I want to outline nine obstacles that interrupt your practice of meditation and block your progress during meditation.
They start as mere distractions and eventually become obstacles, unless you remedy them.
These are the nine obstacles:
Illness is a condition that affects the physical stability of a person. If you are trying to meditate because you want to experience something or know something, you’re not going to get there with an ill body, no matter the quality of your mind. I don’t want to suggest, however, that you shouldn’t meditate if you lack good physical health, when indeed, meditation will help improve your physical health. All that I am saying is that meditation is more difficult to practice with an ill body.
The main remedy for physical illness, however, is a proper balance of diet, exercise, and sleep.
Dullness is mental incapacity. Dullness is a lack of mental energy, a weakness of the mind. To meditate, one needs mental energy. Dullness results in inefficiency and incomprehension. Under the condition of dullness, its very difficult to succeed in meditation.
The main remedy for dullness is also a proper balance of diet, exercise, and sleep.
Doubt affects the meditator when he or she is skeptical over the results and benefits of meditation. Yet doubt is also a lack of confidence in the process. We live in a society in which we are conditioned to focus so much on rewards, often causing us to lose interest and enjoyment in the activities themselves.
But the main remedy for doubt is faith. I’m not talking about blind faith, faith that involves great expectation and without effort. I’m talking about a faith that involves great effort without expectation of reward.
Negligence is the failure to take proper care in doing something, the failure to give sufficient attention to avoiding harm and errors. If we want to succeed in meditation, we have to be careful. We have to notice the various object — thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations — arising within our field of consciousness.
The main remedy for negligence is diligence.
Laziness is a lack of enthusiasm. Laziness is a lack of discipline, and meditation requires great discipline. Meditation is like any other activity, just like studying in school or playing sports, in which you must possess the proper enthusiasm and commitment in order to succeed.
The main remedy for negligence is determination.
Craving is the state of wanting of things — either material or experiential, and often sensual. Just think of the number of times during your meditation that you are enamored with the vision of a beautiful man or woman in your presence.
The main remedy for craving is contentment. Contentment is that state of satisfaction with what you already possess.
Misperception is susceptibility to false knowledge. Misperception manifests during meditation through the many stories and lies you tell yourself.
The main remedy for misperception is accuracy. Accuracy is the state or being correct or precise.
Inattention is the failure to maintain the attention necessary in order to reach higher and subtler states of consciousness during meditation.
The main remedy for inattention is concentration.
Instability is the inability to maintain higher and subtler states of consciousness once you have reached them. While you may have developed the ability to glimpse higher and subtler states of consciousness through your powers of concentration, you may nevertheless struggle with an ability to maintain the stability of those states of consciousness for any duration of time.
The main remedy for instability is one-pointedness.