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An introduction to the five hindrances

When we struggle with something, whether its practicing MindStrength, going to the gym or how we react to an annoying email or to the outbreak of a virus, there are generally 5 unhelpful ways in which our mind tries to deal with this struggle. In Buddhist psychology these are called the hindrances. It basically means that they hinder you from feeling happy and calm.

When we look closely at our mind habits we will notice that when we are stuck in one of the hindrances this actually leads to more stress, frustration and unhappiness.

With this in mind, it is worth knowing a bit more about them, right?

What are the 5 hindrances?

Let’s start with the basics. What are the five hindrances? In lay-man’s terms (Buddhist scholars will be horrified) it comes down to:

In a series of articles we will be exploring each of these. Let me caveat that immediately by saying that people spend years and years exploring these. So we will be exploring the top layer. But it is safe to assume that your hindrances are infinitely interesting and very stubborn, and even the top-layer will give you insight and awareness that will support your wellbeing.

The idea behind exploring them is not to get rid of them, but to start to recognise them. Once we can do that, we can start to see when we are stuck in a hindrance and can apply our MindStrength skills to them, taking away a large part of their power.

So let’s start with the first one:

Hinderance 1: We want things that feel good

We want to feel pleasant things. We like good food, drink, sex, rest, sports…. whatever, we all have the things we enjoy. There is nothing wrong with that, obviously, but it can become problematic when we there is a strong need to seek out things we ‘want’.

It is really something you need to explore for yourself. You need to feel in your own experience what it feels like when you notice that you are seeking ‘things that feel good’.

A good example is when you are standing at a buffet. You have a couple of people ahead of you and you have your eye on the chocolate chip cookies that seem to be disappearing quickly. If you find yourself obsessing over those cookies, cursing people in front of you who take one, cursing yourself for being slow to get into the buffet line, and really worried there will be none left for you – then you are probably seeking things that feel good (the chocolate chip cookie).

When we are stuck in ‘wanting’ things there is a certain energy that we create in our mind:

  1. Dissatisfaction: the now is not good enough.
  2. Restlessness: constantly seeking something

These energies are not very pleasant and you can use the 10 minute meditation below to explore these different energies. You can also use examples in your daily life.

How can we relate well to ‘wanting’

As I stated above, this is a topic that can be explored for years. However, a couple of things are helpful to notice and know:

Awareness of ‘wanting’

Below are two meditations that can help you identify and work with ‘wanting’ . These awareness meditations are designed to help you identify and recognise your own way of wanting and noticing if and how this contributes or hinders your wellbeing and happiness.

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Meditation

How are you? (5 mins)

Start meditation

Meditation

How are you? (5 mins)

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Meditation

Relating to sounds (10 mins)

Start meditation

Meditation

Relating to sounds (10 mins)