Obstacles to Meditation
“In this battle being waged on the most majestic and sublime battlefield in this universe, one must be ruthless with all enemies. No dithering and hesitation in killing the enemy! The victory is certain, if only one wants it with a sincere heart.”
The strongest enemy is one’s own object-based mind. The pull of sensuality is hard to cut asunder. Reasoning is not listened to. Only obstinacy rules in any ‘active’ or ‘inactive’ mind. Sublimation of the priorities into ‘unactivity’ is not accepted easily. The mind repels any effort to tame it, even with convincing proofs and reasoning.
Still, if the elevating rays of the desire for purity are able to wade their way into this inner darkness, nobody can stop one from vanquishing the illusions. Following is a list of the obstacles that all sincere seekers are going to face. Be vigilant. They are not difficult if we really want them overcome.
1. Thoughtless eating
A constipated stomach is unfit for meditation. Of course, you do not meditate with your stomach. But, its health has a direct bearing on the mind. So, whatever you eat must have lots of fiber in it. A heavy diet will not only make the mind dull, it will also refuse to leave your intestines. Your sensitivity is going to increase with meditation. You will find yourself wasting your whole day with headache or other problems if you are unable to clean the bowels in the morning itself. Fasting, once a week, on fruits and juices is helpful for keeping the digestive system healthy.
Secondly, the food should not be very hot, or pungent or stale. The mind tends to take the color of the food you eat. You will realize this once you start practicing regularly. Ideally, the diet should consist mostly of sprouts, milk products, fruits and vegetables—raw or half cooked. Milk at night time could be constipating.
As far as possible, vegetarianism needs to be practiced by meditators. You do not have to force it on yourself if you just cannot help eating a non-vegetarian diet. As you advance in meditation, your pure and loving heart will slowly wean you out of meat eating.
Thirdly, as far as possible, a meditator must avoid eating in restaurants. The person who cooks the food, injects a bit of his mind into the food.
2. Weak body
As one deepens in meditation, the body tends to become delicate. With a weak body, it is not possible to sit for long hours in the meditation posture. Right kind of physical exercises, which are not stimulating for the mind, need to be practiced. Yoga goes very well with meditation.
3. Not following the ‘middle path’
In one’s initial excitement, there is a tendency to press hard austerities on the body and mind. Physical austerities like long fasting, or lying on a bed of nails, or crawling up a mountain to reach a temple etc., have no positive effect on meditation. They are normally practiced for some ulterior gains. They cannot bring about purity—one may gain in whatever else one wants. A sincere seeker would rather concentrate on the fluctuations of the mind. He is not interested in circus tricks.
Using force on the mind could also be counter productive. Gentle persuasion with truthful and beneficial arguments will eventually bring it out of its previous inclinations. If you try to use coercion, it will become more adamant and more distant from your goal.
Right kind and amount of food, right kind and amount of work, right kind and amount of exercise and right kind and amount of recreation create a healthy environment for the subtle concepts to penetrate.
4. Social Nature and Irregularity
The only way to bring the seemingly untamable mind under control is regular practice and clarity of concepts. A vessel in daily use needs to be washed daily. Otherwise, it becomes dirty and cannot be used any further. The mind has also a tendency to accumulate dirt when it goes out in the field. Daily sittings are a must.
For a meditator, mornings and evenings are very precious. They must be given to the most precious occupation. Vain socializing because one cannot pass time is a result of the vacillation of the mind. Not only does one waste one’s precious time, one also gathers unimaginable amount of filth of new likings and dislikings in useless gossiping. Then, when one sits for meditation, one spends most of one’s time in clearing the garbage. There is no possibility of deep concentration if we have ourselves given in to the creation of new involuntary thoughts.
5. Aimless wandering
Beware of falling into the trap of several theories and gurus. They can do more harm than good. Decide clearly what you want-intellectual knowledge or living in the Truth. After clear deliberation and choosing the right path for yourself, jump headlong. Do not come out of it till you are successful.Once a drop of pure rain water enters the sea shell, it goes down at the bottom of sea to turn the drop into a pearl. If it keeps its mouth open always to let new rain drops enter, it is not possible that it will be able to make a pearl.
f you have clearly understood your goal and the desire for Truth has awakened, it will not be fruitful to keep on going to various teachers and trying new techniques to learn new things. All techniques are good. You have to only see what suits your mind.
Time is very-very precious. Either you spend it in walking towards Reality, or you keep on dwelling in new thoughts—creating and destroying them alternatively.
Like an arrow, you must speed up straight towards the goal. No wastage of time and energy should occur for those who want to realize the real meaning and purpose of this life in this life itself.
6. Depression and Impatience
You have taken a whole lifetime, perhaps more, to become what you are. It cannot be expected that all your inclinations will give way to Truth on the first day of meditation itself. It takes time. It requires unrelenting patience and perseverance. When the mind is not deepening in meditation, that is the time when you progress vertically—if your steadfastness does not yield to the desire of running away from the meditation seat. When it is a climb uphill, you develop your muscles. When it is going smooth and you are enjoying your meditation, you are only experiencing a horizontal movement of the mind. It is only in struggle relentless, that you tend to gain in endurance, clarity and equanimous concentration.
You will find that in the beginning, the mind behaves erratically. Today it is quiet and deep; tomorrow it is turbulent. Today, the concepts seem to be so easy to understand and apply; tomorrow, they seem to be so difficult to comprehend. There is friction at every step in the beginning. Depression and impatience result from this friction only. Steadfastness is the only solution to this problem.
You have to keep up the study of scriptures that support your preferred way of thinking about the Truth. Books can be one’s best friends. They have a powerful force to lift one out of ‘inactivity’ and ‘activity’.
7. Liking and disliking
Not only in the meditation hour, even in our day-to-day life, there is a need for practicing equanimity. Meditation is not a thirty-minutes-a-day routine. It is a full time job—at least, all our waking hours should be spent mindfully in Truth. You have to be on your guard always. It is the liking and disliking that give birth to all your involuntary thoughts. They are mere thoughts and not Reality. Keeping a loving vigil, the mind must be cajoled out of their clutches. Related to liking and disliking are desire, anger, greed, egotism and jealousy etc. These negativities will also get debilitated if your concepts are clear and you are sincerely working towards their establishment in your life.
Life must be based on morality. Immorality presupposes liking and disliking. An honest, truthful and upright living is the only austerity that needs to be practiced.
Always try to work from the basics. It is less efficacious to start working at the level of desires. It is more fruitful to have clear and honest definitions. The mind must crumble. Use the heaviest blows for its destruction.
8. Building castles in meditation
Meditation time could also turn into a castle-making time. Everybody around you might be hushing each other into silence because you are meditating, but, you might be indulging in your reveries. As there is less disturbance from outer quarters, your mind may find it most fluent to give itself a free go. That is the reason, there are kept intermediate stops in meditation. You have to scrutinize closely the gait of your mind at those stops. If you find it wobbling, correct it immediately.
9. Temporary quietening
The purpose of meditation is the state of meditation and not any short-lived stillness. Sometimes, meditators tend to doze off into stillness and think that they had a very good meditation. Meditation means permanent quietening of all disturbance. You can find out whether you are progressing in meditation or not from the impersonal love you will find developing within, the growing clarity of concepts, the development of equanimity, the betterment of concentration and the increasing restlessness with the finite. Any other test could be misleading.
10. The joy of meditation
There is a tendency of the mind to look for euphoria and relaxation in meditation. Though these benefits belong to ‘unactivity’, they are still the same ulterior benefits that become obstacles to any upward movement. One tends to become smug and at-ease due to them. It is the permanent domicile in Reality, and nothing short of that, that is real benefit of meditation. Everything else is impermanent and could therefore be misleading.
11. Visions and Powers
As one’s meditation deepens and there is channeling of one’s energies, the mind can develop in powers like clairvoyance, clairaudience, foretelling, healing etc. It is very likely that one would get caught in these powers only and start drawing one’s sustenance from them. As these powers belong to very few, their possession may turn into the development of lethargy towards the goal. Beware!
Some other useful hints for meditators
Solitude is medicine for meditators. If feasible, go away from activity for minimum two-three days every month. Go alone or in the company of at-most one like-minded person into solitude for sharpening the blunting axe.
Speaking and sleeping in excess could create ‘activity’ and ‘inactivity’ respectively. The mind needs the middle path.
The time you spend in activity should not be all-consuming. Straighten your preferences and you will start finding time for yourself, i.e., for sitting with yourself in meditation.
Quieter place and quieter hour are helpful for meditation. Preferably, a separate room would be ideal as you would create vibrations of purity and quietness in that room. Meditating in that room would make it quietness-inducing. Within six months to a year, you will find yourself no longer struggling in meditation if you keep the time and place of meditation fixed every day.
The stomach should never be more than seventy five percent full after a meal. Non-cereal diet, like fruits or vegetables, at night time is very helpful for meditation in the morning.
Stop being judgmental. Learn to see everything from the standpoint of One Reality disguising itself in the many.
When a tree is young, it needs to be hedged from the attack of animals. Beware of your company.
Have compassion for others and for yourself too. If you falter somewhere, take it as human. Get up and get going with more earnestness. Fight back ‘inactivity’ and ‘activity’ every time you slip into them.
Good meditation one day may be followed by a bad one the next day. Do not be proud of yourself if you do a good meditation practice one day. Be vigilant about pride and hypocrisy creeping in.
Be content with what you have and not with what you are. There are miles to go. There are miles to go before we will get permanent rest in Reality.