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Blog: Hindrance Attacks

October 5, 2013

I’m often asked if it’s possible to have aversion to something you feel attracted to. For example, while meditating you find your mind is chatting on and on and on. You may not like it and wish it would stop. At the same time there is something pleasant about this easy-going prattle. Or you feel some pride and satisfaction about your toughness or endurance. At the same time you dislike feeling hard. Or maybe there’s a person in your life who you feel drawn to in some ways and put off by in other ways.

The answer is, “Yes. It is possible and relatively common to have aversion and attraction for the same thing.” This is not rational. But hindrances and many things in life are not reasonable. Yet they happen anyway.

Hindrances are things that arise in meditation (or other aspects of life) that disrupt our peace and clarity. Traditionally there are five major ones: aversion (disliking, anger, irritation, fear), attraction (liking, wanted, longing, grasping), agitation (restlessness), sloth and torpor (grogginess, sleepiness, laziness), and doubt (skepticism). But hindrances come in many more sizes, shapes, and flavors.

Sometimes they arise one at a time. More often they arise in small clusters. Sometimes they arise in small armies (we call these “hindrance attacks”). On the eve of his enlightenment, the Buddha had massive hindrance attacks by thousands of metaphorical demons (aversions) and maidens (attractions). So the presence of hindrances is not a sign that your meditation is going poorly – unless being a Buddha on the eve of awakening is not good enough for you.

Hindrances are merely a sign of imbalance in the mind-heart (big surprise!). And they show exactly where the imbalance is (big help!). The trick is to deal with them wisely. Elsewhere I’ve talked about dealing with them wisely: a process we affectionately call "the Six Rs" and sometimes "wise acceptance" or "the Seven Rs."