Buddhism identifies five hindrances that hinder our ability to see clearly or become concentrated, not just in meditation, but in our everyday lives. I’m currently taking a 10-week online course that examines these five hindrances, and have to tell you, a few hindrances are hindering me from wanting to examine my hindrances! LOL
The five hindrances are: sensual desire or greed; ill-will or aversion; sloth and torpor; restlessness, anxiety and remorse; doubt.
While I’ve listened to teachings on these hindrances before, I’ve not thought about them the way I have the last few weeks. It’s quite disconcerting to purposely think about and feel – physically and emotionally – the things I do to avoid pain or to fulfill a desire or craving. Sometimes I get frustrated and tired of the self-examination and wonder if ignorance wasn’t a better state in which to live my life. If I don’t examine anger, I can just let anger do my talking and acting. If I don’t examine anxiety, I can just take a pill or avoid it with exercise or some other distraction. If I don’t examine feelings of ill-will, I can go on hating and feeling justified.
When I examine the five hindrances from a weight-maintenance perspective, I see that restlessness/ anxiety, anger and doubt hinder me most from learning to trust that I have the ability to not gain weight again.
As I told you in my last entry, my weight was up two pounds this week from my most comfortable weight, and the first word that came into my mind when I saw 130 on the scale was “failure,” a word steeped in anxiety, anger and doubt. However, by using the RAIN formula to examine this hindrance, I am uncomfortably able to see where this is coming from and, for now, accept it is there and use it as a focus of meditation.
The RAIN formula is (from Insight Meditation Center’s Audio Dharma course):
R: Recognize it.
A: Accept it.
I: Investigate it, be curious. What is it like?
Physically (How does it feel in the body? Is it pleasant? Unpleasant? Does it change?)Emotionally (What emotions are present?)
Energetically (such as feelings of rushing, sinking or lifting)
Cognitively (What beliefs or stories do we tell ourselves?)Motivationally (Is there an urge to act or cling?)
N: Not personal. Non-attachment. This is just a passing process that comes and goes, not who we are.
Yesterday I went to Pittsburgh to spend the day with both of my girls and my grandkids. Whenever I travel, be it for a few hours, days or weeks, I plan my food strategy. And as I plan my food strategy (sometimes the process begins the night before), always in the back of my mind is some anxiety and a little anger. I didn’t realize I felt this way until I consciously stopped in the middle of packing my food yesterday to examine these feelings more closely. Yes, I was feeling anxiety and anger, but why?
I felt anger because I hate planning my food. It makes me feel like a freak. I can’t eat like “normal” people. I can’t just eat whatever I feel like eating. I can’t do what I used to do because I’ll gain weight again. Ah…that’s right. That’s where I failed every other time I got to a weight goal. I stopped paying attention to my food intake and went back to eating whatever I wanted to. Hmm…so maybe all this planning has merit and shouldn’t warrant anger. Something to investigate.
I felt anxious because I worry I’ll gain weight if I stray even slightly from my daily food plan. I especially spend a lot of time in this anxious state when I plan my food for going out of town.
Here was yesterday’s plan:
Smoothie (½ C ff Greek yogurt, ½ C light soy milk, 1 C frozen fruit, 1/3 t stevia)
Omelet (¼ C Egg Beaters, 2 egg whites, fresh chives, slice of low-fat Swiss cheese, 1 C mushrooms sautéed in Pam spray)
Iced Good Earth herbal tea
Lunch and afternoon snacks:
2 T PB2 (dried peanut butter) and an Arnold’s Sandwich Thin
2 small plums and 1 C sliced strawberries
1½ C vegetable stew (which included textured vegetable protein)
1 bunch asparagus, roasted with 2 T parmesan cheese
3 large carrots, roasted
1 No-Pudge brownie
Salad made with homemade refried beans, spinach, salsa, low-fat sour cream, olives, onions, homemade corn chips, tomatoes
2 glasses of white wine and one Werther’s hard candy
Having at least recognized these two hindrances, I packed my breakfast and lunch and drove to Pittsburgh. (And yes, I ate a smoothie and an omelet in the car. I’ve gotten very good at it.)
When I got to my daughter Cassie’s house, she and Carlene were just finishing up getting ready. They said we were going downtown for a walk and eating lunch outdoors at one of their favorite restaurants. How fun!
Um...yeah…I panicked. I have my food plan all set! I can’t eat out today! I’ll eat something stupid and I’ll gain weight! Oh no oh no oh no!
Then I stopped. Good lord, my mind is noisy. Is it always this noisy when I face a “food trial”? and I realized that yes, it is that noisy. Yes, I do play doom and gloom tapes over and over in my head.
Hunh, I thought. Just by recognizing my noisy mind and accepting it, the anxious feelings didn’t seem as harsh.
After a lovely walk across the 6th Ave. bridge and playing in the fountain with Claire, we went to the restaurant. I ordered a small salad with light Italian dressing on the side, a baked potato with butter on the side, and a side of steamed vegetables. I left feeling in control and happy about my choices and only felt a little sidelined.
We went back to Cassie’s and I ate the brownie and the strawberries and decided to not eat the plums. As I drove home, I ate the string cheese and peanut butter sandwich. I had the veggie soup and asparagus and carrots for dinner instead of the salad, and I drank the wine and ate the Werther and all was well with the world. Well, OK, so I was still a little anxious. Hindrances don’t go away overnight. But when I got up this morning and weighed myself I was 129.3.
I guess what I’m learning to accept is that planning is key to my success. I don’t like it, maybe I never will, but it is the most important thing I do to stay on track. So instead of feeling angry about it, I’m going to work toward accepting it and appreciating it.
As for the anxiety, walking the path of maintenance is like walking on a tightrope. It’s been scary and paralyzing and obviously makes me anxious. But what I didn’t realize until I examined my underlying discomfort is that I’m not walking a tightrope high in the air, and that I have a safety net to catch me if I fall. I HAVE learned how to eat and think more healthy than I did back in my gain-lose-gain-lose-gain days, so now I need to trust that I can utilize those tools whenever I meet a weight-maintenance hindrance.
My hindrances are not who I am. They are part of the process.
Here's a little photo of g-baby Luca awake. What a little man.