The five hindrances are:
1. Sensory desire
Looked at one way, any spiritual practice involves finding ways to deal with difficult energies (thoughts, attitudes).
It is important to be clear about the source of our unhappiness. It is not out there anywhere; it’s in here. “Out there” is what it is; “in here” we can investigate, and our level of understanding can really change the landscape.
For some of us, the full range of ill-will is our comfort zone. We’ve adjusted to thinking that there’s always something wrong. If we see this with wisdom, if we thoroughly understand the characteristic of unsatisfactoriness in our experience, then we are at ease with reality. More often, however, we have simply accepted that things in our world are never quite as they should be, and we’re not happy about it. We live with a low-grade fever of dissatisfaction.
When this is the case, it can be difficult to discern our own ill-will, our own aversion. We need to re-direct our awareness from “out there” to “in here”. It’s a big U-turn in our normal way of seeing the world. Our annoying co-worker is not the problem; it’s our attitude to that person. The delayed or canceled flight is not our personal cross to bear; it’s a normal occurrence in the airline industry.
Rather than fuming at things we have no control over, we can re-route our focus to what is happening right now in this body and mind. Inventory it – what’s there? What would you call this energy? Is it moving? With what velocity and intensity? Are there specific words that are repeating in the mind? Do they make any sense?
More subtly, if we feel a mild unease, can we trace its source? Is there some physical discomfort that hasn’t quite registered in our consciousness? Is there a worry lurking behind a daydreamy mood? Is there a lack of energy that makes every movement feel like an effort? Is there some duty that we’re reluctant to fulfil?
As an example, nearly every day I do a set of stretches/exercises before breakfast. And nearly every day there is a bit of resistance to starting the routine, and then to doing particular exercises. The temptation to skip some or all of the routine comes and goes. It is rare that there’s enough aversion to make me skip it, so this habitual resistance has become a (sometimes) mindfulness component of the routine. The resistance is present, but it’s at a lower level than my desire to keep what health and fitness I have from deteriorating more quickly.
This mix of awareness at different levels is quite common. Mindfulness of the hindrances and their context can bring our inner life into better and better focus.