There are four hurdles in meditation: Restlessness, Laziness, Thoughts, and Images. In order to succeed in meditation, it is important to understand these hurdles and apply the proper methods to overcome them. It is also necessary to make meditation a priority; otherwise there is no motivation to meditate. We may read as much as we like, we may hear words of wisdom to our heart’s content, but that is not going to help us attain success in meditation. We have to meditate regularly to perfect the art of meditation and ultimately realize our own true nature, which is absolute peace and bliss.
Laziness: Second Hurdle in Meditation*
The second most common hurdle in meditation is laziness. Laziness is like the floating ship that has its engines shut down and is simply going in the direction of the wind. Laziness is of two types. The first type of laziness makes you want to skip meditation and your mind gives you excuses to do so. The mind does not like being told what to do. It wants to go its own way dragging you along. The way to encounter this type of laziness is not to listen to your mind. If you sit down with strong determination to meditate no matter what, your mind will eventually understand that you are the master and you will not compromise your self-discipline. It is a struggle indeed, but if you stick to your commitment to meditate, you will surely succeed.
The second type of laziness during meditation can take the form of dullness of the mind or lethargy of the body. Do not meditate if you are physically tired. Meditate only after the body is rested and feels fresh. If your mind experiences dullness during meditation, a kind of monotony or sluggishness, the clarity of the object of meditation soon disappears. If you are meditating on a mantra, it becomes a superficial exercise of just mentally chanting the mantra and you are no longer hearing it, let alone becoming one with it. In such a case your meditation has lost its sanity, its juiciness. It has just become mostly useless activity of sitting still and nothing beyond that. To overcome this mental dullness, perform the following exercises (one or both, as needed) to refresh your mind and then go back to meditation:
Inhale deeply through both nostrils and with closed mouth to a mental count of six. Hold breath to a count of six and exhale to the count of six. Perform this breathing exercise for three minutes. In most cases, dullness will disappear and you should be able to continue with your meditation.
Stand with your feet hip distance apart, knees relaxed, arms at your sides. As you inhale, slowly raise your arms by the sides, palms up, until they are overhead. Imagine that you are gathering the universal energy in your hands. Then exhale as you lower your hands, palms down in front of you. As you exhale, visualize all the natural energy flowing through you like golden light, refreshing your body and mind. Continue for three minutes. If you are in a setting where you can’t do the movement, do the breathing practice and imagine the movements.
Thoughts: The Third Hurdle in Meditation
The natural state of mind is like the quiet ocean and thoughts are like waves. They can be tidal at times. Restlessness can be compared to storm at the ocean. Just like an ocean is not ocean without waves, mind is not mind without thoughts. A beginner in meditation, who is still learning the art of meditation, gets easily overpowered by stray thoughts. They act like rocks thrown in still water. You need not feel bad about it. This is natural. Thoughts have no intrinsic value or power. For as long as you have an awareness, you will have thoughts. With continued practice, you will be able to replace all your thoughts with the only thought you are meditating on.
Do not react to any thought. You must stay alert and vigilant. When a stray thought appears, just drop it and get back to your meditation. Treat all thoughts with equal indifference. Do not examine or place any importance on any thought that appears to you in meditation. The key is to drop the thought as soon as it emerges. As you continue to practice meditation with mindfulness and vigilance, thoughts not only become feeble in time, but they stop emerging after a certain point. In that supreme quietude, when you continue your meditation with awareness, you inevitably experience transcendental bliss.
Images: Fourth Hurdle in Meditation
During meditation when focusing on your object of meditation, sometimes you find yourself battling with appearances, images stored in your memory. This is normal. Your memory is the source of all imagery. Anything you see or hear always stays in your memory. Thus, during meditation when you are holding on to one object or thought, you may have pictures of people, houses, gadgets, buildings, food, creatures, anything for that matter, flashing in your mind.
When an image appears, gently ignore it. Be alert. Look at it but don’t show any interest in the image and do not go with it. Leave it alone. Hold your ground. Be persistent. If the image is too strong to ignore, stop meditating and start deep breathing for a minute or so and return to meditation.
For peace and happiness, cleansing of the memory is necessary to erase all unwanted ideas and images. Meditation itself acts as a cleansing process. However, it takes time to produce its effect. Be patient and do not meditate with the aim of getting a time-bound benefit. Meditate without expecting anything and you will discover that the joy of mediation is real and available to anyone and everyone.
Adding God Principle to Our Daily Lives (An Ancient Story – Origin Unknown)
In the olden days when there were no automobiles, people used to travel on horsebacks. One rich man owned 19 horses when he died. In his last will and testament, he had written that upon his death, half the horses he owned should go to his only son; one fourth to the village temple and one fifth to his faithful servant.
The village elders could not stop scratching their heads. There was a dilemma. How could they give half of the 19 horses to the son? You cannot cut up a horse. They puzzled over this predicament for some time and then decided to approach a wise man, who lived in a neighboring village.
The wise man arrived riding his own horse and asked the villagers how he could help them. The villagers told him about the rich man’s last will and testament, which required that half of the (19) horses be given to his only son, one fourth to the temple and one fifth to his faithful servant.
The wise man agreed to help. He placed 19 horses in a row standing next to one another. Then he added his own horse as the 20th horse.
Now, in accordance with the terms of the rich man’s will, the wise man gave half of the 20 horses (i.e. ten) to the son. One fourth of 20 (i.e. 5 horses) were given to the temple committee, and one fifth of twenty (i.e. four horses) to the faithful servant. Ten plus five plus four made 19 horses. The remaining 20th horse was his own which he promptly mounted, spoke a few inspiring words, and rode back home.
The villagers were simply stunned, full of disbelief and filled with admiration. And the parting words of the wise man were inscribed in their hearts and minds which they greatly cherished and passed on to their succeeding generations till today.
The wise man had said: In our daily lives, in our daily affairs, simply add God Principle (God’s name) and then go about facing the day’s happenings. Whenever you come across problems in life that are seemingly insurmountable, add the God Principle in your activities and the problems will become lighter and eventually will disappear.
with sincerity of purpose and dedication that only total faith can bring about. Meditation is a powerful means of directing the mind Godward.
*Refer to Hurdles in Meditation, Their Causes and Remedies–Part 1 for discussion of the First Hurdle in Meditation)