Obstacles in meditation mentioned by Patanjali
Meditation is not hard! We are treating it as a difficult process because, we are constantly listening to other people but never tried it seriously .It is our imposition of what meditation must be that makes it seems so. Allow me to explain.
As humans, we are vexed with stress. We hear about the meditation and its promise of peace and we are naturally drawn to meditate.
We sit down on the couch and notice that the mind is a rumbling chattering of clashing thoughts, an expression of the stress we are trying to escape.
We notice that the rumbling goes on and on, and we want to quiet it down.
You see, meditation is the noticing, not the quieting.
It is just like a parent telling their kids that they are making too much noise. The kids cannot notice because they are being the noise. The adult can notice because they have enough calm spaciousness to tell. If you can tell that your mind is a rambling rumble of thoughts, you are being the parent…you are noticing…you are meditating successfully!
But its time to face the truth, the reality is different. We will be having too much trouble.
So here we go…
1. Wandering of the mind
You might have observed that whenever we start meditation ,our mind keeps wandering no matter how good you are at meditation.One may find it very hard to meditate because the mind keeps wondering.This restless wandering of mind is called Vikshepa in Sanskrit. This obstacle appears when the mind has a preponderance of Rajas nature of mind.
After a while the novelty of practicing meditation starts wearing off, and our minds become reluctant to meditate. Such reluctance is caused by the natural tendency of the mind to get bored doing same thing over and over again. We must exercise will power to overcome this obstacle. Whether our mind like it or not, we should forcibly persuade our minds to continue doing meditation.
3. Unwelcome thoughts start arising in the mind
While meditation we often find it hard to concentrate on our breath (our object of meditation) because of unwanted thoughts arising in our minds. For instance, if one had an unpleasant argument with another person, the thought of that unpleasant experience might arise in the mind and disturb the practice of meditation.such thoughts can be very frustrating.
This is the most common obstacle we always face, we often fall asleep while trying to meditate. This sleep, called Laya in Sanskrit.
Meditation is an intense concentration, and if the mind is not under control, it is hard to concentrate.
An uncontrolled mind naturally resents being controlled, and when one forcibly tries to concentrate the mind, one falls asleep.This is Laya. Laya is a very restful and refreshing sleep, and those not experienced in meditation may consider it some kind of spiritual experience. It is caused by a temporary preponderance of Tamas guna.
5. Reluctance to practice meditation
During meditation we may suffer from a feeling of intense reluctance to practice meditation. At that time meditation appears to be extremely dry and tasteless. This obstacle is caused by past thoughts lying latent in the mind.
No thought is ever lost. All past thoughts are stored in the subconscious level of the mind. They lie there like a seed. Just as every seed retains the characteristics of its plant ,so also these seed thoughts retain the characteristics of their full-blown conscious state.
An ordinary person’s body and mind are closely intertwined. If anything happens to the body, the mind becomes affected. When the body becomes diseased, the mind also gets affected.
A disturbed mind can’t meditate. Most diseases can be prevented by a healthy life style- a life of moderation.Don’t meditate during illness.
Attachment to objects of sense pleasure is a great obstacle in meditation. Such attachment causes the tendency not to give up sense pleasure. We have to wean ourselves away from sensual pleasures to overcome this obstacle.
According to Patanjali , meditation on the pure heart of a holy person who has gone beyond attachment to the sense objects can help us to overcome this obstacle, because what we think with great concentration,that we eventually become.
8. Clinging to life
Instinctive and obsessive clinging to the body- the unrealistic yearning to perpetuate the existence of the body for long time,if not forever- is called Abhinivesha. Such clinging is a great obstacle to experiencing the pure- perfect and ever-blissful nature of the soul or Divine self.We should realize the inevitability of death and be mentally prepared for it. We should meditate on it.
9. Irregular breathing
When mind lacks control and concentration, it can be swayed by fluctuating moods, causing irregular breathing. The practice of rhythmic or regulated breathing under guidance of a component teacher enables us to overcome irregular breathing.
Despair is caused by disappointment at not having one’s expectations fulfilled. One should minimize expectations to prevent despair.