old students, people who have sat in meditation for quite
awhile, what kinds of things they were working with after
five or ten or fifteen years of practice. They say, "I'm
working with fear" or "I'm working with habit and
desires that arise over and over" or "I'm working
with laziness" or "I'm working with irritation"
or anger; common kinds of energies. What I hear even from
people who have sat in meditation for a long time is the same
list of the five basic hindrances that are discussed in the
second day of every retreat. It seems that they stay around
for awhile. So I'd like to look at them in the context of
people who have been practicing for awhile and living their
lives, and see how we can continue to work with them since
they seem to be part of our family life, so to speak, or inner
family life anyway.
we understand the hindrances or the traditional difficulties
in meditation in our daily life? First of all, it is important
to understand, as you go on in the path of spiritual practice,
that often the weaknesses or difficulties that we encounter
are the places that most wake us up. The places where we seem
most successful and the best of things are often also the
places that are the strongest part of our self image or our
"ego" in some kind of Eastern sense of that word.
And it's the places that are our very difficulties and our
vulnerabilities that often allow us to grow in a more genuine
way when we look at them, when we work with them.
was a wonderful paper that was written a few years ago by
Seymour and Sylvia Boorstein for the Journal of Transpersonal
Psychology, and it was called "The Five Hindrances of
Marriage." It talked about the difficulties that the
Buddha described in meditation -- desire, anger, restlessness,
laziness or sleepiness, doubt -- and it describes the process
of marriage as encountering these exact same forces. Desire
for something else or better. Irritation and anger, especially
when you discover that that person really isn't behaving in
the way that you expected and hoped and planned for them,
and all the irritation and frustration that comes from that.
The third hindrance of sleepiness or laziness, discovering
after awhile that one can get complacent in relationships.
Or the opposite -- restlessness, the traditional Seven Year
Itch; after a certain cycle in a relationship, one gets restless
for something new or something different. And doubt. "Is
this the right person?" or "Is this the right way
to be living?" and the same forces which arise when one
sits in meditation and tries to open one's eyes inwardly,
and one's heart and mind seem to arise in relation to the
people we're closest to, and all the other people at distances
recognize that? Can you see that there are parallels between
the sitting and other things around? There are all kinds of
stories that we make up about these states. "He did,"
and "she did," and "I will," and "she
should," and so forth. It's useful to see that those
stories are based on kind of myths that we build about ourselves
and the world, identities that are created mostly by thought,
and, in fact, things are a lot simpler than that.
from Achaan Chaa:
the Eightfold Path is taught with eight steps such as Right
Understanding, Right Speech, Right Concentration, and so
forth. But the true Eightfold Path is within us: two eyes,
two ears, two nostrils, a tongue and a body. These eight
doors are our entire Path and the mind is the one that walks
on the Path. If you know just these things, and the states
that arise with them, all of the dharma is in front of you.
have these stories about experiences, but actually our experiences,
if we want to live more in the moment, are much simpler than
that, much simpler than our stories.
talk about the five hindrances a little bit and maybe reflect
in some ways how they arise, not just while sitting, but all
the rest of the time, which is what practice is for. You sit
and practice in order then to live it. That's why it's called
is the juiciest one of them. As Oscar Wilde said, "I
can resist anything but temptation." It's the one that
we get caught up in in different ways. It's amazing, wanting
is a very powerful habit. We can want anything, and it changes
from one thing to another. We desire one thing and then we
desire another. In the retreats, as you know, there's the
phenomena of things like The Vipassana Romance where people
are silent and not looking at anyone and just paying attention,
and they notice some interesting shape or something out there,
and then they just sit, and all of a sudden the whole idea
comes, what it would be like to maybe meet that person, and
talk with them, perhaps after the retreat to go out and meditate
together, or some other activity like that. And that goes
on, you know -- marriage, children. In California it usually
includes divorce as well, if you really play it all the way
out. And without making eye contact with that person, the
mind spins out this fantasy of things that will fulfill it
better than whatever experience is here, with the breath,
or the body, or whatever is actually here.
movement can be observed, if you look, all the time in our
life. It's called the "If-Only Mind." It's the mind
that arises in the moment of experience and says, "If
only I had something else," "If only I had a different
partner," or "If only they behaved in a different
way," or "If only I had a different job," or
"If only I had more free time," or more money, or
a house more in the country, or a house more in the city,
or "If only I were younger," or "If only I
were older," or whatever. It's always the same state.
I watched it when I was a monk and all I had were a few books
and a robe and bowl. Possessions were really minimal. Even
so, I found myself thinking, "If only I had a little
nicer robe." It has nothing to do with what's around
us. It's this movement inside of feeling like what's here
is not enough. Do you know what I'm talking about?
give people anything they ask for
until at least a day has passed.
Someone said, "Why not?"
"Experience shows they only appreciate something
when they have the opportunity of doubting
whether they will get it or not."
the interesting things when you start to look at and work
with the hindrance of desire is to see that what relieves
it, what makes one finally happy about it, is not so much
the thing that you get, or the person, or the experience that
you get at the end - this is important, so listen to this
- it's actually the fact that the state of desiring has ended.
I'll give you a simple example. Suppose you have a craving
for some food that you really want to have. It can be pizza
or ice cream or cannelloni, you name it, whatever it happens
to be. You go and you get it. You do all the things. You get
in your car, you go, you finally get it, you have it in your
hand, and you take the first bite of whatever it is. And usually
the moment that you taste it, there's this great sense of
delight and release, and so forth, and part of it may be because
it tastes good and it's pleasurable, if it's part of your
fantasy -- but the main piece is, in that moment, finally
the wanting stops. Do you understand that? And that a good
deal of the joy of fulfilling desires is not so much of the
getting of the thing, because you have it for a little while
and then you want the next thing -- it's endless -- but rather
that there's a moment where the wanting itself stops. If you
look closely in yourself, if you let yourself look, you find
that the very process of wanting is painful; that the very
state of not being complete or content or present with what's
here is what the pain is about.
a familiar hindrance. Let's talk about some of the others,
and then talk about ways one could work with them in one's
life. Of course, the first piece is just beginning to understand
how these operate in ourselves.
four are quite interesting. Anger, sleep, restlessness and
doubt -- even desire to a certain extent is included -- I
tend to see them all as states of avoidance. They're really
states which arise so that we can avoid something, some aspect
of what's true in our experience. Maybe I can explain that
as we go along.
which includes irritation and judgment and boredom, not liking
what's present, fear -- all of those are the movement of anger.
It's a very painful state, for the most part, if you look
at it. The body has a lot of tension, there's heat, there's
burning if you're angry. Even irritation has a lot of tension
in it. Yet in some way we do it again partly out of habit.
Another reason that we do it is because it makes us feel right
in some way. You know what I mean about being right. That's
the favorite feeling of many people because it's the feeling
that most authenticates the sense of yourself.
ago when we talked about Forgiveness somebody stood up or
raised their hand and said something that was really powerful.
They said, "Here we are, stewing and raging and angry
about something that someone has done, and very often they're
off going about their own business enjoying themselves. And
who's suffering? It's us because it wasn't that way, and we're
so angry, and it should have been, and so forth. And who is
doing the holding on at that point? I'm not saying that you
shouldn't be angry -- you can be angry or hold grudges; you're
welcome to do anything. -- We're just looking at the laws
of how it operates.
I was sitting at this one monastery for a long time meditating,
and I had a bout of anger about something, which I have regularly,
and I went to the teacher and told him how angry I was about
something. It was in the hot season and he was wearing those
little flip-flop sandals. He got up and went over to the table
where we were sitting and he kicked the table leg. It looked
like it hurt him. Then he held his foot and he hopped around
for awhile. Then he sat back down and kind of massaged his
foot. Then he looked at me and he shook his head. That was
his response to my being angry. He just kind of acted out
what we do. Just like desire, where we can desire anything,
and it doesn't matter what it is, the force is there, and
we get our food, or our relationship, or our car, or our vacation,
or our time off, whatever it is, and then we look for the
next thing because it's so powerful. The same with anger.
We can get angry at anything, including things that are already
past and nothing can be done about them. And even more, we
can imagine something which somebody is going to do, and sit
there and get really angry at what they might do. Have you
ever seen yourself do that?
our righteousness on other people in some way. We project
our pain, is really what it's about; that we're in some kind
of pain, and we make it somebody else's fault. Also there's
as much suffering in the world as we experience at certain
times, and we don't want to take it in because it's so hard
for our hearts, and our culture is one that doesn't train
the human heart very well to deal with the measure of pain
that's part of life.
quite angry today. In fact, I was really yelling at somebody.
I won't talk about the specifics so much. I felt so indignant
and I felt so right that it was very hard not to do it. It's
interesting to observe. It's not like anger is some terrible
thing, or that it won't arise, or that all these other states
won't arise, or that there might not even be an occasion where
it was appropriate. There are some occasions for that, especially
if you're able to let it move through you instead of storing
it as resentment and all kinds of other things, or if you
use it in a way that isn't really intended to hurt other people.
That's a whole other talk about anger.
we are, living in a pretty busy and complicated world, and
we see this state of being angry, or being irritated, or judgmental,
arise very often, and yet we are the victims of it. It's we
who suffer from it. The question, when it comes, is: How can
we relate to it? It's really the pain in us that we're talking
about. If we can look at that, then we can touch the world
and heal it a little bit. It's very difficult to do without
healing our own pain.
talk about laziness, and so forth. I said all of these are
avoidances. Very often anger is really a way of not feeling
the pain of someone else or what our own experience is. Judgment
and fear are the same things. Sleepiness is the same. Sleepiness,
the habit of going unconscious. When is it that sleepiness
arises? There are three basic causes for it. It comes when
we're tired. That's the first one. And that's a good signal.
You sit in meditation or you find yourself at other times
having sleepiness. arise for you; then take a look and see
what are the causes. Now, if it's just that you've been working
kind of hard and you're tired, that's one thing. Then you
just respect your body and maybe take a rest.
we're in 80's in California, in a Western culture, how many
people when they get sleepy or tired are living in such a
way that it's really a signal? How are you living your life,
how busy is it, how full is it; where are we going that we
fill it up so much? Does that make sense to any of you? So
that's a signal. It's a signal even if it is just tiredness.
Let's look at what pace we live at, or let's look of how we
fill up our lives, and what we might be avoiding in some way
in doing that.
of sleepiness is just that we're tired. The second is that
we are unaccustomed to stillness, that our culture moves so
fast and we get into that rhythm. Then when it's time to stop,
and you sit to meditate or you walk outside, or you go home
you kick your shoes off, you start to think, "Maybe I
could meditate. No, I'm too tired to do it." The way
I put it in retreats is: When we start to get quiet, there's
some little voice in there that says, "Oh, it's quiet;
it must be bedtime," because it's one of the few times
we stop. It's a response in us, when we start to get still
or concentrated or quiet. And sometimes the fear comes, "Oh,
this is too quiet, what will I do with this? It's too empty,
there isn't enough activity for me to know who I am,"
because we define ourselves by our activities.
reason that sleepiness arises is that it is a kind of resistance.
You will notice yourself becoming lazy or sleepy at certain
times in your spiritual life not because you're overtired
or not because it's too quiet. And that's an unfamiliar state
that you need to work with, to learn to open again like a
child; but because there's some pain or sorrow or grief or
difficulty or conflict that's kind of hard to feel, it's easier
just to be sleepy about it. Has anybody noticed that happening
in their lives, or how often it can happen?
is amazing. Not just our culture, it's worldwide. There are
ten million drug addicts, and 20 million alcoholics, and 50
million people who are close to those drug addicts and alcoholics
-- and their families or family-systems, who are really painfully
touched by that; deeply so. And more than half of all the
car accidents where people are killed and 80 or 90 percent
of child abuse and the great majority of fires at home, and
all of those things, are involved with alcohol and drugs.
And the level of pain, if you start to work with people around
the family systems of alcohol and drugs, and so forth -- it's
extraordinary. Yet, the purpose of all of that, for the most
part, is to cover pain. A friend of mine who worked in a drug
program for many years said that generally speaking the amount
of drugs and alcohol used is equal to the amount of pain in
the person, not to be too simplistic about it. So that's what
I mean by avoidance; that there are states that arise for
us that keep us from feeling.
is a different one. The vibration, the movement, the habit
of our culture is to be speedy. TV, shopping, eating, traveling,
the telephone, all of these things, where we keep ourselves
busy because we don't know what to do. We're not taught as
we grow up how to nurture ourselves in stillness, how to listen
more to the breeze, or the clouds, or the trees, or the children,
or the people around us, or how to just sit on our porch and
rock in our chairs a little bit and watch stuff go by, as
people used to do, instead of constantly being busy with it.
I have to confess I'm one of us in that one. Somebody from
Europe who heard my dharma talks wanted to sit a long retreat
and came to a three-month retreat. They said they were so
disappointed in me because I tend to move pretty quickly,
and they said I seemed more like an Italian shoe salesman
than a calm meditation teacher. And it's true.
who has done a lot of vipassana practice and has worked with
eating disorders, has titled one of her books feeding the
hungry heart. A lot of our busyness is because we're looking
for something to fulfill us. So we eat or go shopping or travel,
or pick up the phone, or turn on the TV really compulsively
at times, because there's something we want -- and it doesn't
quite do it. That's the kind of restlessness. The ability
to just stop and be, like when you're in a traffic jam where
you say, "Here, I am on the Golden Gate Bridge; I might
as well feel the bridge vibrate and kind of look at what the
shipping is doing, instead of thinking of where I could be
or being frustrated." It's to be with what is.
have been a number of movies from Australia. I remember one
called the last wave, with pictures of the aborigines. One
of the things that most struck me about them was that when
the aborigines sat down, they sat. It was like they sat and
they could have been on a rock, Ayers Rock or something, and
they just sat there, and they could have sat all day and all
night and all week. But you don't see that in our culture;
you see this sense of movement almost to the extent where
people can't sit still, can't pause, can't stop because of
what would they feel.
asked Nijinsky about his dancing, how he could dance in such
a marvelous way, and he said that there had to be some stillness
in it. He said:
really quite simple. I merely leap and pause.
description, "I merely leap and pause." Can we learn
to stop a little bit? Maybe that's all that meditation is
about, just to stop. Then the last hindrance is doubt, confusion,
tension, kind of wondering, "What should my work be,
how should my spiritual life go, am I in the right relationship,
am I in the right workplace, am I in the right part of the
country." We Americans have the curse of choice. That's
not a trivial thing. It enlivens and it enriches the culture
and our lives, but it's a very difficult thing and it's not
so for most cultures. And usually when doubt arises strongly
it does so because our heads, our thinking apparatus is not
connected with our heart. If you look in the moment where
there's a lot of confusion or doubt, it's there because there's
much thought and not much connection to the heart, to what
we might do based on our deeper values.
way to put it is: when there's a lot of doubt, often connected
with it is a lack of love for ourselves or a lack of love
for the other, for the world around us. If we're in touch
with that love, our path becomes pretty clear. Do you remember
the question I asked the night of the talk on Forgiveness
that came from Gandhi's tomb along the Ganges in Delhi where
the question was inscribed in stone:
of the poorest person you have ever met, and then before
acting ask if or how this act will be of benefit to that
generally comes when we're not in touch with what we really
value in life. And again, it requires a stopping, an opening,
a listening inside.
are the hindrances. Are they familiar? Certainly they are.
They are our companions in the journey. We see them over and
over in sitting, we see them over and over in the world outside,
in the cause for war. When I was angry there was a very strong
impulse in me to call and register a complaint and try to
solve something. And then being met by aggression, it was
very easy to see if someone chooses to be your adversary how
easy it is to take up the banner and say, "Alright, I'll
do it. I'm a man. Why not?" or whatever it is. That's
one of the problems, yes. But it's worldwide -- prejudice,
greed, fear and desire; these same forces that create war
or that create grain elevators full of food in one place and
hungry people in another.
is: Are they workable? Can one work with these forces? Lama
Yeshe in that excerpt that I've read about his time being
in the hospital and going through all the great difficulty
with his heart attack, said:
you learn the basic precept of transforming your unwanted
sufferings into the path of practice?
can learn that precept, it will serve you in any circumstances.
Can you learn to do that? Can any of us do that? What does
it take? A key thing that it requires is faith. It is so important
-- faith in the human heart, faith in the power of awareness.
The Dalai Lama was asked what was the most important thing
one can do as a teacher of dharma, what's the most important
thing you can communicate, and he said "Faith."
Not faith in the Buddha or faith in something from India or
some ancient system, but really faith in our own true nature.
Rock bottom understanding of that, not just with words but
because you know that it's true that human beings have this
capacity to deal with the sorrows of the world and with adversity,
and that the heart is greater than all of that, and that the
power of awareness is such that we can grow from any of it.
That's what we have to discover -- in ourselves, in our sitting,
in our families, in our lives. Faith, not so much in doing
but in stopping, in listening, in not doing so much, and letting
ourselves stop avoiding things that are difficult, not getting
so caught by the stories of what we want or what we don't
want. That's all the mind. Minds do that, it's sort of their
job -- you pay them a little bit and they just think all the
talks about it quite beautifully in a poem which he calls,
"I Have Faith in Nights."
darkness that I come from,
out of which all things come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything,
shapes and fires, animals and myself.
How easily it gathers them,
powers and people.
It is possible a great energy is moving near us.
I have faith in night.
poem, darkness out of which everything comes.
stop -- in our practice, in our lives with our families --
and start to listen, and let ourselves be a little emptier,
a little more silent, more in touch with the spaces between
words or between desires or between frustrations? There is
something really mysterious that reveals itself as soon as
we stop. It doesn't take very long, and maybe there's a certain
pain that one has to go through in putting on the brakes,
if you know what I mean -- each time, again and again, too
-- but when you do it, then things become mysterious again
like it is for any child.
me I know of nothing else but miracles
when you're still enough.
of our happiness is not through our doing, it's really much
more through stopping. How can we work with our hindrances
very specifically? First of all, if you identify the most
popular ones in your own personal repertoire, it helps a lot.
If you're going to go to the theater, you might as well know
what play is on. I've talked on some nights about Buddhist
personality typology, which is based on our responses that
come out of the sense of separateness itself; and the three
roots in Buddhist psychology are the greed type, the aversion
type, and the deluded type.
remind you in a simple way, we all have all of it in us. I'm
a great example of the greedy type. The general response of
the greedy type is to go into a new situation and see what
we like about it, and see how we might get more of it, what's
lovely about it or what we appreciate. Forget the rest. Now,
the aversion type -- my wife is more in that category -- is
somebody who goes into a situation and sees what's wrong with
it, which is a very different response, painted wrong, the
colors are wrong, and people are behaving wrong, and so forth.
And then the deluded type whose tendency is to go into a new
situation and not know what to make of it, not know what their
make sense to you? Do you understand these types of either
wanting or being critical or not knowing your place in it?
There's a lot more. -- There's the Buddhist families, Ratna,
Padma, Vajra, all these styles which I might talk about a
little bit more. What's interesting is that each of these
also has a positive side, which we'll get to later, things
that can be transformed in us. The point about this is that
it begins to become useful if we want to work with the hindrances
in our daily life to start to see what our own patterns are.
Is it our tendency to get irritated all the time, or is it
our tendency to go to sleep all the time, or is it our tendency
to eat to avoid, to use desire in that way, or is there some
Achaan Chah used to be very forthright about it. It was part
of his teaching style. He would kind of give nicknames to
a number of his monks and people around. It was a little bit
like The Seven Dwarfs _ Sleepy and Dopey and stuff like that.
"This is a monk that's always into eating. Oh, here's
my monk, why don't you meet him? This is Sleepy. Whenever
I visit, go to his cottage, he's always sleeping," and
so forth. He did it with a lot of humor.
got to start to look at what is your particular way of not
being present. The thing is that they're not bad. You don't
have to say, "Well, I'm a bad person," because this
is just the nature of being born with a self-structure or
having it develop in early childhood. What's important is
to see that it's actually very alive, and that if you can
begin to work with it, it's interesting. Aren't you interested
in yourself? Fess up! Come on! Why not look at the patterns
that we use in relating to things? It's really juicy and it
can be transformed.
thing is to see what are the popular patterns in oneself.
So I ask you that for yourself -- which are the ones that
you use? Then the second, after you recognize that, which
helps you to kind of keep on the lookout for them, is to begin
to identify mindfully the state or the experience as it arises
in the moment, or as close to the moment as you can -- the
wanting or the fear or the desire or the doubt. And a little
while later you say, "Oh, here I am in it," and
to identify it by acknowledging it. It's very useful to use
a label, "fear, fear" or "desire" or "wanting"
- just give it its name in a neutral way. You really see the
force as an opportunity to learn. "Alright, I've had
29 years or 48 years of this mostly being my pattern. Let
me really look at it. How soon does it come? What situations
cause it to arise? What does it feel like in the body? What's
going on with me in that moment? What's the experience like?"
second thing is to identify it, the best you can, without
judgment. It's hard because we tend to say these are bad --
it's bad to be irritated or to be fearful or to be angry,
or it's bad to be desiring or wanting. If we want to learn
about them, the key is to be mindful, which is to say, to
see and observe them as if you were studying a different person.
Say, "Gee, this is an interesting force. How is this
operating?" It's also important to see that they're workable.
When you identify or label it, it changes from being overwhelming
to, "Oh, this is just the dark night of the soul."
It's difficult, but you know what to call it. Or in your relationship,
instead of saying, "Oh, this is not going right, I should
look for another partner," it might be, "Oh, this
is just a state of doubt or restlessness. Let me see if I
can look at that in myself."
third piece is to make friends with it, to really receive
it with your heart as well as your attention, because if you
dislike it, even in a subtle way in your heart, when you say,
"desire, desire, desire" or "aversion"
or whatever, it's not going to go away or change. You won't
even learn much about it because you're still in struggle
with it. The more that you struggle with pains or experiences,
actually the more real they become inside.
is to observe how it changes -- the more carefully, the better.
Maybe you should study one a week. Pick one and observe what
does it feel like in the body. How long does it last when
you label it? How many labels long? What triggers it to arise?
What state usually follows it? What is it like if you're working
with desire and you note "desire, desire, desire,"
or whatever it happens to be? What's the moment like when
it stops? I keep thinking of this cartoon that was in mad
magazine: Alfred E. Newman was at the blackboard, and he was
writing, he was down to about his hundredth time, and it said,
"Cessation of desire, cessation of desire, cessation
of desire," It was his assignment for that day. Look
at and see if you're examining desire or fear or whatever,
see what it feels like, and see if you can notice the moment
when it changes. Very interesting moment, because at that
moment you begin to realize not only its impermanence, but
also that it's very impersonal, it comes according to a certain
story or forces. It doesn't last very long unless we keep
telling the story over and over.
practice with little ones. You can practice with annoyance
with your partner or your spouse. Practice watching when you
feel yourself to be right. Just practice watching for that
little impulse that says, "I'm right." It's a very
interesting one. Or practice carefully with certain desires
that arise that you know, those are the ones you'd like to
learn about, and see what it's like as it arises.
is to look at key patterns and sort of recognize the territory
for yourself. The second is to identify the experience in
the moment. The third is to touch it with your heart as well
as seeing and labeling it, to really let it in and not condemn
it so much. The fourth is to notice how it changes, notice
it's process, beginning and end, what comes before and afterward.
Take little things to work with; practice easy ones.
-- and this is really a key -- is see if you can discover
or observe what it hides you from, what it distracts you from,
what it covers up, what's the fear. When I said these are
all forms of avoidance, if you let yourself feel desire, or
fear, or boredom, or doubt, or restlessness, and you observe
it, see if you can listen inside yourself a little more deeply,
or even on a cellular level somehow, and see what it is that
you're moving away from, that you run from. Some of it is
moving away from being "just this much," as Achaan
Chaa says. We're always at war trying to make life more than
it is, make it bigger, or grander, or happier, or sadder,
or longer, or shorter, or lighter, or darker.
away from hunger, we move away from loneliness, we move away
from grief, or unfinished business, or pain in our heart,
or the fact that we haven't really been intimate in our relations
at times, and that's difficult to acknowledge, so we distract
ourselves, or we move away from pains that are unfinished
in the past where we haven't forgiven, or meaninglessness,
or we move away from fear that things are out of control.
They are! Or we move away from space; it gets quiet and the
whole sense of oneself which is built on busyness starts to
go away, and that's scary, so we distract ourselves.
only to observe the hindrance or the state, but also to listen
more deeply and see what you would experience if you let yourself
just get here. What might you be avoiding? It's a little bit
like going through a layer of ice that's a little painful,
if you want to go into the water and explore the depths of
it. There's all kinds of amazing things. But you have to stop
skating, and then there's a moment where you say, "Whoops,
I think I'm going to break through the ice," and you
do. It's okay to stop and feel what's actually present. This
is a big part of practice, to open your body, to use your
breath, your attention, and your heart, and feel what's here,
and stop moving; to come to rest in the moment. This is where
it gets very delicate. It's called, Watching the Movement
again with something from Achaan Chah. He talks about the
side it's like you're being kicked on one side with desire,
and the other is aversion, left and right. One who follows
the Middle Way says, "I will not get caught by the
pleasure or pain. I will let go of each as they arise, accepting
one moment after another. But it's hard. It's as though
we're being kicked on both sides, like a cow bell or a pendulum
knocked back and forth. We're always besieged by pleasure
and pain, and then we follow by a response, "I don't
like it, I do like it."
observe this, use your heart for guidance. You'll see that
when the heart is in its natural state, it's unattached,
it's accepting. When it stirs from the normal it's because
of various thoughts and ideas, the process of construction,
of images. This is the illusion.
to see this process clearly. When the mind is stirred from
its normal state it leads away from this moment into past,
into future, into right and wrong, into indulgence and aversion,
creating more illusion, more of movement.
and bad arise only in the mind. If you keep watch on this,
studying this one topic your whole life, I guarantee you'll
never be bored.
in another place:
take one seat in the middle of the room and don't get up,
and see the things as they come and go.
with these states in one's sitting practice, in driving in
a traffic jam, in the supermarket, in one's marriage, or one's
intimate relations, in the workplace -- they're the same forces.
Begin to work by identifying them, start to see what your
common patterns are, maybe take a look and see what you're
avoiding by having them there, and see if you can bring your
heart into them as well, because for the most part they arise
out of some place of pain. If we can open and soften to that,
to kind of melt to it, there's a much deeper place of well-being
that is our Buddha-nature, that is our birthright, and it's
there for anybody who stops.
much in the woods as a little girl,
I was told that the snake would bite me,
that I might pick a poisonous flower
or mushroom, or the goblins would kidnap me.
But I went along and met none but angels.
the second half will wait until another night. We have a few
moments for thoughts, comments, questions. And in the second
half we'll take more time because I'd like to hear from you
about common hindrances that you discover in your daily life
and how you've learned to look at them or work with them.
A question about depression. I've read that depression can
be stated as anger turning inward. Any comments about that,
regarding anger being one of the hindrances?
Is this for yourself particularly?
So at times you experience depression and you wonder how it
relates to anger? Is that it?
What's going on?
It is often the case, although not always, that depression
is a cover for anger; that one has had some circumstance in
life that first brought a lot of pain, and then the response
to that pain is anger. If that's unexpressed in people, the
energy to keep that anger down is as strong as the anger itself,
and it bottles up a great deal of energy, and then one can
feel fearful, depressed, lacking any sense of personal empowerment.
So often, although not always, in working with depression,
you might look to see where you've really cut yourself off
from your true feelings or your true inner relationship to
things around. That's not the only cause for depression, and
it's important to see that it's a very personal process that
we're discussing; that there isn't some rote formula. For
someone else it might be loss and there might be a bit of
anger but there could be some other sense of grief or loss,
possibly other reasons as well. So it's more an inquiry. What
you might do is look at what time of day it gets the strongest
or in what circumstances, and then stop and sit. Say, "Alright,
I'm going to feel this," and see what images come, where
you feel it in your body, what images might arise.
feel it in your body when you're depressed?
Yes. Then it becomes sleepiness.
So you get sleepy. So that's one function. Do you feel it
in any particular place?
So then you might sit with that and feel the sleepiness and
see what's under that, what would come up if you weren't sleepy.
Just pay careful attention. If you really want to go further,
see if you can feel the strongest sensation in your body,
and then let an image arise, whatever image wants to come
out of it that may show you a picture of what that inner conflict
What would be an interesting discussion one night is talk
about when we're happy. It seems to seduce us away from the
inner work. I mean, me.
What seduces us away?
Happiness. When I'm feeling really happy and things are going
right, some things are going right, it's like, "Well,
I might not have time to go to meditation."
I'd love to talk about happiness some night. I see it much
broader than that. That's a very good point, that at times
happiness can lead to a kind of complacency. However, there
are other kinds of happiness that are very genuine and really
nurturing of spiritual life, that touching them actually gives
us the strength to deal with difficulties. So it's a whole
range, and there can be great joys that come out of spiritual
practice as well. Seeing the layer of things that we've avoided,
there's a very deep level of joy that can come. It's a good
topic to talk about.
One of the things that hurts me, you naming them, I know all
of them, is that it's like I'm paying attention.
People do have all of them. They're all common human forces
that operate in each of us. There may be ones that we tend
to have more than another, but they're all the elements of
the make-up of the normal human mind. So it's not so much
a question of which we have or don't have. Some people have
them all at once, what's called, A Multiple Hindrance Attack.
What's important in meditation is not what the experience
is, but what is our relationship to it as it arises. So as
we get to see what are our top ten tunes, and the popular
ones for us, then we can also begin to look at whether we
can develop a mindful or a skillful or a passionate relationship
that leads us to freedom in relation to that. It may be that
we all have to work down the list or up the list, depending
on where you want to start. I think that's true.