Refining practice

The five hindrances are:
1. Sensory desire
2. Ill-will
3. Sloth-torpor
4. Restlessness-worry
5. Doubt

With all of the hindrances (and any object of mindfulness), the way we work with them develops along the way. When we start practicing, it seems to be “me” paying attention to “my desire” or “my resistance” and trying to “get myself” to let it go. This can feel pretty awkward, but it’s a good start.

If we notice these energies in the body and the associated thoughts when they come up, we start to perceive that they appear frequently, and that we don’t ask for or invite them, they just come, seemingly out of nowhere. It can be very annoying; we can feel frustrated that we can’t control our feelings.

If we persist in attending to our mind states as they occur, a subtle shift may take place, wherein we start to notice that wanting comes into our minds, but it takes a minute to claim it as “my desire”. Consider the possibility that the desire (or whatever feeling) doesn’t necessarily belong to us. Maybe it’s just a habitual thought re-visiting its usual home. What if it’s just “desire” and not “my desire”? Would that be different?

If our claim of ownership on all the feelings that come and go in our minds were to be challenged, if we started to doubt that all these impulses were “mine”, what then? Could they just come and go and be ownerless? Could we observe their coming and going, recognize what’s wholesome and what isn’t, and proceed accordingly?

We can’t make this evolution happen; it comes as a result, almost a by-product, of continuous close observation over time of energies passing through our bodies and minds. No need to do anything about it right now; just give it a think.

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