We are currently looking at the five traditional hindrances to meditation. These are five challenges that often come up, and seem to get in the way of our meditation practice. These are: craving and desire; anger and ill-will; restlessness and anxiety; sloth and torpor; and doubt and indecision. This week we will be exploring the final of these in more detail:

Doubt and Indecision

Doubt and indecision may involve a lack of confidence in the practice itself or in your own ability to practice. It can be really undermining.

1. Cultivate the opposite.
The opposite of doubt is confidence or inspiration. Focus on what inspires you in this moment as well as the aspects of yourself and your practice that inspire you. You might try reading something inspiring such as a poem or quote before you sit to meditate.

2. Observe the body.
When you experience doubt, does your body feel restless or sluggish? How does your breath feel? Can you observe changes in sensation moment-by-moment? Try being curious about your body’s response to doubt.

3. Reflect on how far you have come
It is too easy to focus on our challenges and failings when learning a new skill or developing a practice. This can cause us to lose confidence and give up. Often we simply forget how far we have come. Whenever you are doubting yourself it can be useful to reflect on how you were when you first began to meditate and how you have changed. Chances are you will have made a lot of changes that you have taken for granted. Outside of meditation you might even ask a close friend or family member if they have noticed any changes in you.

4. Gain understanding
Doubt can be really positive if it is used to help us to gain understanding. Perhaps you have a particular question about your practice or something you have learned that simply doesn’t sit right. Rather than using this doubt to put you off practice, why not read around the subject, or ask a more experienced practitioner to explain their take on your question.

5. Join a group.
It can often be difficult to find the motivation to practice alone. Finding a supportive group to practice can really help. This can give a sense of structure and routine and also means that we can help one another to maintain practice. Perhaps compare notes with other meditators and share top tips.

What is important to remember regarding all of the hindrances is that they are not a sign of failure. Instead they are a normal part of practice that we can observe with interest, curiosity and kindness. It is important to be aware of how much effort we are making. Meditation is not easy! We must make some effort to work with hindrances and stay focused but without making so much effort that we become tense and strained. Observe what happens as you work with any hindrance you experience.