If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I just finished hosting the 28 Day Meditation Challenge.
I posted everyday for 28 days straight, introducing different aspects of meditation to help people set up an effective, regular meditation practice.
Although a lot of it was in my head, I did a whole bunch of research to make sure I wasn’t giving my own biased opinions, or where I was, I was at least doing it consciously 😉
I’d like to share with you a new discovery I made during that period.
The five hindrances and jhana
One of the things we looked at was the things that cause distraction and difficulty in meditation – traditionally called the ‘five hindrances’. These are:
- craving for sense experience
- ill-will and hatred
- restlessness and anxiety
- sloth and torpor
- doubt and indecision
Doubt and indecision is one of the most difficult to even spot, let alone deal with.
There are also a list of five ‘jhana’ or ‘absorption’ factors that are present when we’ve overcome the hindrances and are entering a superconscious state called ‘jhana’.
- applied thought
- sustained thought
- one-pointedness of mind
What I never realised before is that (at least according to the Visuddhimagga – Buddhagosa’s classic meditation manual from the early Buddhist tradition) these two lists are related. The absence of one leads to the arising of the other.
The opposite of doubt and indecision is one-pointedness of mind.
It makes sense if you think about it. One-pointedness of mind is the absence of doubt and indecision. You know what you’re about. Your mind is stable and focused on what you’re doing. It’s not swayed by ideas or fantasies competing for your attention. Quite a relief!
Focus your mind
Mindfulness practice is excellent for cultivating one-pointedness. Maintaining a gentle focus on the meditation object (for example, the breath) teaches the mind to hold its attention on one thing.
This quality is an amazing asset, useful in all aspects of life.
Outside of meditation, we can help to develop this quality by doing one thing at a time, and by choosing to be here now, instead of lost in iPod world or text message world.
We can consciously decide to do something, for a set period of time or until a definite stage of progress. And then we hold ourselves to that commitment and relax into the task.
We can also, over time, get in touch with what we really want out of life, and pursue it.
It’s easier to pursue something wholeheartedly if you actually want what you’re pursuing!
(Some people think that we shouldn’t have desire if we’re trying to be spiritual. They say it’s ‘just ego’. Well, maybe, but that’s not what Buddhism says on the matter, and these people usually use Buddhism as a justification for their argument.)