24 Nov 2: Four Hurdles in Meditation
Sometimes people tell me, ‘I want to meditate, but I am unable to focus’. Every time you meditate, one way or the other, four hurdles will disrupt your session of meditation. They will interfere with your gently flowing stream of consciousness. There are four key hurdles in meditation. To become a successful meditator, it is important to identify and recognize these hurdles and overcome them by applying the correct methods.
The first key hurdle is restlessness. When you sit down to meditate, a few moments later, you will start to feel restless. Generally, restlessness arises when you exert too hard. When you feel restless in your session, simply stop meditating and sit peacefully. You can even get up or just listen to your breathing; not any specific kind of breathing, just gentle inhalation and exhalation. Your mind automatically calms down. Once you calm down, resume your meditation.
Within a matter of a few minutes, you will encounter your second hurdle; laziness. By laziness, I don’t mean that you will feel, “Oh I do not want to meditate.” Laziness means you lose the sharpness of your meditation. Let us say you are trying to visualize an image in your inner eye. That image will lose its sharpness, the image will fade away. That is a flaw in meditation. When that happens, stop meditating and simply visualize a bright light or something joyous that would invigorate you, not excite you, but simply rejuvenate your concentration. One of the other things you could do at that time is deep breathing or simply break your session of meditation. When laziness hits, exert mentally. Put special emphasis on maintaining your concentration, and your mind will come back to its natural state of balance.
Once you continue to meditate, you will come across the third hurdle, stray thoughts. Stray thoughts will hit you from all directions. A beginner will not be able to discriminate or detect when a thought hits their mind. An expert meditator, because of their developed sense of mindfulness and alertness, is able to detect the thought much earlier. So, when stray thoughts hit your mind, all you have to do is pay no attention to those thoughts. No thinking, no analysis, no deliberation of any kind, no pursuing the thought, no acceptance, no rejection, no reaction. Just stay still and draw your attention gently back to your object of meditation.
Now, you have gone past restlessness, laziness and stray thoughts. You will now be hit by the fourth hurdle, random images. Out of nowhere, images from your past or from your imagination will come and interfere with your meditation. When that happens, once again, stop, draw your attention back to your object of meditation and resume your meditation. If you forget to do that, the image will drag you into your field of thoughts. For example, suppose you are meditating and out of nowhere, a thought of a banana comes, and you think of a transaction you did at the grocery store. Then, you will remember a time, when your car didn’t work. Then, you may think of finances and the government and the taxes, and so on and so forth. Here, you were trying to meditate, and now, you are thinking about the dwindling world economy!
All these four hurdles can be corrected by:
A: Being mindful
B: Being alert and
C: Just being gentle
Do not feel bad, “Oh, I cannot meditate today.” You will not be able to meditate qualitatively, every time you sit down to meditate. Some days, you will have good sessions and on some others, not so good. In the beginning, that is how it is supposed to be. When you continue to progress, when you continue to do your practice and not give up, something amazing happens; the quality of your meditation goes up. You become more and more consistent. After all, is that not the difference between a champion and an average player? A champion is able to deliver good shots consistently, while an average player is able to play miraculously well in some situations, but misses out on others. It is that consistency that you have to aim for: consistency with quality. The rest will come to you naturally.
Every meditator, at some point, has felt despair. The mind seems too overpowering. If a meditator wishes to progress on the path of meditation, these hurdles are essential to overcome.
This article is part 2 of Learn to Meditate series, and is transcribed from the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUKwJGl2gcs
Read Part 1: What is meditation? Part 3: Alertness in Good Meditation