Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Obstacles to Practice: The Five Hindrances–Anger and Ill-Will

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

This is the final set of reflections on obstacles to practice focusing on the Buddha’s five hindrances (well not his hindrances, but the five that he set out as obstacles to meditation). The Five are a laundry list of things that are rarely a good idea–sensual desire anger, anxiety, laziness, and doubt. We’ll look at these one by one.

Someone commented upon yesterday’s entry that the “party seems to be over.” Well, yes, in a way. We are giving up the usual ways of partying and adopting a new way of approaching our experience. There is a new kind of party about to begin. As David Byrne and the Talking Heads said, “There’s a party in my mind and I hope it never stops.” Mindfulness practice is the party in our mind. Instead of getting bound by desire and strong emotions, we get fascinated by the moment to moment unfolding of our experience.

Today we’ll look at anger or ill-will. This one seems straightforward. If you are caught up in angry stories and wishing people ill-will it is hard to make contact with your experience in the now. These stories fuel negative emotions that push you further from the present. Of course, the quietude provided by sitting practice makes ripe territory for these angry stories to show up.

Anger is it own meditation focus–that ruminative story that mounts a stress response, creates tunnel vision, and moves us far away from what is happening in the moment. To work with anger we move back and forth from the storyline to the body. The narrative emerges, takes hold of your mind, sucks you in and makes ou feel bad. You replay past conversations, imagine retribution, bemoan how hurt you feel. Without mindfulness, we nurse these grudges.

With mindfulness, you recognize that you’ve been caught up in that story and then release attention back into the moment. This moment is now colored by that anger–the physiological manifestations, the sensations in the body that are present now that weren’t before the anger was nursed. You can pay attention to these new sensations, become intimate with them. The next time they arise, this familiarity will be a boon, helping you to quickly recognize that you are caught in anger and give you the opportunity to extricate yourself. The obstacle becomes the very stuff of practice.

Mindfulness mediation is an antidote to anger and ill-will. The more we practice, the less inclined we’ll be to stay in anger. The power of stories diminishes. We become adept at slipping out of the sticky mess that angry narratives force upon us. You generate good-will, naturally, by not nurturing ill-will. In other words, it’s hard to stay anger if you don’t ruminate on the reasons you are angry. No story, no anger.

The residue of that anger is the subject matter of your meditation–not in words but in energy. Not in whys and wherefores but in where (in the body) and how (it feels as physical sensations). As you work with anger in this way, you metabolize it, digest it , and thereby become free of it.



Previous Posts

A Chilling View Inside the Quiet Room: Electric Shocks Preferred to Sitting Still
A study recently published in Science provides a window into the restless soul of Americans and a compelling case of why we need mindfulness. University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues conducted a series of experiments where subjects spent time alone in an unadorned room. We

posted 8:53:12am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Drive by Shooting: Mindfulness on NPR
It's not surprising when a feature on mindfulness appears in a major media outlet. Mindfulness is popular. This time it is a sub-four minute interview on NPR. Tamara Keith spoke with Sharon Salzberg, one of the co-

posted 6:25:54pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

No More Fooling Around: Changing the World Through Mindfulness
Today I will start a series of posts about how we can change the world through mindfulness and the wisdom of the Buddha's teachings. This transformation starts with individuals and progresses through groups, corporations, and then societies. Ultimately, a global movement is possible and will be acco

posted 10:47:16am Jul. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness for Introverts
Mindfulness is a natural fit for introverts. The act of meditation itself is an introverted activity and at the same time equips introverts to navigate their interior without getting stuck in rumination. I recently wrote an essay for the Kripalu Thrive blog entitled Mindfulness for Introverts.

posted 3:26:51pm Jul. 08, 2014 | read full post »

The transformative power of mindfulness . . .
As I mentioned last week, there is a special learning opportunity upcoming with Jack Kornfield. I hope you got a chance to look at his videos. Registration is now open to take advantage of studying mindfulness with one of the most beloved American teachers. When it comes to creating real, lasting

posted 11:28:48am Jun. 17, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.