Mind Hinderances, States, and Storms cloud our perception of reality.
I have been reading the book, “It’s Easier than You Think,” by meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein. It is a very simple but profound book on Buddhist spirituality. In it she talks about the Buddhist concept of “Mind Hindrances.” These are the five energies that traditional Buddhism identifies as impediments to the clear seeing of life events.
The five energies are lust, aversion, torpor, restlessness, and doubt. We often talk of them as neediness, anger, low energy, fear, and demoralization. As occasionally encountered experiences they can make life problematic, but these, occasional and normal, hindrances can intensify into something more lasting. If they do so they may change from being “Mind Hindrances” to “Mind States.”
A “Mind State” is a hindrance that is not transient. It comes to stay. A Mind State becomes a habitual outlook and response pattern. All life experiences are filtered through the Mind State. The Mind State of lust looks at everything through the lens of neediness and desire. Something is missing and life is not satisfactory. The angry Mind State is always on the verge of irritation and frustration and fills the air with tension. Habitual lethargy robs life of the energy required for day to day tasks and leaves none left over for new adventures. The Mind State of Doubt creates an insecure world while the fearful mind spreads anxiety into all areas of life.
Mind States are difficult to live with because they make life more fretful or tedious than needed. They become the lenses though which life is viewed. A Mind State is hard to recognize and harder still to give up. It seems to be the reality.
The real danger of Mind States, however, is that they can suddenly swirl up into “Mind Storms.” A Mind Storm is a Mind State out of control. Mind Storms blow in due to some real or imagined occurrence and can wreak havoc while present. Comments are made and actions are taken that are later regretted. With a Mind Storm in control clear vision is lost and judgement is clouded. Just as the storms of weather come and go, so do the storms of the “Mind.” They blow in and they blow out again and then the damage must be surveyed.
Mind Storms always give warning signs. These “storms” initially show up in that little voice of conscience that talks to us. You might recognize the voice of conscience as that positive voice that says, “Gee, you look good.” And, “That was a terrific job.” Or, in its negative tones, when it says, “That was really stupid. How could you be so dumb?” In a Mind Storm the voice is usually negative, critical, or irrational in its comments.
This little voice of self-talk can talk us into some bad spots. The challenge of Mind Storms is to learn to watch them come and go but not to react by feeding them more energy through negative thinking and impulsive deeds. We need to observe the little voice while not necessarily responding too seriously to it.
Knowing all about Mind Hindrances, Mind States, and Mind Storms and being aware of the importance of attitude on daily life is no guarantee of protection. Given the right conditions a Mind Storm thunders in and takes over before you know it. Once present it is difficult to recognize. Mind Storms are hard to recognize when they are present. They seem to be the reality. In reality they are the illusion. So, watch the horizon of your mind. Look for the warning signs of a change in the weather. If storms do appear, just let them pass.
Remember the weather always changes.