Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

When You Run Into Problems

--by Bhante Gunaratna (Feb 04, 2008)

You are going to run into problems in your meditation. Everybody does. Problems come in all shapes and sizes and the only thing you can be absolutely certain about is that you will have some. The main trick in dealing with obstacles is to adopt the right attitude. Difficulties are an integral part of your practice. They aren't something to be avoided; they are to be used. They provide invaluable opportunities for learning.

The reason we are all stuck in life's mud is that we ceaselessly run from our problems and after our dersires. Meditation provides us with a laboratory situation in which we can examine this syndrome and devise strategies for dealing with it. The various snags and hassles that arise during meditation are grist for the mill. [...]

So don't be surprised when you hit some experience that feels like a brick wall. don't think you are special. All seasoned meditators have had their own brick walls. They come up again and again. Just expect them and be ready to cope. Your ability to cope with trouble depends on your attitude. If you can learn to regard these hassles as opportunities, as chances to develop in your practice, you'll make progress. Your ability to deal with some issue that arises in meditation will carry over into the rest of your life and allow you to smooth out big issues that really bother you. If you try to avoid each piece of nastiness that arises in meditation, you are reinforcing the habit that has already made life seem so unbearable at times.

It is essential to learn to confront the less pleasant aspects of existence. Our job as meditators is to learn to be patient with ourselves, to see ourselves in an unbiased way, complete with all our sorrows and inadequacies. We have to learn to be kind to ourselves. In the long run avoiding unpleasantness is a very unkind thing to do to yourself. Paradoxically, kindness entails confronting unpleasantness when it arises. [...]

When you are having a bad time, examine that experience, observe it mindfully, study the phenomenon and learn its mechanics. The way out of a trap is to study the trap itself, and learn how it is built. You do this by taking the thing apart, piece by piece. The trap can't trap you if it has been taken to pieces. The result is freedom.

--Bhante Gunaratna, From "Mindfulness in Plain English"

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Previous Reflections:

On Feb 5, 2008 Neal "froggy" Pandya wrote:
I can really relate to this thought. Avoiding uncomfortable emotions and memories only make them stronger...the only way to find peace is to allow them to surface and observe them in all their nastyness. Here is to detoxifying your mind!! Thanks for sharing this thought, Nipun!

On Feb 5, 2008 supun wrote:
After returning to the US after a short 2 week service trip to Sri Lanka, I feel a lot of the difficulties in my ways of thinking and outside in broader life too. I left depressed but came back refreshed and reaffirmed. But now as I meditate, I find myself depressed and confused again so much so that I feel a desire to leave the US for good. Right now, I don't know if that's the right thing to do. So, I shall see tuesday night how I am and where my mind is at. I think the my homeboys like Siddartha Gautama, would have told me the same advice as in this TOW. To try to get a feel of what perceptions and mental structures have conditioned this"bad mood" in me. If I have progressed I might be able to see one level deeper into what caused those conditions and as I get better at meditation, I'll probaby be able to have an understanding how some conditions are chained together and be able to react with much better ease. I practice annpanna sati at the hour long tuesday meditations. Some friends that come to meditate with me practice vipassna and say it's slightly more intense. I used run away from having to think about why I'm in a wierd mood, but now I'm actually studying on techniques to practice getting a feel for myself.

On Feb 5, 2008 Robin wrote:
Helpful thought. I always seem to have problems with motivation, (actually sitting down and starting to meditate), and boredom during meditation. I will try to think of them differently.

On Feb 6, 2008 supun wrote:
here is what I found from last night. I noticed I was reacting to annoyances with too much weight. When my leg was falling asleep or I got an itch my mind reacted with some bad attitudes. In a better state of mind, I would just spread my leg for a few minutes or just touch the itch or just let it be. Hearing about one of my friends mention what she thought of the thought of the week made me think that you can't really think about past experiences and future expectations while meditation. You can only practice being mindful and observing my own body is a really good tool. Knowing how I reacted to little bit of suffering from sitting still made me think of how differently I can be. There was a little reading I got from Visha Niketan in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, and it said to try to have a slight smile while focusing on my breath. I tried that. It felt silly, but different. as far as what the solution to my bad mood, that hasn't become apparent yet. Maybe it's just to be patient while I adjust to how I've changed? In any case there's a quote about how we sometimes need to be able to wait for mud to settle before trying to catch a fish in muddy waters (something like that?).