Or to put it another why – Why is that our best intentions fail us? We set out to learn something new and initially everything seems to be going well and then, oh, things go off track. Suddenly excuses come up that stop us doing the activity or class. We lose our way.
Buddhism does give us a potential answer here. One of our members asked me for some advice in the Sangha House the other day. This related to meditation. She wanted to know how we get past that point where the meditation just seems all a little boring or that we find ourselves wondering why we are doing it at all. So I talked her through what are known as the 5 Hinderances. As a meditator, to make progress, we all have to conquer these Hinderances. All of us experience them to some extent and actually they can be applied to other physical and mental activities too. So physical exercise regimes will also be susceptible to these Hinderances.
I’ve set out the Hinderances below. My advice here is that we start with our intent. We have to figure out why we are doing a particular activity and where we want to head with it. We need to express this to ourselves succinctly. Built into this, we need to understand clearly the benefits we see it bring to us personally and really understand the why’s and wherefores of those benefits. Sometimes we may need to chat with a teacher or exercise professional to understand the benefits. We build a view of these benefits in to our personal message of intent. Finally, we do need faith. Not faith in any religious sense, but faith that what ever activity we have chose, it really will deliver the benefits if we see it through. If we don’t have that faith then, let’s face it, our endeavour will go nowhere.
So before you set off on any new activity or practise, spend some time clearly figuring out your intent first. So that it is very personal to you and you can have that faith that it will deliver. Then, when any of these Hinderances hit, it is your personal message of intent (along with your own personal grit and determination of course) which will carry you through. Take a look at the 5 Hinderances below. Understand them and spot when they are arising to take you off your path. The more you work with them, the more you will experience how they don’t arise on their own. These things almost appear to work together to try to take you off your path. Remind yourself that they are there to challenge you. So see them as that challenge and resolve to battle through with your personal understanding of your intent and with faith.
WORLDLY DESIRE Pursuit of pleasures related to our material existence, and the desire to avoid their opposites: gain-loss; pleasure-pain; fame-obscurity; praise-blame. From a physical perspective, we tend to be drawn towards things that give us pleasure. Often physical exercise carries with it a sense of pain. So things that give us physical pleasure are more appealing. .e.g certain food types perhaps?
AVERSION A negative mental state involving judgment, rejection, and denial. Includes: hatred, anger, resentment, dissatisfaction, criticism, impatience, self-accusation, and boredom.
LAZINESS AND LETHARGY Laziness appears when the cost of an activity seems to outweigh the benefits. Lethargy manifests as lack of energy, procrastination, and low motivation. A just do it attitude definitely helps here.
AGITATION DUE TO REMORSE AND WORRY Remorse for unwise, unwholesome, immoral, or illegal activities. Worry about consequences for past actions, or about things you imagine might happen to you. Worry and remorse make it hard to focus mental resources on anything else. From a physical exercise perspective here, we can find ourselves worrying about our personal cabaility, what others will think of us, whether we will hurt ourselves. It is to be wise to be gentle on the body but to make progress we do have to push it too. Right-effort is key here. This one tends to sit and work with laziness and lethargy. The too can feed off each other to give us plenty of excuses not to carry on.
DOUBT A biased, unconscious mental process focused on negative possible outcomes; the kind of uncertainty that makes us hesitate and keeps us from making the effort needed to validate something through our own experience. Self-doubt saps our will and undermines intentions. This one is king of the 5 and it will give you the biggest, most powerful, overwhelming reasons why you shouldn’t carry on. Tombattle through this one, you need your faith and you need your intent.