMEDHO: “The first ordination for bhikkhus (monks) at the time of the Buddha, before it got all complicated, was simply ‘ehi bhikkhu,’ which means ‘Come, bhikkhu‘ and that was it. Now we have to go through a whole procedure … But according to the scriptures the original was just ‘Come, bhikkhu.’ Just like that. You know the kind of immediacy. So ehipassiko: come and see. There is always this sense of ‘wake up, pay attention.’

Sometimes meditation can seem like a cop-out. A lot of people think we are just contemplating our navel or our breath, not facing the real world. ‘You should be out there, trying to make everything right in society, and here you are sitting at Amaravati all these days watching your breath. What good is that to anybody??’

On the worldly level there are all kinds of things that need to be done. There are so many problems at this time, it is overwhelming. You just have total collapse and burnout when you think about it—the problems that face humanity on this planet. And so this is not to dismiss this, but trying to make the world right is an endless process. You are not getting to the source of what is wrong: the delusion, the ignorance, the cause of the suffering.

And now we are looking here, not blaming the government anymore but looking at the cause; we are not blaming someone else, but recognizing the ignorance in our lives, the illusions we create and operate from. We are learning to recognize that which isn’t deluded. That takes a willingness to be patient with yourself, and being receptive and open to whatever you are feeling, whatever results you are having from your practice, whether you feel calm or confused, peaceful or angry. I’m not asking you to become anything, but—this: ehipassiko—come and see, trust this awareness more and more, recognize it. This is the real Dhamma. This is the refuge that I can always be, because I trust it more and more, I tend to be this way more and more. So be aware.

~Ajahn Sumedho
from “The Sound of Silence: Volume 4,” p. 87
NOTE: Book available for free .pdf or e-book reader download here