Just like diet and exercise, a calm mind is an important part on the journey towards personal transformation. But if you’ve tried meditating, you know that attaining mental silence is actually quite difficult. Even if you’re in a peaceful and quiet place, the mind does not always want to play along. Many who try meditation give up because this calm mind state does not seem possible.
In addition, science continues to prove that meditation has immense health benefits. Research shows that it can reverse the damaging effects of stress, which is one of the biggest causes of illness. In other research, neuroscientists have discovered that meditation improves the function of the brain. It increases our ability to focus and results in an enhanced sense of well-being.
But frankly, meditation and the promise of resulting mental silence can be frustrating. For a meditation novice, this calmer mind probably seems impossible.
Key to a Calm Mind is Awareness of the Obstacles We Create
Typically, when we sit in stillness, the mind is easily captivated, preoccupied and even obsessed. This can be triggered by any thought – an idea, a theory, a compulsion, a revelation, and so forth. Often, we become fixated on that thought. This leads to the creation of tangible and real obstacles that hinder our progress in meditation.
According to Patanjali, the sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras, the key is to identify the obstacles created by our thoughts. This will allow us to overcome them and continue on the path of personal transformation and towards self-actualization.
The nine obstacles, as per Patanjali, that hinder our progress towards a calm mind include:
1. Disease / Illness
When we are ill, we often focus on the disease or bodily discomfort. This makes it difficult to meditate.
2. Dullness / Mental Laziness
This is more commonly known as procrastination. Nothing is going to happen if you don’t even try meditation.
3. Doubt / Indecision
The constant wondering if you made (or will make) the right decision about something is not helpful, even when you are not in meditation. Having doubt never changes the result.
4. Negligence / Carelessness
When you stop being mindful, you will not be able to control your mind. Meditation is not about spacing out.
Without effort, it will be difficult to succeed in any self-realization practice.
6. Temptation / Cravings
Succumbing to the five senses and becoming attached to external pleasures can be one of the biggest obstacles.
7. Misperception / Delusion
A deluded mind can easily mistake what state of mind you are trying to reach. Don’t fool yourself by incorrectly thinking you’ve reached mental silence.
The absence of progress will not lead to a steady, calm mind. It will not make meditation easier.
If you do not practice consistently, instability arises and you are less likely to attain and remain in a steady state of mind.
When we give into these obstacles, we stay in our thoughts, instead of finding true calmness and peace. We can also become frustrated, allowing the mind to get completely out of control. Even worse, we give up on meditation altogether.
Yet, according to Patanjali, the path towards a calm mind involves understanding the possible obstacles that we create as a result of mental distractions. Once we understand this, it is easier to avoid these obstacles. This, then, brings us closer to a steady state of mind where we can glimpse at our true nature.
Just the process of acknowledging the presence of distractions and the resulting obstacles can bring us closer to a calm mind. And consequently, we are likely to practice meditation more often and enjoy the benefits of better health and well-being.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Moreover, views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Awareness Junkie or its staff.