Five Hindrances Program
Current Sangha-wide Study of the Five Hindrances
Reflections and Home Practices for current and upcoming weeks are below this introduction.
NOTE: The Monday and Tuesday sits will begin Restlessness and Worry on Jan 15. The Thursday sit will begin Chapter 8, Doubt on January 18.
In the Buddha’s lifetime, the exploration of the teachings was never a solely intellectual undertaking. It always involved the investigation of experience through meditation; in this way, there is a blending of study and practice in daily life. In this spirit, we invite you to bring this very personal approach of the teachings into your life, keeping in mind this statement from Bhikkhu Bodhi:
“A spiritual tradition is not a shallow stream in which one can wet one’s feet and then beat a quick retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous river which would rush through the entire landscape of one’s life, and if one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough to launch one’s boat and head out for the depths.” The Noble Eightfold Path, p. 3
The Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday sitting groups are undertaking an in-depth study of the Five Hindrances, the mental forces that cloud the mind. These are classically listed as sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restless and worry, and doubt. As Gil Fronsdal writes, “Ranging from weak to very powerful, these forces hamper our ability to remain mindful, develop concentration, and have clear insight. They pull our attention away from our efforts to meditate. Even with the best of intentions to stay focused, these forces can propel us into the world of pre-occupation and distracted thought.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 5)
We are considering each hindrance for 4 weeks, using Gil Fronsdal’s weekly reflections as subjects of investigation. The teachers will reference his book Unhindered: A Mindful Path Through the Five Hindrances and also the practices and talks posted on his website. If you don’t have his book you might read this 7-page summary from his website. Introduction to the Five Hindrances. Fronsdal
Gil’s audio talks for all Five Hindrances are on this page. They can be streamed or downloaded.
Here are selected quotes from Gil’s chapter on Sense Desire Fronsdal Unhindered Ch 4 Selected Quotes. Ill Will selected quotes: Unhindered Ch 5 Ill Will Selected Quotes while Sloth and Torpor selected quotes are here. Chapter 6 Sloth and Torpor Restlessness and Worry chapter excerpts: Restlessness and Worry Chapter 7 Excerpts. Doubt chapter excerpts here: Doubt Selected Quotes
Check out this chart with the 5 hindrances and their antidotes: Hindrances Chart With Antidotes. ks compilation 12.11.17
As always, it is not necessary for sit attendees to be reading the book or the material on his website to engage in the discussion.
Please scroll down this page to find the discussion topic of the sit you’ll attend.
Here are Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit January 15: fifth Hindrance, Doubt:
Doubt Week 1 – Facing doubts
Reflections “Consider carefully what doubts you have in relation to meditation practice and/or Buddhist practice. Are you skeptical or uncertain about any of the teachings? Do you doubt your own ability to practice? Are you ambivalent about some of the goals or results of practice? Does this uncertainty affect how you practice? In what ways might doubt interfere with your practice?Practices Write up a list of ten questions you have about Buddhism or about meditation practice. Try to come up with questions which have a direct bearing on how and what you practice. Of these ten questions, spend time thinking, studying, and discussing with someone the most significant one for you.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 89)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Monday and Tuesday sit February 12 – 13.
Reflections: Consider carefully what doubts you have in relation to meditation practice and/or Buddhist practice. Are you skeptical or uncertain about any of the teachings? Do you doubt your own ability to practice? Are you ambivalent about some of the goals or results of practice? Does this uncertainty affect how you practice? In what ways might doubt interfere with your practice?
Practice: Write up a list of ten questions you have about Buddhism or about meditation practice. Try to come up with questions which have a direct bearing on how and what you practice. Of these ten questions, spend time thinking, studying, and discussing with someone the most significant one for you.
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit January 11 and the Monday and Tuesday sits February 5/6:
Restlessness and Worry Week 4 – Questioning Worry
Reflections “Reflect on the beliefs that underlie your worries. Question these beliefs. Are they true or useful? How did you acquire them? Why might these beliefs cause you to worry? How do these beliefs relate to your self-image or ideas of self? Try to have an in-depth conversation with someone about these questions. Alternatively, write down your reflections and re-read them later.
Practices During meditation focus on mindfulness of breathing. Focus on the calming and stilling effect of focusing on the breath. Tune into the rhythm of breathing in and out, riding as many cycles as you can. Try breathing into or through any place of agitation or tension you have. Sometimes it can be calming to remember to let go of thoughts at the end of every exhale. Let go of your agitating beliefs.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 81)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit January 4 and the Monday and Tuesday sits Jan 29/30:
Restlessness and Worry Week 3 – Reviewing Remorse
Reflections “Consider some of your past behavior for which you have remorse or which agitate you when you think of them. Over several days, make up a list of these. Look the list over and see if you can discern any pattern in the kind of things that are unresolved. Do they mostly concern events of the past or about events that are still current? Spend time considering how you might resolve these issues so that they no longer cause you to be preoccupied.
Practices Look over your list of things that are unresolved or that you have regrets over and find one or two that you can do something to resolve. This might involve an apology, making amends, or having a difficult conversation with someone.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 79)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit Dec 28 and the Monday and Tuesday sits Jan 22/23:
Restlessness and Worry Week 2 – Noticing Calm
Reflections “What are the times of day when you are most likely to be calm? How much importance do you give to calmness? What supports you to be calm? What are the most common conditions that cause you to lose your calmness?
Practices Give special attention to being calm during meditation. Before you meditate spend a few minutes doing some calming activity. In the beginning of your meditation session focus on relaxing every time you exhale. As your meditation continues, tune into any feeling of calmness you may have, no matter how slight. Notice how calm or tranquility is experienced in your body and mind. How does calm affect your mindfulness and how does mindfulness support calm?” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 77)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit Dec 21 and the Monday and Tuesday sits Jan 15/16:
Restlessness and Worry Week 1 – Noticing Restlessness
Reflections “How often during the day are you restless in either body or mind? What effect does restlessness have on your life? How do you tend to act when you are restless? What are some of the situations that trigger you to be restless? Spend some time reflecting on what beliefs underlie whatever restlessness you have.
Practices Give special attention to noticing how restlessness operates while you meditate. Bring lots of mindfulness to whatever degree of restlessness you have, no matter how subtle. Notice where and how restlessness appears in your body and your mind. How does restlessness affect your mindfulness and what happens to restlessness when you can hold it in mindful attention?”
(Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 75)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Monday and Tuesday sits Dec 11/12 and Thurs sit Dec 14.
Sloth and Torpor Week 4 – Arousing Effort
Reflections “Are there ways that you are lazy? If so, what are some of the conditions and reasons for your laziness? What are some of the healthy alternatives to being lazy? What are ways of overcoming laziness?
Practices Spend some days experimenting with applying more effort in meditation. This can be done physically by sitting up straighter or by doing brisk walking meditation before sitting. It can be done mentally by putting more effort into being alert and mindful of what is happening during the meditation. If applying more effort agitates you, try to match the increased effort with increased calm or inner stillness.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 67)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Monday and Tuesday sits Dec 4/5 through 10/11 and Thurs sit Dec 7 through 13.
Sloth and Torpor Week 3 – Sleep and Fatigue
Reflections “Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big influence on fatigue. Please consider your beliefs, attitudes, and practices around sleep. Do you regularly sleep less than you need? Do you often sleep more? How restful is your sleep? How frequently do you use caffeine to overcome sleepiness? What attachments do you have that interfere with getting the proper amount of sleep?
Practices Spend a week doing everything you can to get adequate sleep. If you tend to get too little sleep, go to bed early and get up later in the morning. If you sleep too much, wake up early. Experiment with taking a fifteen-minute nap in the middle of the day. Notice how getting an appropriate amount of sleep affects your energy, alertness, and mood. Notice what benefits this provides you.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 65)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Monday and Tuesday sits Nov 27/28 through December 3/4 and Thurs sit Nov 30 through Dec 6.
Sloth and Torpor Week 2 – Losing Energy
Reflections “Besides natural tiredness at the end of the day, what are some of the primary ways you get drained of energy and vitality? What activities do this? What kinds of thinking, beliefs, or judgments do this? How often do disappointments, frustration, or boredom drain your energy? Do you get tired or drained from being over-energized or over-busy?
Practices Chronically worrying is an effective way of getting fatigued. Spend some time noticing when you start worrying. Focus on relaxing or letting go of whatever worry you can – be content if you can only do this for small worries. Spend some days actively doing what you can to be as worry-free as you can. Notice how this affects your energy level throughout the day.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 63)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Monday and Tuesday sits Nov 20/21 through Nov 26/27; Thurs sit Nov 16 through 29 (no sit Nov 23);
Sloth and Torpor Week 1 – Noticing Energy
Reflections “Give attention to the varying levels of energy and effort through the day. What role does your energy level play in your life? Do you think of yourself more as an energetic person or a non-energetic one? Are you comfortable with being energetic? When during the day or during the week are you most energized? When are you least energized?
Practices At the end of each day reflect over the day and consider which activities gave you energy and vitality. What helped you get re-energized? Was it through rest or through activity? Then the next day, spend more time than you normally would doing things which energize or rejuvenate you in satisfying ways. What makes it satisfying? How do these activities affect your ongoing mood and mental state after the activity is finished?” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 61)
Gil’s Reflections and Practices for the Thursday sit Nov 9-15; for Monday and Tuesday sits Nov 13/14 through Nov 19/20.
Ill Will Week 4 Letting Go of Ill Will
Reflections “What beliefs do you have that support your aversion? What do you believe about yourself or others that tends to result in aversion? Try to question the authority of these beliefs. What beliefs can you put aside so that you have less anger or ill will?
Practices Look for opportunities to let go of ill will and anger. As if letting go is a muscle, spend the week strengthening that muscle. Notice what makes letting go of aversion difficult. Do you have beliefs that make you resistant to letting go? Physically, emotionally and mentally how do you feel after you have let go? If you don’t somehow feel lighter after letting go, perhaps you have not let go thoroughly enough. Explore more deeply to find the roots of the aversion. If you recognize them try to let go of them.” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 53)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices Nov 2-8 (Thurs sit) and Nov 6/7 through Nov 12/13 (Mon and Tues sits). Ill Will Week 3
Reflection “Avoiding Ill Will and Anger What practical things can you do so ill will and anger are less likely to arise in you? How can you best prepare yourself so you can avoid getting angry in situations that normally would provoke it?
Practice During meditation and daily life, actively cultivate calmness. Whenever you notice tension, relax as much as possible. Give yourself extra time to do things so that you are not rushed. As a way of being calmer, cultivate a greater sense of contentment. Notice what influence being calm, unrushed and content have on your tendency to become angry or aversive.” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 51)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices Oct 26-Nov 1 (Thurs sit) and Oct 30/31 through Nov 5/6 (Mon and Tues sits).
Reflection “Attitude Toward Ill Will – What are your attitudes toward having aversion? Do you have aversion to aversion? Are there ways you enjoy or value being aversive? What pulls you into the aversion? What beliefs do you have justifying being aversive?
Home Practice Study your relationship to aversion and ill will as they arise this week. This can be both in meditation and in daily life. Notice the ways that the aversion or ill will are unpleasant and how you respond to that unpleasantness. Is aversion ever pleasant or enjoyable? Spend some time talking to someone about what you discover.” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 49)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices Oct 19-25 (Thurs sit) and Oct 23/24 through 29/30 (Mon and Tues sits).
Reflection “Mindfulness of ill will – What role does ill will have in your life? How strongly does ill will or aversion operate for you? How free are you from acting on ill will? How often do you regret acting on aversion or ill will? What have been some of the more unfortunate consequences resulting from expressing ill will?
Home Practice For mindfulness practice, anything can be the focus of mindful attention. During this week, spend some time examining any aversions that might arise for you. These might be quite small movements of aversion or major outbursts. In situation where it is ok to do so, allow the aversion to be present without judging it, acting on it, or abandoning it. Notice carefully how aversion or ill will feels physically. Notice how it affects the quality of your mind and thinking. How does it affect your attitude?” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 47)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practice starting Oct 12 (Thursday sit), and Oct 16 & 17 (Monday and Tuesday sit)
Reflection “Safeguarding the sense doors– How does your experience of having sense pleasures differ from your experience of desiring sense pleasure? How do these differ physically, emotionally and mentally?”
Home Practice “One way to avoid getting caught up in desire is to safeguard yourself at the sense doors. This means two things: First, it means to limit what you see, hear, and experience so that these things do not trigger or reinforce your desires for them. Secondly, it involves being attentive to sights, sounds and experiences at the moment you perceive them and then leaving them alone – do not let your mind get pulled into desire for these things. Devote a few days to practice both forms of safeguarding. This practice is often more effective if you have a clear sense of the advantages of not being pulled into the world of desire.” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 37)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for October 2 – 16 (Mon and Tues sits) ; October 2 – 11 (Thursday sit).
Gil’s Cultivating Contentment Reflection: “What experiences do you have that are more satisfying than sense pleasures? What meaningful feelings do you have which are not connected to sense pleasure? How can you nourish these feelings? How does the presence of these feelings affect your desires for sense pleasure?”
Home Practice “Actively develop contentment and appreciation for what you already have. Contentment is not just a way of evaluating or thinking about our lives. It also involves a relaxation of our body so that we are more settled here and now. See if you can let go of some desires then replace them with contentment. Notice how contentment affects your desires” (Fronsdal Unhindered p. 35)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for September 25 – Oct 1 – Being a student of sense pleasure.
Reflection “What role does sense pleasure have in your life? How much are you oriented toward sense experiences? How much of your day is spent in pursuit of sense pleasure? Which of your daily activities are influenced by the desire for sense pleasure? For example, in cooking a meal how much of the preparation time is devoted to enhancing the sense pleasure of the food? Among the things you purchase, how much of the expense results directly from the greater sense pleasure the object brings?”
Home Practice – “Devote a period of time – at least a few days – to look for opportunities to study what effect the experience of sense pleasure has on you. When and what kinds of sense pleasure are more satisfying and less satisfying for you? What forms of sense pleasures bring you the greatest feelings of well-being? What do you experience after a sense desire has been satisfied?” (Unhindered p. 33)
Gil’s Reflection and Home Practices for Sept 18 – 24 – Riding out a desire:
Reflection – Riding out a desire: (Unhindered p. 31) What affect does desire have on your body, your mind, and your ability to pay attention? What parts of your body are activated when your desires are strong? Is tension or stress present with desire? Is your mental state more expanded or constricted when you have desire? How might desire prevent you from accurately seeing the object of desire?
Home Practices – Riding out a desire: (Unhindered p. 31)
Spend some days noticing your stronger desires for sensual pleasure. Remember that mental pleasure is also a form of sensual pleasure. Some typical forms of sensual desire are desires related to food and drinks, sexuality, comfort, entertainment, exercise. When you are having a strong bout of desire, do not act on it or distract yourself from it. Instead, bring mindfulness to what happens to the desire as you stay aware of it. Stay mindful of it until it is no longer present. How strong is the impulse to satisfy the desire? How does it change as you remain mindful of it? What beliefs and justifications might come along with the desire? How long does it last? How do you feel once the desire has passed?
Here are some reflections for the introductory week: (Unhindered p. 17)
“Which of the 5 hindrances is the strongest or most common for you? Which is the weakest? Which is most likely to affect your meditation? Which is most likely to influence your behavior in daily life? In both meditation and daily life, on which occasions do the hindrances usually arise in you? What are the common conditions for their arising? What are the mental and emotional states that are most likely to trigger the hindrances? What external circumstances elicit the hindrances? In what ways do the hindrances limit you? How do they diminish your ability to be mindful and wise? Do they interfere with what you want to accomplish?
Home Practices for the Introductory Week: (on page 18 of Gil Fronsdal’s Unhindered)
What understandings, abilities, states of mind, and practices do you know that can best help free you from the grip of the hindrances? You might draw up a list and then consider which you are most familiar with. Which has been most useful? What is your motivation for practicing with the hindrances? How important is it for you to overcoming their hindering influence?
Notice what opportunities you have in your daily life to bring mindfulness to the hindrances. Are you able to use some or all of the practices included in the acronym B.E.L.L.A. (Be, Examine, Lessen, Let go, Appreciate)? Or R.A.I.N. (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Nurture or Non-identification)? Which of these are most useful for you? What obstructs your ability to practice with the hindrances? What supports your ability to do so?
Doubt Week 2 – Confidence
Reflection “How would you rate the strength of your confidence in meditation teachings and in yourself as a meditation practitioner? Over the time you have meditated, in what ways has your confidence fluctuated? What are some of the reasons for this fluctuation? With your involvement with meditation, what are the primary ways that you feel confidence?
Practice Before each session of meditation, remind yourself of those things that give you confidence in the practice. Let that confidence support you during meditation. How does doing this affect your meditation practice?” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 91)
Doubt Week 3 – Conditions for doubt
Reflections “What are the situations, conditions and beliefs which are most likely to trigger doubt? What effect do frustrations and difficulties in meditation have on the arising of doubt? What are some of the conditions you can put into place which might support your confidence and resolve in mindfulness practice?
Practices Each time doubt, uncertainty, hesitation, or indecisiveness occur in meditation, use the mental note “doubt” to label it. Clearly note it several times and see if you can free yourself from being influenced.” (Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 93)
Doubt Week 4 – Conflicted about practicing
Reflections “Do you have any fear or hesitation about what might happen to you when you practice meditation? Are you frightened or resistant to possible meditation experiences? Do you feel conflicted doing meditation because other activities seem more important? Are you worried that meditation practice will change you in ways that make you uncomfortable? Is any part of your life challenged by your meditation practice? Please discuss these fears and concerns with someone.
Practices If you are aware of any fear or conflict as you meditate, bring your mindfulness directly to the felt experience of the fear or conflict. Use your attention to become more familiar to how it is experienced as opposed to what you believe about it. Try using mental noting to see if you can free yourself from being entangled with the sense of conflict. Simply know that it is there and notice what happens to it as you stay present.”(Fronsdal Unhindered, p. 95)
Previous All-Sangha Topic
During the fall and winter ’16, extending through the spring of ’17, our sangha focused on the Eightfold Path. We spent a month on each path factor. Much of the material we used is from dharma teacher Gil Fronsdal’s excellent online program on this topic, Gil’s essays and dharma talks introduce each path factor and include many reflections. The teachers also referenced 2 other sources: Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book available online noble-8-fold-path-bhikkhu-bodhi and Bhante Gunaratana’s Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness which is widely available for sale.