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One City

Hardcore Dharma Week 9: The 5 Hindrances (in Sweet List Form)

This week’s Hardcore Dharma class was pretty straightforward: You got yer 5 Hindrances and yer three methods of dealing with em’. Git er’ done! 

For background on Hardcore Dharma check out my intro post and last week’s thoughts on the 3 Yanas.
The 5 Hindrances are a Theravadan teaching that deal with the obstacles that arise in one’s spiritual practice and life in general. They are:

1. Desire: Not just the desire to connect with someone, but for something else, another state or object or stimulation. The desire to be somewhere or something other than what you are. 

Ethan pointed out this includes the desire for over-stimulation, which means you, iPhone users.
2. Aversion or Ill-Will: A strong aversion or judgmental state of mind directed at oneself or others. In talking about this one, Ethan asked us, “What do you call yourself when you’re angry at you?” I call myself a “fool,” as in, “Stillman you fool! How could you ever aspire to blog for One City. You stink and I hate you.” 
For one Hardcore Dharma regular, people who snap their gum was a strong aversion she will never, ever get over. If she encounters a gum-snapper on the subway or a long flight, the reaction is automatic and unforgiving: gum-snappers are vile. The class mostly agreed.
3. Laziness or Torpor: There’s three flavors of this one. First, genuine fatigue. Prescription: Go take a nap. Second, resistance to the present moment. Prescription: Practice mindfulness, you fool. Third and most subtle, an imbalance of energy and concentration. In this situation, you may not feel lazy or torporous, but you’re coasting through your meditation session. As Ethan said, your energy is “stable but not vibrant.” 
Basically, you’re like David Letterman or Jay Leno every weeknight for the last decade: You’re phoning it in. 
Prescription: apply pep.
4. Restlessness: The inability to be still, or the kind of boredom that’s so bad it feels physically uncomfortable. The Buddha compared the restless mind to a bowl of water disturbed by strong winds. 
5. Doubt: If restlessness is a bowl of water disturbed by wind, doubt is water both muddied and unsettled and then placed in a dark room. Traditionally, doubt arises about oneself, the teachings, and the teacher, and can be a exceptionally challenging to overcome. As Ethan said, “doubt is when we walk back on clarity, on an insight we’ve already had.” 
So! That is a long list of things that can hinder your practice. Luckily there are three methods you can deploy to deal with these and other hindrances. I like to call them A Sweet-ass Multi-Platform Buddhist Attack.
First, awareness. Awareness is the first step that gives one the space to recognize a hindrance and begin to choose a different course. By it’s nature, awareness implies some critical distance – you’re not so thoroughly embedded in a mind state that you can’t see what’s going on.
Second, cultivating the opposite state. For those really difficult, sticky feelings and habits, it helps to actively seek out the opposite. If you find yourself really hating someone (Aversion/Ill-Will), practice loving-kindness meditation to tap the opposite energy. 
Third, and most difficult, self-liberation or letting go. See the hindrance and simply let it go. This requires a high degree of awareness (the first method) and familiarity with your habits, to say “Oh hi! I know you” and let it slip into the ether. 
Bodhisattvas can do this because they’re the shit, but otherwise it’s really difficult, like the double-dutch technique of jumping rope.
That about covers this week’s teaching. Sorry for the not-very-interesting list format of this post! 
As someone who can’t eat a tasty snack of cheese and crackers without turning on the TV or listening to a podcast I really connected with the teaching on over-stimulation as a form of desire. I’m constantly multi-tasking instead of being present with what I’m doing. And google Reader, my RSS aggregator, is my favorite desire-feeder. 
What is your favorite over-stimulation crack? 
And what do you call yourself when you’re on your own case? 
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posted May 28, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Quick Question: Is there any other Buddhist media source anywhere where you can read a quote like “Bodhisattvas can do this because they’re the sh*t?”
Love it

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