Meeting the Monkey Mind and Other Obstacles

Inevitably, if not almost immediately, at some point as you meditate you’re going to experience some sense of going off track.

You may notice you’re in the middle of your meditation session and instead of feeling calmer, you feel beset with discomfort and frustration. Maybe you start off relieved, calm, and curious as you settleded into your meditation session. Finally!  It felt so good a minute ago. But then something interrupts the peace. An itch, a noise, a worry, a loss of interest. Meditation seemed like a great idea a minute ago, and now here you are doing something you’re not sure you actually want to do.

So what to do?

Pretty much the entire Buddhist Cannon offers advice on working with what we might broadly describe as “suffering” or “discontent.”

As in life, you can conceive of these “obstacles” as either something to be worked with, be with, and explore, or you can decide you don’t want to deal with them and give up on the idea of meditating right now.

Buddhists suggest you be present with these obstacles once you see they are there.

In many ways the practice is about seeing them. Not playing their game, but understanding they are part of the game of self retreat.

In fact they may be the stars of self retreat until the next act when our concentration deepens, and there seem to be less obstacles in the show.


an opportunity to give, up

Here you are at last. You’ve finally organized yourself to take some time off, just for you, to be with the breath, alone, quiet, blissful. Maybe you’ve been meaning to do this for years.

And you’re tending to the breath, or being aware of being in this moment, and then something happens.

Your mind is drawn towards an Obstacle.

Obstacles are a unique non-life form. They are shape shifters that show up as your most alluring distraction from just being.

Obstacles love a well intentioned meditator. At last there’s someone out ther willing to pay attention to them! So much harder to annoy a human who is zoned out in front of the latest TV series or gaming app. Those folks just don’t hear you if you’re an Obstacle. But  the human being who  sits alone in a quiet room, with nothing to do but Be, is the perfect audience (or mark) for the attention seeking Obstacle.

You might even say Obstacles are addicted to those who are aware in the moment. They can’t get enough of us. Like the commercial and social internet, they feed on us; they don’t exist without us to feed on.



The Obstacle shows up in all kinds of costumes and forms.

Obstacles are often knocking on the do into a meditation session or a time of retreat.

The “Thinking Mind”

Or, if you want to do it, you want it to be different. Or, you keep noticing how hard it is not to think.

The thing about thinking is that it seems so interesting, but its not what meditation is about. It happens more often than not. And now as you meditate, you realize your life is even more of a mess than you imaginged becaue you can’t even focus on three or four breaths without being distracted by a thought or a discomfort.

But the thoughts come and there are great insights and awful memories and it all seems very very important. You may cry, or feel distressed, or you may

You’r mind gets stuck.