February 4, 2014

The 5 Hindrances & How We can Overcome Them.

Human mind

The Five Hindrances are a series of mental factors that are said to hinder our progress, both in our meditation practice and in our daily lives.

1. Desire 

If we can just rearrange the circumstances of our lives, we will finally be able to be happy. That’s it, in a nutshell. Our desires can easily get us off track. We are endlessly distracted by them. How often do we neglect the things we need to do because of the cravings and desires that we have? Pretty often.

Attention is how we counter this hindrance. When we realize intellectually that our desires are not helping us, we can control them. It’s not about not having desires, becoming emotionless robots. It’s about controlling our desires, not letting them run away with us. Of course we want things. Our lives are uncomfortable. It’s just that we don’t want our desires to carry us away.

2. Aversion

This represents an intense feeling of emotional pain in unpleasant situations. Feelings of resentment, hostility, hatred, and bitterness stem from this hindrance. Some aversion is good, but when it turns us really hostile it becomes a problem. It’s not that we should like everything, it’s just that our relationship to the things we like shouldn’t be damaging us so much.

3. Restlessness

This represents anxiety. I can’t do this. I am worried. I want to stop. This is when we know what we should be doing, but we have the jitters. It’s obvious how this would be a hindrance to meditation. It’s hard to quiet the mind while sitting when what I really want to do is get up and move around. But, this applies in daily life too. When I’m at work sometimes I’ve just been staring at that computer screen too long and I just want to get up and walk around instead of staying focused. This is the hindrance of restlessness.

4. Sloth

This represents boredom. I could be doing something fun. We tend to expect the world to entertain us, especially in the modern world. Why should I be bored when I could be browsing the internet with my phone or watching Netflix? A dedicated daily meditation practice is a little hard to maintain sometimes, especially at first. It’s hard to do nothing when I have so much that I could be doing. This can be a hindrance in daily life too because we sometimes tend to put off things that we need to get done because they’re boring. I think this really applies to housework and things like that.

5. Doubt

This represents a lack of belief in ourselves. If I think I’m not good enough, then I am suffering from the hindrance of doubt. Don’t use doubt as a reason to not improve yourself. This applies to any kind of self-improvement. It’s the ‘can’t win, don’t try’ attitude.


These hindrances usually come up in life. No one is perfect. Being aware of them is the first step to overcoming them.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant archives

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