Common Obstacles to Meditation Practice

6225530793_5cee65a95c_zphoto by Moyan Brenn, flickrcc

There are a few obstacles that often come up in meditation practice. I’m going to go over what the most common obstacles are and a few strategies for how to manage them.

Here are six common obstacles.

1.Laziness:This is a lack of appreciation for the path. It a difficulty getting to the cushion for our practice. Sometimes we look for excuses to avoid meditating because we are lazy.

2.Forgetfulness: This is simply forgetting to practice. Sometimes we get lost in our thoughts and fantasies and as a result of that we just sit there thinking the whole time.

3.Drowsiness: This is trouble maintaining our energy during practice. Sometimes when we’re sitting we just nod off.

4.Wildness: This is the opposite of drowsiness. This represents either fidgeting while we are practicing or constructing elaborate fantasies in our minds instead of practicing.

5.Carelessness: This is when we know we should practice, but we don’t care.

6.Lack of Coordination: This is when we give in to all distractions instead of really trying to practice.

We have to get in touch with reality to overcome these obstacles. Obstacles arise because we are bound by our delusion, we have enslaved ourselves. Freeing yourself is the only way to see your Buddha nature. These obstacles often seem insurmountable, but they’re like clouds covering the sun. We just have to get them to move to let our Buddha nature, which is bright like the sun, to shine through.

So, here are some examples of antidotes to these obstacles. If we work to cultivate these antidotes it will help us overcome the obstacles.

Antidotes to Laziness: faith, respect, diligence

-Faith: Trusting in the dharma and in yourself.

-Respect: We want to see everything as sacred, including our practice. When we see our practice as sacred, we won’t lose sight of our need to do it.

-Diligence: This is our ability to work hard and never give up.

Antidotes to Forgetfulness: Gentleness.

-Gentleness: We want to make friends with our practice, to view it as something that helps us, not as a chore. We don’t want to think of it as a chore but we also don’t want to put it on a pedestal and think of it as some strange thing that is far away. It’s here with us now.

Antidotes to Drowsiness and Wildness: Posture

-Posture: When we sit with good posture, with our backs straight, it helps us develop a natural warning system. This warning system springs into action whenever we start to nod off or fidget.

Antidotes to Carelessness: Mindfulness

-Mindfulness: When we feel careless we want to bring our attention back to the here and now to reflect on how much practice helps us.

Antidotes to Lack of Coordination: Equilibrium

-Equilibrium: Coordination comes from discipline. We want to cultivate balance by not working too hard, not beating ourselves up when we struggle in our practice, but also by not being too lax. We need to place great importance on our practice and strive forth with diligence.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher and Ch'an Adept living in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. Daniel has a BA in English from KU and handles paperwork for a living.

His teaching style has been compared to that of the earliest Mahayana teachers and Ch'an Masters.

Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows in both the Nagarjuna and Asanga lineages and was transmitted the Caodong Ch'an lineage of Master Xu Yun.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter