Working with ill-will

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

Since I’ve been watching for how the hindrance of ill-will works in my life, a new example has presented itself.

Recently I’ve been driving other peoples’ cars. Whether it’s a rental or a loan from a family member, the normal vigilance I feel every time I get into a car has been heightened. I feel it in my body and my mind says, “Unless you pay close and flexible attention while in this vehicle, some very bad things can happen.” I grip the wheel, I look all around at regular intervals, I move out of the way of aggressive drivers, and generally navigate with caution. If I have to go around the block to make a safe landing, I do it without hesitation.

This vigilance is an unpleasant feeling, very close to fear. And yet, some part of it is useful. It keeps me from trying to do more than the one thing: driving. If I were careless about driving, I’d be using the time to complete other tasks, or to plan a future event — but I don’t. Every time I enter a vehicle I remember that this is the most dangerous activity I do, the one most likely to bring about unwanted physical and mental consequences. There’s always a little sigh of relief when the engine goes off and we exit the vehicle.

One day, if mindfulness keeps developing, I should be able to be alert and aware while driving, without that tinge of terror. This is the edge I watch.

Doing one thing at a time (in this case, driving) is (in my humble opinion) the most productive way to go about our lives. I’m not saying we shouldn’t read on the bus or subway, but when we’re talking, it’s best if we know our intention, hear our words, and see their effects; when we’re listening, we can set other things aside. When cooking or cleaning or working at pretty much any task, the more fully we focus on that one thing, the better the outcome. When waiting, we can just wait, noticing all the details of the experience. I find it mentally refreshing to do one thing at a time, and it strengthens mindfulness.

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