Practice 6th: Hindrances (Part of 4th Foundation: Dhammas)
We're aware of the body in the sitting posture and we let the mind rest on the body just as the body rests on the cushion. And without losing this embodied presence of mindfulness we will now proceed through six spokes in the wheel of Satipatthana meditation. The three body contemplations, contemplation of feeling, mind and the hindrances.
But before doing so, we take a moment to formulate our intention. Having formulated our intention we proceed to these body scannings done in one flow, for anatomical parts and the elements, with the understanding that even though at times we may proceed very quickly, this is not in itself a sign of proficiency that we do them fast. It is just an order to be able to adjust our practice to what the present moment requires and at other times we might find it preferable to go very slowly, part by part.
Beginning with the anatomical parts. Skin. From the head moving down to the feet. Flesh. From the feet, moving up to the head. Bones. From the head, moving down to the feet.
And we're aware of this body in the sitting posture, made up of skin, flesh, and bones. Cultivating an attitude of non-attachment.
And the elements. Starting with the Earth element. From the head, moving down to the feet. Water element. From the feet, moving up to the head. Fire element. From the head, moving down to the feet. Wind element. From the feet, moving up to the head.
And we're aware of this body in the sitting posture as pervaded by these four elements with an understanding of the empty nature. And we connect with the breath as that which connects us to life.
Bringing to mind the image of her skeleton to remind us of the fate of this body to fall apart. And with every inhalation aware this could be my last breath. And even if it is not the last breath it is certainly one breath closer to death.
And with every exhalation we relax and let go. Relax and let go.
Feelings. Pleasant feelings. From the head to the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips, legs, feet.
And painful feelings. From the feet to the legs, hips, torso, and the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head.
And neutral feelings. From the head to the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips, legs, and the feet.
And we're aware of this body in the sitting posture of any feeling of the present type, the unpleasant type or the neutral type manifesting in or on this body.
And from having explored bodily feelings we open the rest of our awareness to any type of feelings including those predominantly manifesting on the mental level. And from feelings we proceed to mind that which knows feelings, that which knows the body.
In particular, aware of the mind in which mindfulness is present. Continuing to familiarize ourselves with the texture, flavor, with the distinct characteristic of our mind when mindfulness is there, when Sati is established.
And with contemplation of all the feelings and mind it has become so unmistakably clear to us that body, feeling, mind; Impermanent phenomena. And what is impermanent cannot yield lasting satisfaction. It is dukkha. And what is dukkha. Cannot be the self. It is empty.
And we proceed to exploring conditionality in a very practical manner. With the hindrances. Our task is not only to recognize the presence or absence but to exclude their conditionality. We examine this mind. "Let me see. Let me see if there is any manifestation on the surface level of the mind of sensual desire."
Anger, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, or doubt. And if we find that any of these five hindrances is in the mind, with an attitude of a good chess player we examine the situation, "Hmm, know it gets really interesting. Let me see. Let me see how this hindrance managed to get into my mind. What were the causes and conditions for its arising? And what other causes and conditions that can help me to get out of it.? And what are the causes and conditions that will prevent its recurrence in future?".
And at times we may find just being mindful and examining these conditions will be sufficient for the hindrance to go into abeyance. If this is not the case and if we wish to respond to these hindrances from within the scheme of our Satipatthana meditation, then with sensual desire and anger we may give for a moment attention to the impermanent nature of feelings.
The impermanent nature of pleasant feelings to undermine sensual desire and the impermanent nature of painful feelings to counter anger. And if sloth and torpor or restlessness and worry are there, we may give attention to the subtle pleasure of being in the present moment.
To help the mind gain balance, neither them being with too little energy nor with too much energy. That balance of the pleasure of being in the present moment.
And if these should not suffice for us to emerge from the hindrance, then in the case of sensual desire we may do contemplation of the anatomical parts to arouse and attitude of non-attachment.
And in the case of anger. We may do contemplation of the elements. Arousing the perception of emptiness as a way of deconstructing that solidified sense of ego that often stands behind anger.
And in the case of sloth and torpor, of restlessness and worry, we may take up contemplation of death. In the case of sloth and torpor, with particular attention to the inhalation, the understanding this could be my last breath.
And in the case of restlessness and worry, particular emphasis on the exhalation. Relaxing and letting go.
And in the case of doubt. We investigate. Some doubtful matters cannot be investigated now. They need to be set aside for a later time. But if the doubt concerns our practice how to proceed, rather than feeling helpless, we investigate, "Hmm, let me see. I don't know how to proceed now. So, let me try. Let me try this way. See what happens. No, no. This didn't work. So, let me try that way. See what happens. Ahh, this works.".
Sooner or later, by investigating, we will find a solution. And having found the solution from our own experience we know in future how to proceed. And we learn to rely on ourselves to become our own teacher.
And sooner or later a time comes when none of these hindrances manifests in the mind. They have been surpassed. They have become greater, more concentrated, and more liberated than it was before. What a relief. What a relief to be, even for a moment, free from being overpowered by these hindrances.
The mind is like crystal clear water not colored by sensual desire. Not boiling in anger. Not overgrown by the hindrance of sloth and torpor. Not tossed around by the winds of restlessness and worry. Not muddied and darkened by doubt.
What a relief. Like having settled a debt. Having recovered from disease. Having been released from prison and slavery. Having safely completed a dangerous journey. And we rejoice. Rejoice in this condition of the mind of temporary freedom from the hindrances.
And this experience of the mind that is temporarily free from the hindrances gives us a foretaste of the final goal.
This is what the practice leads us to. A mind in which the defilements will not manifest at all. A mind forever free from the hindrances.
And inspired by this goal and with that clarity of the mind. That clarity through the temporary absence of the hindrances, we proceed to our open practice. Opening up to experience at any of the sixth sense doors in whatever way it unfolds.
Just aware of it. Rooted in whole body awareness. Fortified with non-attachment, emptiness. And that livingness to the present moment through having faced our mortality. That direct feeling of impermanence. That exquisite flavor of the mind when mindfulness is present.
And that clarity, that crystal clarity of the mind. With all these qualities and understandings, insights of our cultivation of Satipatthana up to this point, we face the present moment in whatever way it unfolds.
Just aware. Just mindful. Mindful of the flow of experience, of the process of experience, of the all pervading characteristic of impermanence. Changing phenomena. Just a flow. Just a flux. And we are aware of it.
Planting the seeds of wisdom. Growing the seeds of insight. Step by step. Step by step we are progressing on the path to complete freedom of the mind from all defilements.
Keep practicing like this.
This audio has been made available to the public by Windhorse Publications, one of my favorite publishers of mindfulness-related books. Please visit them here: WindhorsePublications.com/satipatthana-meditation-audio
If you find value in this course, please consider donating to:
Bhikkhu Analayo (please write "for Analayo Bhikkhu" in the comment section)