Gil Fronsdal Reflects on Hindrances to Clear Seeing….

Gil Fronsdal Reflects on Hindrances to Clear Seeing….

A reflection on practice by Other Teachers & Folks We Value

Anyone who practices mindfulness knows that there are forces in the mind that can make it difficult to be mindful. Rather than reacting to these difficulties as somehow being “bad” or as “distractions,” it is important to investigate them. It is easier to find freedom from something when we know it thoroughly…

Of the many forces of distraction, five are traditionally identified as particularly important for meditators to be familiar with. Known as the five hindrances, they are forces in the mind that can hinder our ability to see clearly or to become concentrated. The hindrances are: 1) sensual desire, 2) ill will, 3) sloth and torpor, 4) anxiousness and worry, and 5) doubt

The hindrances can be like “black holes” in the mind. A black hole is a collapsed star where the gravitational force is so powerful that even light is sucked in and trapped. When the hindrances are strong, the light of awareness is pulled into their gravitational field and we lose our ability to see what is happening. We may get lost in thought or fantasy fueled by a hindrance.

When they aren’t so strong as to act like black holes, the hindrances can still cloud our ability to see clearly, particularly to know what is harmful and what is beneficial to do, say, or think…

The hindrances operate in everyone; their presence is not a personal failing. Rather, it is useful see their occurrence as an important opportunity to investigate them. Sometimes it is wise to not attempt to quickly get rid of a hindrance but to use it as a chance to learn something. The stronger the hindrance, the more important it is to investigate it…

Exploring the hindrance in and of itself involves recognizing the components of a hindrance, e.g. its physical, energetic, emotional, cognitive and motivational aspects. For example, strong desire may be experienced physically as a leaning forward, a tightening of the solar plexus, or a sense of lightness. Energetically it may be a rushing or lifting. Emotionally it may involve pleasant emotions like delight, excitement, eagerness, or an effort to fix unpleasant emotions such as emptiness, loneliness, or
fear. Cognitively it may involve beliefs and stories that we tell ourselves. And, motivationally, it may come as a strong impulse to act or to cling…

To be present without being hijacked by the hindrances is a joy. Unhindered attention is a treasure. It is what allows mindfulness to begin doing its most penetrating work of liberation.

Excerpted from article by Gil Fronsdal, a guiding teacher at Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. SEE THE FULL ARTICLE along with other Dharma articles by Gil. Gil has also written a book on the Hindrances, called “Unhindered.”

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