Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Obstacles and Their Cures: Part-1

Remover of obstacles. We invoke him first before we start on a path.

We have studied in much detail what can go wrong when you start on a path or even before that. All those pitfalls and traps that trap you even before you start your journey were discussed. To summarize, these are –
  • Absence of a path itself 
  • Afflictions of the Mind 
  • Afflictions of the Ego 
  • Solidified beliefs and conditioning 
  • Physical limitations of the body 
  • Absence of a good teacher 
  • Lack of certain qualities in the student 
  • Resistance, lack of effort or lost opportunities 

If you expand this list it can fill up pages. Somewhat disheartening I must say, but then I've said many times, this path is not for weaklings. It is not like walking on a carpet showered with petals. Deeper the ignorance, more are the obstacles. The good news is - once you start jumping past hurdles, it becomes easier and easier to overcome them. You pick up speed exponentially and if you stick to it, it shouldn’t take a very long time. There is a learning curve of sorts that makes everything seem impossible at first, there is an entry barrier for people and only those who are seeker material are allowed past it. Once you get past the hurdles, and fall into a few pits, you start getting the knack of it all, you learn the art of not falling and of picking up yourself as soon as you fall.

Listen on YouTube

In this article we will discuss the petty stuff that is thrown at a seeker when he has already overcome most of the above mentioned hurdles. I call it petty because once you start on a path, there is hardly anything that can stop you. You've tasted the blood, now grass won't satisfy you. Well that was another dark metaphor there, but its true, a seeker is a brutal chap, its very hard to stop him, at most, obstacles can only delay him. However, don't assume that since they are petty, they are harmless, some of them can keep you glued to one spot for many decades. But nothing to worry, that happens only if you do nothing about them.
It should be obvious by now that the biggest obstacle is nothing but you, yourself, to be precise, your parts - Mind and Ego, and their vehicle - your body. Even if you think other people and external situations are responsible for your slow speed, its still you. That’s why the path is about you and only you, nothing else. You are the obstacle and you are the cure.

Cultivation does not involve hard physical or mental labour, else you would have finished up everything by now. It mostly involves sitting for many hours, contemplation and introspection, staying in absorption in Self or Samadhi, renouncing unnecessary stuff and activities, remaining silent, staying alone and sitting with masters in Satsangs listening to the same old stuff, or reading boring fat books. It is precisely not doing anything, non-doing is the essence of it all. Why did I put it in such negative terms? Isn't it actually good? Sure it is. It is negative from the point of view of the Mind and Ego. They hate such lifestyle, where there is nothing exciting, nothing to do, nothing to achieve. They like activity, success, achievements, romance, excitement, show off and what not. And so, they create obstacles of thousand kinds to have their way. But how is it that a seeker is able to handle it? Because the pull of the path is stronger than petty obstacles. A seeker is able to see through the drama of his own mind. Nonetheless, the stupid drama of the mind delays one’s progress and it becomes necessary to find some cure for it.

Physiological manifestations: can be very irritating kind of obstacles. They spring up as soon as one tries to sit quietly for a while. For example, if your practice involves meditation, all kinds of pains, discomforts and itches appear out of nowhere within minutes during your meditation. You think your body is fit, and you have the softest cushion and support, but you feel tired, legs and back pains as if you were crushing stones all day and itches that you must scratch arise everywhere all of a sudden. You must have noted that these do not happen when you sit down to watch a movie straight for two or more hours, but sit for meditation for 10 minutes and you feel like you are dying from something that is disintegrating your body. Often, these obstacles are the first kind a newbie meditator encounters.

What are these? The latent habitual programs that are deprived of the usual sensations from the body. An ordinary person is never so quiet, sitting quietly in a room with blank walls (or eyes closed) and absolutely no noise makes the usual sensory torrents vanish. The Mind sends out all kinds of signals to find out what's going on with the body - why its so silent, where has it suddenly disappeared? It wants to know. Initially its like an urge to move, to look around, but if you persist, it gets stronger and stronger till you do what it wants you to do, and as soon as you move, stretch your legs and scratch that annoying itch on your nose, all goes quiet. Its not that the Mind is some demon who knows what you are doing and sends out his minions to set you straight, its just a natural occurrence, but anyhow it ruins your meditation.

What is the cure? Be gentle, don’t force it. Initially do as it says, provide it the needed feedback by moving, relieving the pains, scratching or touching the body to comfort it, tell it everything is fine. Once it quietens go back to the meditation or contemplation, or whatever is your practice. The distractions reappear soon, and you repeat the action again. Every time you resist it for a bit longer, ignore it more and more, and you will find that in a few days or weeks all such painful sensations vanish on their own.

Sounds easy, but for those who are on the path of energetic manipulations (Hatha or Kundalini etc.) will find it nightmarish. Symptoms will appear that look like deadly diseases. Pain will be intolerable, it will be 24x7, not a mere itch on the nose. Nervous system will become oversensitive. Sleeping, digestion and eating will be a torture. Sensitivities to foods, drinks and certain people arise and are painful. Some seekers leave the path at this point, some persevere. A good and experienced teacher is a must for support, because there is no cure for it. Only way is to surrender and wait till it ends. It will end sooner or later, either you progress past it or drop it there and pursue a gentler path. Anyhow, if your practice involves above, I hope you know what you are doing. I have no tricks to help you. Also, I cannot tell you why that happens, you are playing with the very fabric of the creation, the source code of the Mind, expect strangeness of all kinds.


Physiological strangeness sometimes manifests in some in the presence of a master or a teacher they resonate with. Some people find themselves suddenly laughing hysterically, or crying loudly, uttering nonsense, giving out animal sounds, bird sounds, orgasmic noises, shaking, falling unconscious, making poses, especially hand poses, and a myriad kinds of acts that are not in their control. If its a gathering, and you are new and unaffected, it will freak you out. Knowing about this helps to maintain your calm. You may find that the whole crowd looks like overtaken by an evil force that is making them behave like zombies. Nothing to worry, its normal, you will get used to it soon. Some people are unaffected, they do not have any hidden blockages to be released. Some think that its not happening to them, which means they are not yet "ready" or not worthy, this is not correct. Manifestations are not a sign of "worthiness" or greatness of some kind. Although it is true that manifestations generally mean that the practice is working well.

Are those gurus, masters magicians? What happens to a practitioner is not dependent on the teacher, only on his teachings or words. Latter trigger hidden areas of the mind, since the truth is heard, and hidden beliefs and conditioning gets the shock of their life. The sounds you hear are the sounds of fossilized deep seated structures shattering.

First thing to keep in mind is to not to freak out, you are not possessed by a demon. Its only your own mind. Be present, aware and let it all happen. Suppressing, killing it with drugs or avoidance of the teachings/practice will only delay it and prolong that funny stage. Like everything else, it comes and goes. Similarly, its wise to not to get attached to such mudras, and inflate your Ego by assuming that you have become a holy person. You are just cleaning the trash, nothing too great about it.

Monkey Mind: is the highly agitated state of the Mind, it happens just when you are all set to go deeper in meditation, or it can happen all day. All kinds of thoughts, dramas, imaginary situations, worries, anger, fear, jealously and such junk arises continuously without break. This starts occurring when you could sit for reasonably long time trying to silence the Mind or to concentrate on something specific. The practitioner is baffled because the practice is meant to achieve exactly the opposite - a clear and calm mind which is ready to receive new knowledge and experience. Instead the obstacle of monkey mind appears from nowhere.

Why does it happen? There can be two reasons. Firstly, this is the default state of an ordinary person. The mind of an untrained person is full of junk thoughts most of the time. There is an unceasing internal monologue there. This is considered "normal", if everyone has it, it must be normal - that is the logic of an ignorant. When you start meditating, your awareness increases, especially that of your mental landscape, you can see it more clearly and become conscious of it. Stuff that you were unaware of surfaces and obviously you do not like what you see. It soon becomes painful, bothersome and irritating. All you want to have is a peaceful mind, but more you practice, more aware you get and the noise goes up in volume. Secondly, mental silence that you are practicing is like death from the perspective of the Mind and Ego, and they resist their death in a rather violent way. You will notice that the thoughts are related to mostly survival issues, someone insulted you, someone has more shiny stuff then you have, someone is after your life and hoardings, you absolutely need new stuff and must make more money etc. The mind will recklessly present its agenda to get everything under its control again.

What is the cure? Again, be gentle and listen, do not suppress forcefully. If the actions are harmless, like the mind brings up an alarm every two minutes that you have run out of food or the house is not clean enough for guests who are arriving next day, go ahead and complete those tasks. Come back and sit down to meditate again. You may find that the noise is less now, at least for a few minutes before the mind starts nagging about something else. If the action involves killing someone or insulting your boss, I suggest not to do it for the sake of meditation, unless you are happy to meditate in jail or on a footpath.

It is very important that you become fully aware of this condition of the mind. I've mentioned in much detail in past articles on afflictions of the Mind about the tricks to cure a monkey mind, so check them out. In short, the light of awareness kills the random automatic thoughts and since you are so aware of your mental processes you catch a thought even before it starts surfacing and starts forming a long train of thoughts about the same old nonsense. Here, you get a chance to exercise your will and choose to terminate that seed thought. With practice you will find that the chaos of thoughts quietens down. It may never become totally silent, but that is not necessary, it is enough that the barrage of useless thoughts stops. Useful thoughts can continue and can be seen as just clouds passing in a clear sky. You don't want to end up brain-dead while trying to cure overthinking.

Sexual urges: arise as companions to mental chatter or just when the monkey mind starts behaving a bit as you please. This is like a nuclear weapon for the Mind (or Ego). It never fails to kill your meditation. Sometimes your whole practice and path is blown to dust. This is the most effective distraction your mind knows that is sure to work and hence it is brought up often. I really don't know how it works for women but for men, their whole life becomes a big mess of sexual thoughts, fantasies, acts and desires. Your libido will go up extremely high suddenly, you will be flooded with emotions, you will feel not loved, solitude suddenly becomes loneliness, even the most ugly and fat person you see turns you on, a thumbnail sized picture of a naked body is enough to stimulate you, fantasies become life like, all old ex-partners you hated bitterly seem like lovable again. You start searching their numbers. You feel most confident and the mirror tells you that you are the Casanova.

Why does that happen? If you are a seeker, a good one that is, your practice is bearing some fruit. You are more calm and happy, have reduced your needs to a minimum and feel secure and assured. Hopefully your health has also improved because you clearly see the toxic food as junk and avoid it. There is peace, leisure and happiness. All these are hints for the Ego that its time to procreate. Millions of years of knowledge and experience tells it that this is the optimum time for offspring to arrive, as their chances of survival are best now. Its the mating season from the point of view of the Ego. So the primitive programs fire up and start generating needed impulses to kick the body into procreative action. The body responds by producing necessary hormones and the garden variety of sticky stuff inside it and prepares for mating. You may find an influx of emotions of love and friendship, the heart opens up, and you even approach strangers with a lot of “affection”. In time, meditation and philosophy becomes your last priority.

Another reason might be a deliberate trick of the Mind. By hit and trial, and past experience it has learnt that you get most easily distracted by a sexual urge than anything else. Its cheap, instant and effective. So it brings it up. Usually boredom precedes such urges and pleasure is then offered as a solution. Wonderful, twisted and effective manipulation that can cause even a politician die from shame. So many fall for it. What does Mind get from all this? It sustains itself, it overcomes the fear of destruction of itself, and there are many more reasons, inertia being one of them. Mind has evolved all such strategies since its inception and is very effective in employing them. Of course, it’s the ignorance in action, and therefore there is a cure.

How to cure it? I know of three ways, there can be more. First is celibacy, suppress it by power of will or by effort or practice, do not fall for it under any circumstances. Avoid opposite gender like plague, lock yourself up in an ashram or take refuge in Tibet. You are going against the nature here, but chances are that you may get past it if this is a short phase. There is a risk that this will get buried very deep in the Mind and will distort your stored structures in unpredictable ways, causing unpredictable behaviours that may look like psychoses. Other risk is that it will all erupt again later in life when the will power and intelligence is weakened by age and will make you act in undignified ways, sometimes causing headlines in the newspapers. Choose it only if you must.

Second way is satiation. Find a partner, marry if that’s what your society and culture demands, and continue your practice. Satiation will wear out sexual and related desires very quickly. It will cease to appeal or distract and even becomes repulsive (ask any married men). However there is no free lunch, there are always consequences. Now you have an additional responsibility of a relationship and probably of children. If you are lucky, it will mean just few more hours of donkey work per day, if not, it will retard your progress more than the obstacle itself. Choose wisely.

Third trick is our - by now familiar - state of being intensely aware of it all. Just be aware of the drama being played in front of you, as an external observer, not acting on any actions it suggests. Be very curious, like a scientist observing the data coming out of his instruments. Do not identify with it, its not you, its just machinery of the Mind, mental processes and programs. Mind is your instrument, that’s all it is, it provides you with this human experience. You have a choice about what to take and what to reject. This trick has no consequences, that I know of. Moreover, it will accelerate your progress. If you remember the article on opportunities, this obstacle is one such opportunity. It can be used as a slingshot. Of course, if you are a newbie seeker, you will gain the capability of employing this third trick only after you fall in the trap of sexual urges many times.

We will continue the discussion on obstacles in the next part of this article. There are many, and ironically, they become more and more interesting as you progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment